Someone once told me about a boy. He was around eleven years old and took the medicine ‘Ritalin’, because he couldn’t handle his emotions well and got angry quickly. I don’t want to judge too fast, but I was surprised. That cure sounds like morphine for an injured knee; surely it will help, but why on earth would you do it? Really, isn’t there any other way to help that boy? Because in fact his emotions are being encapsulated with that medicine. And is that medicine meant to be used forever and ever? Is a structural solution still being searched for?
In our Western society it has become normal to suppress (emotional) pain, to fight the symptoms. We don’t want to feel pain. That is why we keep on using plasters and emergency measures. But we cannot keep on patching up, we might well have a running battle on our hands. We think: with pills and ointments we’ll manage to get through. A headache? A paracetamol tablet and off we go again. ADHD symptoms? Prescription of Ritalin seems to be the standard. An inflammation? Antibiotics work wonders. But pain can’t be caught or pushed away that easily, it just comes back. Sometimes even more intense than previously.
Not only with physical complaints we massively seem to act as though they need to be pushed away as fast as possible. We have the tendency to do exactly the same with mental complaints. Emotions are being swallowed – sometimes literally – when they surface. A ‘plaster’ on the annoying feeling and we pick right up where we left off. At least, that is what we try…
I am not a general practitioner or a health professional and I don’t want to impose my opinion to others or offend anybody in any way. Neither do I want to assume an extreme position, but I wish to look at circumstances in a subtle, nuanced way. In this blog I explicitly also wish to exclude the severely diseases, because my concern is primarily the everyday things. The average things that affect everybody from time to time. And yes, occasionally medicine can be necessary and supportive. If you have a tremendous headache and it gets too much, a painkiller can be very comfortable. But if the headache returns structurally it is very interesting to determine the cause, isn’t it? What does it mean, that pain?
My conviction (and experience) is that in many cases it is more than worth to find the source of pain. To try to hear and understand the signals of our body to discover what it wants to tell – or what it sometimes already screams for a long time. If I bump my toe against the door I don’t immediately have to start with underlying psychological causes. Nevertheless many health problems are psychosomatic¹ or based on traumatic experiences.
Besides, we almost forget that pain has a function, that pain is inextricably linked with every human being. For example, put your hand in fire or in boiling water (in fact: don’t). We think it’s very normal that we are able to feel that and subsequently pull out our hand as fast as we can. The pain is a warning that something is wrong. Luckily we are able to feel the pain caused by fire and hot water otherwise we would irreparably damage our body very fast.
That was a really simple example, but is it possible that pain has a function in other situations also? That it could be a warning and could have something to say to us? If we don’t want to feel the pain and suppress it, in fact it would be the same if we keep our hand in the fire meanwhile taking painkillers. That hand needs to be removed from the fire immediately, of course. The pain will still be there, but at least the healing process can start. And, not unimportant: the instigator can do no more extra harm.
Sometimes pain should get the space to be felt, like sorrow (read my blog about coping with sorrow). Let’s try that: acknowledge and feel the pain, because it is there for a reason. Feeling is the key (read my blog blog about feeling), but suppressing is almost an automatic reaction. Sometimes one can even be totally insensitive for pain stimuli. But pain will find an outlet anyway…
My personal conviction is that pain should be tackled at source. Come on, explore and free yourself from pain that seems to be interwoven with you like an unwanted best friend. Dare to consider a metaphysical² approach. After a life filled with headaches I know from experience that essential changes can take place. My head and neck area remain more vulnerable than other areas, but they are no longer open ‘wounds’, that hurt with every touch. On the contrary, the ‘wounds’ are gradually healing. I wish personal growth processes for everyone with acknowledgement and feeling of (old) pain, for that is the beginning of processing and healing.
¹ Psychosomatics involves pathologies which particularly manifest itself physically, but that clearly also have an obvious psychological factor (Source: Wikipedia translated from Dutch)
² Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it (Source: Wikipedia)
Additional explanation from the writer:
I realize that with this blog I express myself about a controversial theme. Like hopefully mentioned sufficiently clear I don’t want to offend anybody with this content. Also it is absolutely not my intention to judge others or to encourage stopping or changing medical treatments prescribed by professionals. The responsibility for a choice lies with the person concerned at any time. The only goal of writing this blog is to increase the awareness of the connection between physical and mental health.