December 19, 2003
December 19, 2003

Healing the Wounds of Life

Scientists have just discovered that physical pain is located in the same part of the brain as emotional suffering. For almost thirty years of practice I have been giving my clients this analogy: “If you break a leg, the Doctor can set it, but he will state that it will take six weeks to heal. During that time you will be in pain. Therefore, when a person relates a situation, whether it be; a loss of a function of their body, a loss of a loved person or pet regardless if the loss is from separation or death, or a feeling of shame for past activities, a disagreement with a relative, boss, or friend; the resolution will take time before the mind feels whole again.

On one occasion, an individual came in for one hour and then made this disgruntled statement, “I don’t feel any better. You're supposed to fix my problem.” I would begin with the analogy I just stated that the emotions which are generated by the mind take time to leave the body. These chemicals leave an affective trail. I give the example of one time when my eight month old puppy still had not submitted to being outside trained, therefore, I put him in his yard area. He was a Labrador and although it began to rain I felt he would be fine. Yet, in the morning when I called him from my kitchen window he did not respond. I immediately felt depressed that I had killed my dog only to have him jump up and down as I approached him. However, the sinking, grieving feeling did not leave me for a good twenty four hours regardless of how much “Blackie” reassured me with licking my face.

Just as a physician cannot remove the pain until the body heals itself, so also the counselor cannot magically sprinkle angel dust into the air and make the upset go away. The counselor can establish a mind set that allows the person to give themselves permission to express their grief, discomfort, etc. with the perspective of a time limit for venting. Then the client needs to realize that just as with the physician, they must follow the suggested directives to begin the process. With a broken leg they need to be still so the bones can mend together. With distraught feelings, one needs to find some purpose from the experience to help them be stronger or find a pleasant outlet to distract themselves while their biological bodies can change the chemical process that causes their anguish. As long as one dwells on the happenstance, the chemicals keep circulating through the system and finding that the “gate” in the brain has not been closed will then continue to cause internal discord. Distractions close the “gate” so that the misery is eliminated.

The most important message to every person is that the work has to come from themselves. The counselor is the “map” They are driving the car and just as with driving, one needs to follow the rules of the road, one must also follow the rules of life. If there is no motivation to be a part of the solution, then the first problem that needs to be dealt with is their attitude about refusing to take responsibility for the choices and direction of their own life.