Emotional sensitivity and chronic pain are cause and effect conditions that plague countless patients. Scientists have long studied the relationship between long-term illness, and its possible psychological causes, and have substantiated many undeniable links. Although a diversity of different psychoemotional concerns can cause or contribute to the occurrence of chronic pain, there are factors that many patients have in common. Emotional sensitivity is almost a universal characteristic of chronic pain patients, although how this sensitivity is demonstrated can vary significantly.
Emotional sensitivity describes an attribute by which powerful effects can be generated in the mind and body through exposure to situations, thoughts, feelings and interactions that should not bring about such drastic reactions. To further complicate matters, emotional sensitivities are often suppressed or repressed, making the patient feel as if they have little or no emotional output at all.
This essay examines the inextricable relationship between deeply held psychoemotional sensitivities and their resulting chronic pain consequences.
Mindbody medicine is the study of the interactions between the psychological self and the anatomical self. This healthcare specialty focuses on how the actions of the mind influences the functions of the body on conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels.
It is universally accepted that the mind can and does create change in the body. Some of these examples are seen in our behaviors on a daily basis, such as anger, embarrassment, fear and arousal. We all recognize that these pure emotions drive rather drastic bodily responses. However, there are many other possible anatomical expressions that can be created exclusively by the thoughts and feelings experienced in the emotional mind. In fact, the overall functionality of the entire living human organism, and every component contained therein, is wholly dependent upon direction from the mind.
Even the seemingly automatic aspects of our bodies that we take for granted, like blood pressure, heartbeat, circulation and organ functionality, are all controlled by unconscious and subconscious parts of our mind. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that although external forces can certainly influence the function of the body, or any part of it, internal forces are the primary mechanism that keeps the anatomy working as it is naturally designed. However, internal conflicts, thoughts and feelings that can disrupt the body’s rhythm or even cause dysfunction in specific or general aspects of health and wellness.
We have already written about many of the specific examples of mindbody health disorders, so in this dialog we will instead concentrate on exposing some of the powerful emotional scenarios that might transform these feelings into particular physiological expressions.
Emotions can be highly-charged feelings that are experienced in unique and personal ways in every living person on earth. There is no denying that we are all emotionally sensitive to some degree. However, some of us are more sensitized to the anatomical effects of emotions than others. These people can generally be categorized into two classic case profiles:
The first personality type actively recognizes emotions and experiences their psychological impact. However, they may or may not realize how these same emotions affect their anatomical health or the specific functions of their body. Patients who do not make the connection will continue to be victimized by these powerful mindbody conditions. Meanwhile, patients who do realize the link might have a chance to control the effects of emotions on their bodies, but only if conscious effort is made to enact these alterations on the subconscious mindbody interactive processes.
The second, and far more common, personality type in chronic pain sufferers is the person who seems unfazed emotionally by many traumatic factors. These classic “stiff upper lip types” carry on, despite all manner of psychological trauma, often as if they are unaffected psychologically. These are the people who are usually the most sensitive emotionally and the mind recognizes the power of their psychological perceptions instinctively. Since the threat of a constant psychoemotional barrage is deemed unacceptable by the subconscious and unconscious minds, the problematic emotions are suppressed immediately, or repressed, if consciously recognized. In essence, these people feel so deeply that their minds have taught them not to consciously feel at all.
Any person can endure mindbody reactions, whether or not they recognize that these bodily expressions are the direct result of a psychological process or not. However, people who make the connection can proactively work to minimize the negative effects of emotions and even circumvent symptoms before they begin.
On the other hand, people who do not connect the bodily symptoms and the psychological origin are victimized without end, always being told by internal and external voices that their pain comes from some “more logical” source, such as injury, degeneration, disease or some other factor typically obsessed over by modern medicine.
It is impossible to list all the possible contributing emotional scenarios that typically contribute to the occurrence of chronic pain. However, given decades of patient advocacy work and examples sent in by tens of thousands of patients, we find the following conditions to be every common among chronic illness sufferers:
People who were abused as children or adults, sexually, physically or emotionally, are extremely prone to the development of chronic health disorders.
People who are perfectionistic, self-motivated and self-domineering are incredibly likely to develop one or more psychological pain conditions or mindbody diseases.
People who bury their emotions through repression, suppression or substance abuse are susceptible to chronic pain and autoimmune disease.
People who have low self-esteem, a poor body image, a feeling of being unloved as a child, abandonment issues or traumatic experiences are all at higher risk for the development of mindbody health crises.
It should be known that mindbody symptoms are universal in humans. We are all victims of our psychological selves, in that we all get the occasional emotionally-driven headache, stomach ache, feelings of anxiety, bout of nervousness or other minor event. However, most of us are also affected by our minds in ways we never acknowledge. The majority of people with chronic health problems never even consider that the causation of their pain originates from within. This is a revelation for some and an id-insult to others who immediately disregard all such notions of psychogenic pain.
Even for patients who fall into the latter doubtful category, there is a simple explanation for their reaction. Some patients will consciously feel that their pain is being questioned or that the authenticity of their suffering is being scrutinized by such theories. However, the reason they feel this way is not due to logic. Instead, it is yet another defense mechanism set up to prevent the conscious recognition of the very same emotions that are, and always have been, driving their physical suffering. In essence, their subconscious mind tells their consciousness that they are under attack and they respond in a way to protect their very real oppressor.
In order to recover from many forms of chronic pain, there might need to be some psychological work performed by the patient. They might need to make the connection between their physical symptoms and the psychological source processes that create these bodily sufferings.
Furthermore, they might need to re-wire their subconscious brain to stop suppressing and repressing, and instead, to begin actually feeling the emotions that are so sensitive to them. If this can be accomplished, virtual miracles of recovery are possible, from even the most horrific health problems.