The Meaning in Pain

The Meaning in Pain
July 1, 2015 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #471

“Should I suggest that my partner breathe into the pain and constriction?”

Jane writes:
I have a question about a session today with a Focusing partner who was feeling pain and constriction. I know it is a common tendency to hold one’s breath when experiencing strong pain – which makes one feel pressure on the chest, and results in intensifying the pain. Would it have been helpful for me to suggest that my partner might breathe into the constriction?

Dear Jane:
If all we want is for constriction to go away, then breathing into it sounds like a good thing to try.

But in Focusing we assume that our body sensations are meaningful. They haven’t just come to torment us. They have a reason to be here that is about the forward direction of our lives.

Of course we want to feel better… but not simply because our painful places have stopped hurting.

Pain is a message. This pain is this message. As we stay with the particular way that this sensation feels, right now, the meaning and the life direction emerge from the sensation itself. We don’t have to guess. It shows us.

And when the meaning is received and the place feels understood, it changes. It changes in a direction. It becomes, not just the absence of pain, but something more, something further, something that wasn’t even possible before.

That’s why, rather than trying to make our feelings go away, we say to them, “You can be the way you are for as long as you need to be.”



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