What If Pain Is Your Friend? (Part 1) | The 3 Threats To Our Safety/HomeostasisDec 21, 2022
Most of our clients in our Ending Body Burnout Method will know I’ve had some pretty miraculous experiences with heartburn recently. How I resolved it has been a hot topic of conversation in our weekly workshops! I will get to My Heartburn Story in my next blog post which will be published next Wednesday. But first, I want to talk about pain.
Pain: An Enemy or A Friend?
What is your relationship with pain? If you’re someone who is experiencing body burnout symptoms - fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, PMS, painful periods, headaches/migraines, heartburn, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, skin issues, achy body - then I would imagine you don’t like pain very much. In fact, you’re probably hating it! No judgement here by the way, I was exactly the same. I HATED every time my face broke out with pimples, or my gut flared up with heartburn, or my lower back pinched and ached, or when my chest was so tight with anxiety that it felt like I could not breathe. I hated the feeling of pain, and I would also get frustrated and/or deflated when my body flared up with pain - especially after trying All. The. Things. to improve my health.
The thing is, pain is designed to keep humans safe. Every cell in our body is craving safety, protection and homeostasis. We evolved with an incredible nervous system that will push a pain-button (a physical symptom) if our mind (conscious and/or subconscious mind) deems something to be unsafe.
Given this, pain is not actually the enemy, it is our friend. A loving friend sending a message to us, alerting us that something is not quite right and is threatening our safety.
Bit of a mindset shift, hey?! Stay with me…
3 Threats To Our Safety/Homeostasis
There are three main threats that will cause a pain signal to switch on. These are:
- External environmental threats
- Physical imbalances in your body
- Broken rapport with self
Let me break these down.
External Environmental Threats
External environmental threats will trigger a physiological response in the body. If the tiger is chasing you, if you’re about to pull out in front of a speeding truck, if your child touches fire, if you’re about to get attacked, if you’re exposed to high levels of chemical toxins, if you have a heated fight with your partner - all of these will put your body into a state of alert, into a state of fight-or-flight. You will likely physically feel pain or tension in your body as your system is flooded with cortisol and adrenaline - your heart starts thumping, your chest tightens, your hands go shaky. This response is wired into your system to keep you safe.
Physical Imbalances In Your Body
Chronic exposure to real or perceived (wait until I get to the next point) threats, will at some point burn your body systems out. Your body can only produce high amounts of cortisol and adrenaline before your adrenal hormones and brain chemicals start burning out, which then leads to breakdown of other body systems like your gut, detox pathways, sex hormones and mitochondria. At some point, pain will arise in the form of health symptoms.
I have believed for a long time - over 15 years - that physical pain and health issues are a sign that something is not quite right in the body. When my health originally collapsed after having babies, and I experienced a bucket-load of weird symptoms, I intuitively knew there was something wrong with my physiology. When the GP tests came back “fine”, I continued to search other areas of the body that don’t get tested by medical specialists. This led me to functional medicine, where I could clearly see in my labs that YES I had imbalances in my body, and it wasn’t just ‘all in my head.’ Just like acute environmental dangers, my body was sending me signals of pain - loving messages - to protect me, to alert me to the fact that there were some serious imbalances in my body that I needed to address before it led to something nasty like cancer and/or to leading me down the track of ruining my life!
Broken Rapport With Self
Something I didn’t realise back then, however, was that at the deepest root cause of pain/health symptoms is a broken rapport with self. Yes, pain arises due to acute and real environmental dangers. And yes pain arises due to real physical imbalances in the body. But what caused the body systems to burn-out in the first place when most of us are not exposed to real environmental dangers - i.e. a tiger! - chronically?
It all comes back to what’s happening in your unconscious mind, and the beliefs you have created about yourself and the way you exist in this world. The machine that drives your human behaviour (thoughts, feelings, actions) and even the state of your health, is your belief-system. The crazy thing is, most humans have hidden dysfunctional beliefs about themselves - i.e. I’m not good enough, I’m weak, incapable, unlovable, unworthy, etc. - that are literally causing 24/7 stress on the nervous system. In this state, you’re constantly needing to prove or defend yourself, or flat-out hide or run away. Your response to real and perceived stressors get ‘blown up’ to the point you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed and triggered by even the smallest things, because deep down you believe you’re not ‘cut out’ to be successful, happy, healthy, or even deal with day-to-day life.
Essentially, all these hidden, dysfunctional, and unprocessed beliefs are causing the same physiological response that you would get if the tiger were chasing you! Which then puts massive stress on your nervous system, and eventually breaks down your body systems.
Pain signals, then, are very often not just ‘physical’ messages from the body, but messages from your unconscious state that you have broken rapport with yourself. Physical pain is the most effective way that the unconscious state grabs our attention that something is up.
My Heartburn Story
Let me explain this with my own experience with heartburn. Stay tuned for Part 2 of “What If Pain Is Your Friend.” To be continued...
Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.
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