A couple of days ago Emily asked me about my headaches. It was an innocent enough question. She knows my history. She cares about me and about how headaches affect my life.
Still, as usual, I felt this tensing in my stomach as my mind began sorting through the past few weeks frantically searching for an answer that a) was honest and b) wouldn’t make me look too pathetic or complain-y.
After all, who feels comfortable around a pathetic complainer?
So, I said something about how I’d had a bad one or two and then, as usual, threw in something positive I’d noticed or learned recently. Because, well, I hate the thought of her (anyone really) feeling sorry for me.
Ok, up to this point, the conversation had followed its normal course.
But then, out of nowhere, Emily casually threw out a question that blinded me with its unexpectedness and brilliance. She inquired:
You do, sometimes, have stretches of days without headaches, right?
And, just like that, everything shifted.
Yeah! Yeah! I do. Sometimes I’ll go an entire week, maybe even 10 days without even one headache!
All of a sudden, instead of counting the number of headaches I’d had in the past week or month, I could see all these shining days of headache-free-ness. And, oh my, were they beautiful.
Noticing what IS working – the first shift I help my clients make (and the concept I completely forgot to apply to myself).
My clients often come to me in pain. Whether that pain is physical or emotional makes little difference. There is something going on in their bodies or in their lives that is causing discomfort, disconnection and overwhelm.
This something has become the primary thing in their lives and has consumed their awareness to the extent that very little other is noticed or acknowledged.
So, one of the first questions I ask my clients (after they’ve described the pain in detail), is: Where in your body do you feel good? Are their any places in your body that feel comfortable to you right now?
Almost always, they become quiet, their bodies become still. Then, with a kind of wondering quality in their voice they say, “Wow, I’ve never been asked that before. I’ve never paid attention to what feels good.”
Why this shift in perspective is so important.
It is so easy to get pulled into something that isn’t working and completely lose sight of all the things that are working.
Making this shift from focusing on the pain (what’s not working) to the things in our lives and bodies that are working is crucial.
It allows us to gain perspective. It puts everything back into its proper place. It allows us to gain some distance from our pain. From there, we are able to make better decisions and be more pleasant people. Yay! (pleasant people rock).
In short, it brings us back into right relationship.
Note: focusing on what’s working does not mean we ignore, repress or deny the pain (or the things that aren’t working). Rather, shifting our focus to what is working helps us realize that pain is part of the picture vs the entire picture.
Let’s take 5 minutes and find 10 things that *are* working.
Get out a piece of paper and a pen. Think about some area in your body or life that causes you distress. Something that can pull you in and cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture.
Now, make a list of 10 things in your life that are working. The things on your list can be anything, it doesn’t matter at all how big or small they are.
If you are really stuck in that place of nothing’s working, then you may have to start really small. Perhaps even something like “the clock on my stove is telling the right time.”
When I’m particularly stuck, I find it helpful to go outside, to notice the trees (yes, they are still growing) and the birds (yes, they are still flitting about).
Try to make 3 of the items on your list things that are working in your body.
It can be as simple as, hey, my heart is still beating.
Or you can take a moment, check in and see if there is any part of your body that feels comfortable right now; if there are any sensations anywhere that you rather enjoy.
For instance, right now I notice this tingling sensation in my feet that feels really nice.
Once you have your list, settle in and (however briefly) allow yourself to experience a moment of gratitude for those 10 items on your list.
- My computer rocks.
- My fingers enjoy typing
- The bottoms of my feet feel tingly
- The sun is shining
- I’m working from home
- I am able to pay my rent and bills this month
- My legs feel strong and capable
- I’m doing work that is meaningful to me
- The buds on the tree outside my window are becoming leaves
- My boyfriend loves me – somehow, and sometimes, despite myself 🙂
Heads up! In two weeks…
Those of you on my list will receive a gift from me – a beautiful little (7 page) ebook. This ebook describes the one technique I use every day to help me shift out of pain and into noticing what is working.
If you aren’t on my list yet, you can sign up here. 🙂
See you then.