When do we say no? When do we feel pushed too far? How often are we done with people or things? Mostly, occasionally, rarely, or never at all? Do we say it as much as we should? Or do we not say it at all?
It is a human error that we tend to agree to everything that is being said even though it isn’t at times acceptable. Rarely do we say no to what is being asked of us. It seems so difficult to say no that we say yes to doing something that is way off our radar. It is not about challenging our capabilities but a matter of our limits. The ones which we have already set straight for ourselves. We cannot expect ourselves to go an extra mile for every next person without burning a piece of our soul in that process. Their anger, hostility, or lack of acceptance of your boundaries is the edge of where their respect for your ends meet.
Saying ”no” doesn’t make you argumentative or ruthless. It doesn’t even make you uncaring or selfish. It is nothing to get blamed for. You don’t have to be the bad person or feel like one so those taking advantage of you won’t feel guilty about what they did to you or were planning to do. Standing up for yourself is self-care, not self-centered behavior, and it should be known by all. You have to understand the fact that sometimes it is the need of the hour to say no to things that have the potential to disrupt your peace. If you are not okay with something, it should be a good enough reason to say no.
Moreover, people are always highly judgmental of the actions of others. It isn’t necessarily a conscious thing but surely a social evil. Even if it is a small thing like saying no, the fear of being judged and criticized for the same is what ruins us. It is a person’s right to express themselves freely, be it saying yes or no to any particular thing. The sense of freedom is lost for ages; sadly, this phenomenon continues to exist among us. The only thing that ironically puts me at ease as well as distress is that we are the ones who make up the society and its so-called acceptable norms. It is people amongst us who are too toxic to hear no for an answer. It is we who need to change and give others a breather. No matter what you do, you should never back off from standing up for yourself, because being your own supporter always guarantees good. Walking an extra mile by saying no might make you tired, but it surely will make you happy in the least.
It is indeed high time we realize that saying no is a need. It is a feeling. It is a necessity and sometimes a want too. Because after all said and done, it should be understood that no means no and it should be taken like that without any offense.
These past few days have taught me that everyone is going through something. Now, whether it’s obvious or not is a very different story, especially on the world wide web.
Social media should be used as a platform of transparency, not just for posting our best days, because what’s real about that? Trust me, I’ve done my fair share of scrolling and had the uninvited envious thoughts creeping in, but what to do about it is the age-old question we all want to know.
I think we all feel a sense of urgency and competition, but what we fail to realize is that we’re not in competition with others but rather with ourselves. We fail to see small accomplishments (which to others may be huge) because we’re so focused on what else we could have (definitely a millennial problem).
Recently I’ve felt torn between so many paths and have been wondering how anyone can choose just one when there’s so much to see and do in the world, but I’ve realized we have to stop seeing huge life decisions as the end all be all.
Here are the lessons social media should be teaching us:
Live in the now. What do you want in this moment? Where do you want to be? Try not to think past a few months. Take it one day at a time. The decision you make next week or next month is not final. It can be undone. Life unravels in the way it is supposed to.
Be thankfulfor what you have RIGHT NOW. So many of us fail to see this. We’re constantly too busy chasing what we don’t have that we forget what we do.
Age is just a number. This may be the most difficult of all, but squash the norm. So many of us are changing careers, moving abroad, or discovering passions we never knew we had. That’s okay. Go with it. Society won’t care.
Live your life to the fullest. The more time you spend overthinking and worrying about the logistics, the less time you have. Time flies, and it’s better to live without regrets.
So, the next time you go on an avid scrolling spree, think about what you don’t know or what you can’t see. Everyone has a story to tell and a struggle to be faced.
Have you ever heard the saying “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself”? Cliché, isn’t it? Yes. But it’s also true. Think of it this way: If you love someone without loving yourself, you really aren’t giving someone genuine love, are you? There might be people saying, “Maybe someone is teaching you how to love yourself.” Well, that could be true. And those people are to be cherished. Hold them in the highest regard possible.
Those people are called soulmates for a reason. You still need to learn to love yourself though, because you can’t depend on others to give you love. That’s not healthy for anyone. Why is self-love so important? Well, there are a few reasons for this, and they may seem silly but they’re important.
The first reason is that you are worthy of self-love and you are the only one that’s going to have your heart for life. Think about it, you get to spend forever with yourself, and that’s a beautiful thing!
The second reason is that you won’t be able to give someone else genuine love if you don’t love yourself first. And as I’ve said before, sometimes we meet people that teach us how to love ourselves, and that’s a gift. But how can you truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself?
The third reason is that you’ll know what you won’t accept and will accept in a relationship. You need to be able to articulate these things to someone. How else are you going to find the right person? You need to be able to stand up for yourself if needed. That’s why self-love is so important.
When you learn this, you’ll feel so free. And you’ll stop accepting idiots into your life. Your social circle may be smaller, but that’s okay! You only want good people in your life, right? Not crappy people who will take advantage of you and hurt you in the end. You deserve better than that anyway. You deserve great people in your life who will support you every day and love you unconditionally. How long will it take you to learn this? It could take years or months. Don’t rush. Time will reveal all. I know we wish we could have a crystal ball but we don’t get that privilege sadly.
We live in a world so dramatically different than any before us. We live parallel lives of reality and virtual origins. We are split. Told that if we aren’t pretty enough, popular enough, happy enough, then we are defective. We live in an age where people are “famous” because they are beautiful, and that’s it. That’s all it takes. They have a camera, and they show us how beautiful and happy they are, and we all believe it. We question our realities. We take a photo for “the gram”. We check our angles, we suck it in, we make sure our makeup is in place, our hair perfectly coiffed, and we put in place our perfected smiles. We want to be a part of the popular crowd.
But we aren’t just posing for the photos anymore.
Why do we all have this need to be a somebody? To be different, remembered, better? Why do we feel the urge that what we are is not enough. That being ordinary isn’t extraordinary? That we need to convince others of our happiness? Pardon me, but there are very few people that actually give a shit about each of us. We have our select few (family, friends, coworkers) who would actually be there for us, who would bring us soup when we are sick. So why do we feel this urge to take our pretty pictures so to make sure they know how happy and pretty we are too?
We are in an age where we are no longer living for ourselves. We are living to show others how wonderful we are. We are living in a show to convince the world that we matter.
Why? Honestly, why? If you have an answer please tell me. Because it seems skewed to me, to live in front of these screens when there’s a beautiful world outside. A world where things are different, where we actually interact, where you experience sounds and smells and feel the wind in your hair. Where you meet people and they see you back, you both get to look into each other’s eyes. There’s something about reading your book at the park or at a coffee shop. About going on a walk alone with your thoughts instead of suppressing everything that makes us individuals by watching what the masses are doing. There’s something about not wanting every product that social media ads target at you. There’s something about being the person that brings the soup to someone who is sick instead of sending them a message to feel better soon. There’s something about feeling whole being ourselves.
I don’t believe there is anything wrong with living a simple, ordinary life. About realizing that we are all just a small part of a big beautiful world.
We can make differences in the lives around us without pretending for those outside of our circles. We really don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to fear oblivion, because you know what? It’s going to happen. We are all just small parts of a whole.
We matter, of course we matter, but each of our individual existences is not the end all be all of the human race.
We don’t need to focus on getting a nice picture of our fun day unless it’s something that is kept for ourselves. The amount of likes a photo gets is not a measure of how wonderful we are, or how successful our day was.
We can dress up nice because it makes us feel pretty, go outside, and take pictures that empower ourselves and make us feel confident in our skin. We don’t have to document every small sliver of our existence as though without it we are nothing. We can use social media as a photo album of our lives, for ourselves.
You are strong. Much stronger than you know. You’ve been through a lot to get to where you are now and you should be proud of that. While you may be feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, know that you will become even stronger because of this. Know that in order to step into a new reality—a new you—you must first shed the old version of yourself. You are capable of getting through this. You are capable of becoming something great from this. Don’t lose faith in your process. Don’t lose faith in your capacity to heal.
You are enough. While life may have come knocking on your door to remind you that it may have a different plan for you, the truth is you don’t need anything to feel validated. You are enough as you are. You were enough before and you’ll be enough in the future. You don’t need to tie your self-worth to external successes or victories. Know (and truly believe) that you are enough as you are. We constantly live in a state of not feeling good enough wondering when we’ll finally feel valid. That time to feel valid is now.
You are calm. Anxiety is a fight or flight response when our bodies and mind feel out of equilibrium. Thank your anxiety for being here—it means you are human! Take a deep breath in, grab a hold of all the things you are grateful for in your life, and remember that in between the things that society wants us to think are important are the things that truly matter. You are here. You are breathing. You are alive. You have people that love you. Take inventory of your life and your perspective on it.
How you react is automatic; how you respond is a choice. When something unexpected happens, your emotions are automatic. You may feel angry or sad about something. You are allowed to feel this way. However, how you respond to how you feel makes all the difference. Become aware of your thoughts, recognize that they are not always the objective truth, and choose to respond in the way you want to show up in the world. How you show up internally directly impacts your life externally.
You are worth it. If someone does not value you, don’t take it personally—a person must value themselves before they can give others what they desire for themselves. No matter what you’ve accomplished, how you’ve been judged, or how others evaluate you, you are worth it. Your space and life matter. Do not allow the amount of likes you receive or the amount of followers that tag along your journey to dictate your worth. You are important, you are special, and the right people will show what you must already know deep down about yourself.
It is only when we align our internal world with the person we wish to become that the external world can reflect back to us the love that we want.
Sometimes it takes getting away to realize how unhappy you’ve been in a place. Sometimes it takes a nurturing, supportive work environment to realize that you’ve never felt valued in a job up until now. Sometimes it takes a partner who unconditionally sees and understands you to realize that you’ve never been truly loved before.
You can’t know what you are missing when you haven’t experienced it yet. Even if you have heard that it’s possible from others or know it can be true theoretically, you won’t always trust something unless it happens to you personally. Your body and nervous system need to experience it for themselves.
It can be difficult to hold on to the faith that you deserve more than you’ve yet received. It’s so tough to believe in what feels impossible. That dream city, perfect job, fulfilling relationship—are they really out there?
Yes, they are, but you can’t just sit back and hope they show up. You have to trust that you deserve what you want and take action to move towards it. If you don’t love yourself, if you don’t believe in yourself, well, it’s tough to get where the universe is trying to send you. This doesn’t mean that you’re hopeless if you suffer from insecurity and fear. Everyone does! Awareness of what’s holding you back is the first step. The second is actively working towards remedying those problems.
Brené Brown has said that learning to love yourself is the hardest thing you will ever do, and she’s right. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You are capable of infinitely more than you believe yourself to be. The journey may be a difficult one, and you may often feel lost on your way. Don’t give up — often the darkest times come just before a meaningful breakthrough. Think of that stuck feeling not as a reason to stop, but instead a reason to push forward. You’ve almost reached that deep realization you’re seeking.
Committing to the inner work of self-love and trust is integral. Developing those traits within yourself allows you to then believe that anything is possible. It gives you the confidence and strength to know that you deserve your perfect home, location, career, and relationships. Whatever it is that you want, it’s all there waiting for you to step into your own power and claim it.
If you are not happy where you are, trust that there is something more out there for you. Listen to your intuition — it doesn’t lie. When it tells you that you aren’t living in your highest potential, it’s on you to make the leap into a loftier stratosphere.
The self-love movement is encouraging, empowering, and inspiring. But it can also be toxic, hypocritical, and a bit too extreme.
There is a side to the self-love movement that I believe, if overlooked, people have the potential of losing out on important relationships or simply being kind, compassionate humans. Here’s my take:
The rise of social media has prompted new levels of mass comparison. Beauty standards heightened, this standard of “perfection” became the norm, and what was once raw and real is now the “before” stage of a dramatic glow-up. That’s where self-love comes in.
The terms “self-love” and “self-care” are absolutely everywhere now. As a response to the unhealthy comparison and declining mental health that social media tends to intensify, posts and wellness trends began to circulate to remind people to take care of themselves and focus their attention inward.
And while I must disclaim that I am not against a movement that teaches us to love and take care of ourselves, it is the hidden hypocrisy and consequences of this that I don’t think people realize. One of the biggest messages the self-love movement preaches is being gentle with ourselves. It is a pillar of this movement to practice self-compassion, forgive ourselves for our mistakes, be gentle with ourselves during our lowest times, and practice patience. And these are all amazing things that should continue to be practiced.
Yet, another major pillar of this movement, one that possibly contradicts the first one, is the importance of creating boundaries. I always see posts that encourage people to cut out anyone or anything negative, to be mindful of where they invest their energy, and to completely remove anything that drains it. Now, for a while, being someone that has always struggled to establish boundaries due to my own insecurities, I took these posts to heart quickly. I believed that in order to become “better” and improve the quality of my life, I had to essentially cut out anyone that I didn’t remotely feel good around or that I didn’t feel reciprocated in my effort (emphasis on feel).
Now, for as long as I had this mentality, it backfired. It actually created more issues for me because while I was trying so hard to dodge the people that I felt were “bad” for me, I completely lost sight of a few really important things as well as realizing down the road how selfish this mentality actually has the potential to be.
1. If the self-love movement teaches us to love and practice compassion and patience with ourselves as we are growing, shouldn’t we extend others the same?
I think that personally, I contorted the concept of “boundaries” by being so strict with them that I ended up falsely perceiving others as bad or negative while every other human is simply figuring it out as well. The point is, though, in the era of “cancel culture” and unattainable standards of perfection both on social media and increasingly off, we are preaching that we must take care of ourselves while rejecting others through their own growth journey. We are preaching to be gentle with ourselves when we make mistakes, while immediately cutting others off when they make a mistake. We are preaching to recognize our strengths more than our weaknesses while letting one little weakness or mistake overshadow all of another person’s strengths or good qualities. We are essentially giving ourselves the permission to grow, fail, and pick ourselves up again while forgetting others are on growth journeys themselves too, and saying they must only bring “good vibes,” otherwise they’re not worthy anymore. If this doesn’t suck the humanity and compassion out of relationships, I don’t know what does.
2. While being so focused on our own self-love and boosting our strengths, we get so self-involved that we forget that others show love in different ways, and that’s okay.
People have different strengths and weaknesses. People have different love languages. People have different depths of emotion and different ways of communicating love. That fact doesn’t diminish your own ways of communicating love or anyone else’s. It just means that we must take a little extra effort in any situation to remember the strengths a person has and value they add rather than giving up on them after one instance where they didn’t communicate in the same way you might have. A push for boundaries must not be confused with the need for everyone’s approach to relationships to match ours.
3. Preaching constant self-love has the potential to replace the love we have for others.
Everyone has a certain threshold, a certain level of love and energy they can give themselves and others. And I get it—I get that the self-love movement is encouraging us to make sure that our gas tank isn’t just full of the love and energy we give others and leaving none left for ourselves. But I think we are in danger of reaching the other extreme as well. The amount of stories or scenarios I hear where people are neglecting or rejecting others under the guise of calling it “self-care” is a little too much. There is a line between putting ourselves first and being selfish.
4. People are complex.
We only see .01% of a person. And chances are, underneath the other 99.99% that makes a person who they are, a big chunk of it even they are unaware of. Because the truth is everyone is on their own journey of reaching self-awareness and healing, as well as understanding themselves and why they act/think/behave the way they do. That same patience we must practice with ourselves when we screw up or make a mistake or unknowingly act wrongfully because of other factors involved is the same patience we should extend others because every single person also has that complexity going on. Usually their actions aren’t as simple as just being written off as “negative energy.” Think about if someone simply gave up on you in that way.
5. Not only is it fair to completely cut people out, it’s also not completely realistic.
Okay, so you decide that someone is a negative presence in your life and you want to create boundaries—great. But chances are, this person might be friends with your friends or you work with them or you have to see them in one way or another because people don’t just disappear when you want them too. Not only is tolerating people just a part of life, but in the spirit of not being selfish, sometimes we have to sacrifice a small thing we don’t want to do to add value for others and ourselves. Sometimes I have to sacrifice my dislike of talking on the phone so that I can have a relationship with my grandmother whose main joy in life is talking on the phone with her grandkids. And sometimes we have to spend time around a person we don’t want to in order to get more time with the people we love. Without running the risk of sounding too mature, this is the one I absolutely struggle with the most and continue to struggle with. We’re trying out here, we really are.
So what do you do? How do you set boundaries while also having grace for people? How do you embrace how others show love or embrace other people’s journey’s while protecting your own peace? I truly can’t pretend to give a right answer because this is something I am just starting to navigate as I release the strict hold on boundaries I had before. But I’ll say this: There is room for both. Creating boundaries and protecting your peace does not have to be a harmful act against someone. It doesn’t have to end in anger or hurt or rejection. Be conscious of people’s intentions, because most of the time, they’re not to hurt you. Ask yourself what is important to you and what steps you can take to get there. And recognize that mistakes, bad energy, and conflicts with people aren’t always so black and white. While you should surround yourself with people that add value into your life, realize no one is perfect and apply some of that tolerance.
So take it from me. Someone who is overly sensitive. Someone who is insecure and sometimes takes that out on other people. Someone who’s insecurities sometimes get the better of her. Who gets so emotional sometimes she can’t see reality. Someone who sometimes cares so deeply that not feeling that reciprocation in return feels like a personal attack. Someone who is only just starting to become aware of and break toxic patterns and put everything she has into self-growth so that others don’t become collateral damage. Someone who is human.
Please be gentle. Be patient. It’s true that you don’t know what others are going through, just as many others are blind to your own wounds and experiences.
And what is self-love anyway if you can’t give some of that love to others?
What do you do when you’re doubting yourself? When those thoughts begin to take space in your brain, telling you all the reasons you’ll fail. Or ways things might go wrong. We are all too familiar with this feeling. And when it creeps in, you can’t simply kick it out. You can’t just flick it off like a crumb on a counter.
The thing about doubt is that it wants to grow. Like a stubborn weed. While our minds mean well, our brains will go out of their way to hold us back from any and all potential danger. Even if that so-called danger is a crucial step in expanding your growth. Even if that so-called danger isn’t even danger at all.
Doubt exists to contemplate. It exists to provide a way for us to make sense of uncertainty. And in some cases, this doubt can be immensely powerful. Maybe you doubt your ability to “wing” a presentation, and instead you decide to put in time to practice it. That’s good. That is a beneficial doubt.
But there is a difference between asking questions, being curious, and straight sabotaging yourself with never ending doubt. The kind of doubt that locks you into your comfort zone. The kind of doubt that makes you opt out of the presentation or in any case, the “thing”, all together.
This doubt will win if you don’t push back. And the longer you let this doubt win, the less likely will you ever allow yourself to discover. Because on the other side of doubt are new experiences, successes, and a version of you that’s waiting to be realized.
So what do you do when you’re doubting yourself? While it may feel too simple, you have two choices: You either let that doubt win, or you shut it down and keep going anyway.
You won’t rid yourself of the doubt forever. And you don’t need to learn to live a life extinct of worry. If you are existing on this earth, there will always be new uncertainties that come across our way. But it’s how you decide to face them anyway and not give them this unleashed power.
Think about your future self.
See how far you can go if you stop letting the doubt grow untamed. See yourself flourish if you begin to lean into all the ways something can go right. See just what you’ll make of this life if you stop doubting yourself every single time you try something new or unfamiliar.
See what happens when you let yourself win, instead of doubt.
Self-love isn’t selfish and building your self-esteem is vital for your personal growth. It also improves both your personal and professional life. Most of us find it more comfortable to put ourselves down or self-sabotage ourselves by glorifying our mistakes and insecurities or using self-deprecating humor to minimize the embarrassment, but these behaviors aren’t helping us overcome our insecurities, they only make them worse.
It’s normal to have days when you don’t feel your best or feel a little bit behind but you can’t let that feeling dominate your life. At some point, you have to change whatever is feeding your insecurities and holding you back. But the good news is, you totally can, because they’re easy steps that just require some discipline and commitment.
Changing your mindset in the situations that trigger you is fundamental to fighting your insecurities. We tend to make everything about ourselves, especially other people’s behaviors—the more we care about or love someone, the more we take the way they treat us personally. This is more common in romantic relationships where we are prone to being more sensitive and anxious when we see a behavior change. Feeling insecure about yourself can cause you to overreact or struggle with regulating your emotions when these situations arise.
Owning your mistakes is one thing, but constantly measuring your self-worth and value based on how someone else treats you or sees you will never make you feel good about yourself. By affirming your own value and giving yourself more credit in your relationships, you will be able to look at things from a more logical point of view instead of taking it personally and reacting irrationally.
Another important question you need to ask yourself is: Who are you spending most of your time with? The people you spend time with the most have the greatest impact on you emotionally and mentally. Having a kind, supportive, and loving inner circle can improve your self-esteem and make you feel better about yourself.
Are you surrounded by people who believe in you and your dreams or are you surrounded by people who belittle you and criticize you? Are you surrounded by people who are happy for your success and want to see you shine or are you surrounded by self-absorbed people who want to always feel like they’re doing better than you? Remembering who you were with when you felt insecure the most can help you avoid these people and situations in the future.
Last but not least, learn how to be kind to yourself and patient with yourself in the process. Beating your insecurities and improving your self-esteem doesn’t happen overnight, especially if you’ve been blaming yourself for your shortcomings all your life. Taking small but necessary steps to heal your emotional wounds, changing the way you think about yourself, and filtering your environment will put you on the right track towards being more confident and happier. Prioritize your self-worth and your own needs in every aspect of your life and you will eventually start to see major improvements that keep you moving forward.
If you don’t truly value yourself and practice that daily, no one will truly value you. It’s your choice whether you want to be your own best friend or your own worst enemy. You have the power, so use it to your advantage.
Your body speaks to you in a thousand ways each day, and illness is no exception.
As one of the most frustrating, draining, and in some cases, debilitating experiences you can have in life, sickness can leave you feeling helpless.
And if you continually receive negative results on tests with no clear underlying cause for what you’re going through, your illness can be even more infuriating and insufferable.
I am not a medical doctor and I’m not prescribing medical advice here, but I have experienced numerous “unsolved” illnesses before with no clear biological cause.
What I’ve learned is something that many medical professionals now agree on and studies prove: that the mind and body are intimately connected.
Not only that, but our aches, pains, and health struggles can actually be a spiritual wake-up call if we learn to observe them deeply enough. (This is spiritual psychology 101.) I’ll explain why our illness can be a wakeup call in this article – and what healing avenues might bring you some relief.
What is a Psychosomatic Illness?
A psychosomatic illness is an illness for which there are no biological causes (such as physical injuries, hormonal imbalances, viruses, etc.). In other words, a psychosomatic illness is an illness triggered by a mental state such as anxiety, stress, anger, depression, and so on.
Perhaps more simply, a psychosomatic illness – psycho meaning mind and somatic meaning body – is a mind-body ailment.
“It’s All in Your Mind”
Please note that just because a psychosomatic illness is triggered by a mental state such as grief, fear, and so on, it doesn’t mean that it’s “not real.”
As one who has suffered from psychosomatic illnesses such as intense chronic pain, fatigue, immobility I know how painfully real such experiences can be.
If you can’t seem to pinpoint the exact cause of your physical suffering, and if all the tests come back saying everything is “normal,” it doesn’t mean you’re delusional or a hypochondriac. Instead, it likely means that your illness is psychosomatic in nature.
Not only that but likely, some kind of trauma may be the underlying cause.
Trauma & Psychosomatic Illness
When we’re traumatized – whether as a child or as an adult (or both) – we often haven’t been able to recover from something known as the freeze response.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the fight, flight, and freeze response before. Such behavior has been studied by sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, zoologists, and so on for a long time.
The fight response happens when our body’s sympathetic nervous system is triggered, generating adrenaline that makes us want to attack, kick, punch, and so on. Think of a person getting into a street fight.
The flight response happens when we have the irresistible urge to flee: to run away as fast as we can. Think of a zebra that is being chased by a lion in the wild.
The freeze response, on the other hand, immobilizes us in the immediate threat of death or pain (whether physical/mental/emotional) so intolerable that we shut down.
Clinical psychologist and trauma researcher Peter Levine says that freezing helps to offer a reprieve from the pain of death (as a natural analgesic). But also, if we don’t manage to shake off that freeze response from our nervous systems, we become traumatized.
In other words, we need to be able to “complete the cycle” (or shake off the energy and return back to normal) within us to discharge the intense energy generated by the life-threatening (or chronically endangering) situation we experienced. If we don’t, if our neocortex (thinking brain) takes over and mentally spirals, we experience what I’ll crassly call the “blue ball” effect.
The blue ball effect happens when our nervous systems become frozen full of so much undischarged energy that this causes us to stay in a traumatized state. (On a side note, observe animals in nature that have experienced a traumatic brush with death. What is the first thing they do? They shake off the energy, and so must we according to Levine.)
How does this frozen trauma manifest?
Like a valve on a pressure cooker, there must be some kind of release for this pent-up inner energy. The result is – you guessed it! – the occurrence of psychosomatic illness (often accompanied by mental and emotional disorders).
Psychosomatic Illness Examples
So what types of psychosomatic illnesses are there?
It would be impossible to list them all, but I’ll give a few examples below:
Essentially, psychosomatic illnesses can impact any area of your body, whether inside or outside.
A Call to Adventure
As distressing as psychosomatic disorders are, there’s a deep calling inherent in them:
They’re a call to awaken the healer within us; to go soul searching, uncover what is distressing us, listen to our soul’s deeper needs, and find freedom again.
Of course, some people might understandably be skeptical about attributing any “higher” meaning to their illness. That is fine, at the end of the day we’ve got to take what resonates and throw away the rest.
But I’ve personally found, that unveiling the deeper meaning behind our suffering and seeing it as what mythologist Joseph Campbell calls “a call to adventure” is empowering and healing.
Holocaust survivor, neurologist, and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl refers to the transformative power of finding meaning “logotherapy.” Indeed, finding a deeper purpose behind his own horrific pain and trauma in the nazi death camps helped him to survive, and eventually, find the will to thrive.
Pain as a Spiritual Wake-Up Call
To build on top of the previous section, another reason why pain can manifest in our bodies is that it is serving as a spiritual wake-up call.
So many of us live our lives constantly dissociated from our bodies, disconnected from the present moment, and living in the world of the mind. Such an existence is what Buddhists would call “dukkha,” that is, fundamentally unsatisfying, stressful, and empty.
If along with physical pain, you regularly experience sensations of feeling empty inside, feeling alone, and feeling like you’re lost in life, your physical suffering may be serving as a loud spiritual wake-up call.
Perhaps hearing that our pain is a wake-up call may sound a little silly, crazy, or even sadistic to you. “Right. But isn’t there a better, more gentle way of having a ‘wake-up’ call?!” we might protest.
The answer is that when we’re profoundly entrenched in mental stories, emotional programming, and various forms of negative societal conditioning, sometimes the only thing that can get our attention is pain – and a lot of it!
After all, how else would you wake someone up who was deeply asleep? Would you gently whisper to them? Probably not. They wouldn’t hear you! No, you’d probably speak loudly or even shake them awake! The same is true of psychosomatic illnesses, they shake us to awake us!
How to Discover What Your Psychosomatic Illness is “Trying to Tell You”
So what is the hidden message behind your pain? What is it trying to tell or teach you?
Of course, pain can sometimes just be pain – its function may simply be to get your attention so you can alleviate it, and that’s it.
But sometimes psychosomatic pain has a lesson or message for you. It might, for instance, teach you about:
The undigested emotions associated with it
The unmetabolized trauma you need to process
A decision in your life that you need to examine
Something you need to let go of ASAP
A part of your shadow self that you need to explore
A negative habit you need to correct
An opportunity for self-love and self-care you can take
An ancestral wound you’re carrying
Keep in mind the above list isn’t exhaustive and there could be many other lessons buried in your pain.
So how do you discover what your psychosomatic illness is trying to tell you?
The best methods I’ve found are journaling, meditation, visualization, and breathwork. Here are some practices you can try:
The hand-resting technique (best for specific pain). Get into a relaxed state. Close your eyes. Place your hands over the part of your body that is causing you pain. Send some mindful, soft breaths into that area to release any tension. Then ask internally or out loud, “What are you trying to tell me?” Note any memories, flickering images, words, or sensations that bubble up on the surface of your mind. You can take this mental material and journal about it and ask further clarifying questions such as “What does that mean?”
The body journeying visualization. In this visualization, you’ll be meeting your bodily pain as personified by a garden and a gardener. Relax by lying down somewhere and listening to soft ambient music (sounds of nature are the best to add to the experience). Imagine that you’re standing in a field full of soft grass swaying in the wind. In the distance is a tall gate with a long fence stretching out either side. You can’t see what’s behind it so you move closer. As you go to open the heavy gate you notice a sign hanging off it saying “Welcome to Your Body.” You swing open the gate and peer into the garden in front of you. What does it look like? What stands out to you? Take a moment to look around and acclimatize yourself. Suddenly, in the distance, a gardener approaches you. He or she says, “Hello, welcome to this garden.” You then ask whatever questions you’d like to know the answers to. For instance, you might ask, “What do I need to know about how to take care of this garden (my body)?” “What does [x,y,z] part of the garden mean?” and so on. Once you’ve finished the conversation, thank the gardener and leave the garden, closing the gate behind you. Once you’re back in the grassy field, return to normal consciousness. Journal about what you learned.
The body dialoguing journaling technique. Dialoguing with your body can be a simple but illuminating way of uncovering the meaning and lessons behind your psychosomatic illness. Begin your journaling session by addressing the part of your body causing trouble (or whole body if it’s generalized pain). You may like to write, “Dear back, neck, chest, etc. what would you like to share with me?” Close your eyes, let go of any thoughts in your mind and let yourself write without stopping (this is also known as the stream of consciousness technique). Try not to judge yourself, correct your spelling, or stop for any reason, just let your writing flow unhindered. Once you’ve stopped, think of another question to ask your body. Keep the conversation flowing until you are satisfied. Thank your body at the end. Reflect on your discoveries.
Sometimes it takes a little practice to tune into the voice of your illness and create that mind-body connection. But choose one practice and keep at it – you might be wildly surprised by what you discover!
How to Release Psychosomatic Trauma
As I mentioned earlier, psychosomatic illnesses are often caused by unreleased/unresolved trauma in the mind and frozen in the body. Some psychologists refer to this as “somatization” which is when our inner states of anxiety, heartbreak, and anger are converted into physical distress in the body.
Releasing this frozen energy often requires professional assistance, such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) or Somatic Experiencing psychotherapy.
But to equip you with some resources in the meantime, I want to offer you some ways you can experience relief:
Take an inventory of what you eat (aka. what unhealthy foods can you eliminate and replace with more wholesome options?)
Exercise each day, even if that just involves gardening or housework
Try breathwork techniques that help to soothe the mind and body (e.g., pranayama or yogic breathing like Nadi Shodhana)
Practice consciously shaking your body – explore TRE or the Tension and Trauma Release Exercise
Do self-massage each day
Make sleep your priority
Practice mindfulness and meditation (progressive muscle relaxation and body scanning may be particularly helpful for you)
Do some gentle stretching or yoga each day (my favorite simple asanas for body pain are cat-cow, child’s pose, seated twist, butterfly pose, and seated forward fold)
Walk barefoot in nature (if you have grass in your backyard or live near the ocean, let the grounding energy of the earth soothe your body!)
I can’t promise that any of these practices will be a “magic solution” for you, but they have certainly helped me and those I know of who have suffered psychosomatic illnesses.
Chronic illness can make us feel debilitated, confused, and weak. And yet, for some, it can trigger a positive existential crisis – a quest for healing or a call to adventure that awakens the healer within them.
For others, psychosomatic illnesses are like wake-up calls that shake us out of our normal autopilot state and sparks the desire to go soul searching.
Whatever meaning you attribute to your illness (or not), just know that it can be transformed into a ‘sacred wound’ that enables you to grow and evolve. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh once wrote about “bells of mindfulness” that occur in our everyday lives, and pain is most certainly one of them!
Do you suffer from a psychosomatic illness? What do you think its purpose, origin, or teaching is? I’d love to hear from you below in the comments.