Chronic Pain: Looking For A Way Out
We are often unaware of our bodies when we feel healthy. With perhaps the exception of enjoying a good meal or while lovemaking, we rarely perceive the body; rather, we perceive with our bodies when we feel whole and our health is sound. It is when we are injured or ill that we become “painfully aware” of the body itself. For those who suffer from chronic pain, this is a daily challenge that makes even the most routine activities a monumental task of endurance.
Spacial Dynamics views these conditions, in part, as a disruption of the body-space continuum. We have a body, a space we inhabit for a time, and we also have our personal space which is very much a part of our being and experience of the world. In order to function properly, the body needs to be informed of, and by, its surroundings through spacial perception; the spacial body can be likened to an invisible limb that reaches out into the world to bring perceptual stimulus to the body and the intellect. Reestablishing the rhythmic dynamic between the physical and spacial bodies can play a large role in an individual's ability to overcome chronic pain. While the physiological and anatomical causes of chronic pain vary widely, the resulting gestures are often similar. The sufferer’s awareness is continuously brought into the body, dimming the outside world. The sufferer becomes locked in a chronic state of contraction which leaves them exhausted and often disrupts their ability to connect with others and the natural world.
Using a wide variety of hands-on techniques and gentle explorations of movement, a Spacial Dynamics therapist helps to lead a person “out” of the body by bringing their awareness to the spacial aspects of themselves, thus opening a path away from an entirely mechanistic experience of the world. The experience can be likened to releasing the pressure of an over-inflated bicycle tire: when too full, the tire will give a bumpy, uncontrolled ride; when the pressure is returned to normal, the tire can “perceive” the road surface and carry the passenger comfortably down the road to the desired destination. Another analogy would be wearing a pair of shoes that are a size too small on a long walk, the shoes represent a spacial body that has constricted or even cut into the physical body. When the shoes are removed or replaced with a pair that fits, the feet can “spread out” or “breathe”, giving the owner much relief. The way we wear our space can greatly alter our relationship with pain and even eliminate it altogether if we find a way to “spread out” spacially. It is no coincidence that there is a high co-occurrence of anxiety and chronic pain; both conditions are accompanied by extreme contractive gestures.
With regards to chronic pain resulting from traumatic, acute physical injury, we often find a reflexive or contractive gesture that is similar to the gesture of those who suffer a physiological disorder or a psychosomatic-spacial condition. Many times, individuals will “pull away” from the injured limb and will quite literally cease from fully inhabiting the afflicted area. This can lead to sympathetic injury from a lack of physical symmetry, anxiety, and at worst, necrosis, the death of cellular life in the tissue. For example, a client came to me who had suffered a broken leg; even though months had gone by since the accident, she was still in pain, and the color of the leg was a deep, unsettling purple. We worked together for about an hour, using mainly hands-on techniques; and by the end of the session, the leg had returned to a normal skin tone. We then worked on walking while inhabiting the space below her foot. Using this technique, she was able to progress quickly in her physical therapy efforts that had plateaued before our work together.
In closing, one may begin to recognize the habitual gestures of chronic pain and learn to move in a way that revitalizes the body-space continuum. This experience is often one of joyful discovery and can lead to the body once again returning to its rightful function as a sense organ for the world around it.