Armor in the Body
What is really fascinating is the parallels between pain in the body and pain in mind or psyche. A great example of this can be taken from injury to the spine or a chronically poor posture that turns into serious spinal problems. How a person typically experiences spinal pain especially if there is scar tissue is typically pain and tightness. Scar tissue is typically the body’s way of over compensating for a lack of support or injury done to the body in order to maintain some kind of homeostasis and protection. Very similarly with psychological trauma or extended periods of hyper-vigilance and stress, can make a person’s mental or emotional walls become thicker and less flexible. People may have trust issues, or blame or judge other people, or even shame themselves for past experience. The general theme is a kind of armor and protection from further pain due to there being a holding patterns of suffering for a prolonged period of time. The body acts the same way after injury or postural problems, as it stiffens the afflicted area making it hard for the rest of the body to be balanced due to the other muscle groups having to compensate for the stagnation and tightening of the muscle tissue. People with back pain often want relief but continue to nurse their tender pain without any real reprieve because of a lack in the ability to ultimately release the holding while be able to build the proper scaffolding to maintain the body’s daily functioning.
There in lies a paradoxically somatic ordeal, for in order to truly heal the person cannot aggressively work out his chronic injury through strenuous physical exercise, nor is it effective to simply massage or gently stretch out the tender afflicted area. This is because of the serious lacking in muscular infrastructure that created the scar tissue in the first place. The key would be to holistically and in a titrating manner work slowly to simultaneously build core muscle strength and surrounding mechanisms while providing therapy and gentle kneading of the painful area in order to eventually support it’s readiness to no longer need scar tissue to hold itself upright. I use the example of the spine because it is most analogous to mental health.
So in the same way as physical pain, the psyche works in the same fashion. It would be both foolish to delve straight into emotional content and deep gut wrenching therapy without having a balanced and supportive regiment of mindful and somatic grounding skills to be able to endure and fathom the truly turbulent processes of healing. Too often therapy consists of either too much of one or the other. For example a person either builds even greater mental or emotional walls and hides the core issues under a mountain of coping skills, or the person is further re-traumatized and becomes uncontrollably opened without proper self regulating mechanisms for daily functioning. The process of course is always organic and has it’s own emergent qualities, but I’ve found that it’s important to conceptualize these schemas as a sort of psycho-physical road map of how to effectively steward someone or oneself through the healing process.