Deep within our psyche, we all have a little voice that just loves to spread doubt and fear – and it’s when we feel tired that this little voice starts to sound a bit louder.
If we start to believe the negative things that it says, this little voice can cause havoc and the best way to drown that voice out is to talk about what it’s saying.
So what is your little voice of fear and doubt saying about your mobility?
If you’ve never come across the work of Dr Brene Brown, then I highly recommend you go find it. She’s a researcher professor at the University of Houston where she has spent over 15 years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame.
In her AWESOME book “Rising Strong” she outlines 5 ways that we off-load our hurt. While she talks about emotions, let’s talk about each one in terms of the physical pains in our bodies:
1. Chandeliering – The act of pushing down pain so far down in our psyche that we think it can’t possibly resurface, “yet all of a sudden a seemingly innocuous comment sends us into a rage or sparks a crying fit”. Dr Brown goes on to explain how doing this in a situation where we have power over someone else can eventually cause us to walk on eggshells, creating a fear-based setting where everyone is on edge.
In the context of an injury, or pain, this is like having a sudden onset of pain when we move in certain directions, or at certain points in our range of movement. When it happens frequently, it leaves us feeling uncertain and apprehensive about moving in those ways again.
2. Bouncing hurt – This is when our ego kicks in. We use anger, blame and avoidance to avoid acknowledging that we are hurt and we start to blame, find fault, inflict payback and lash out in attempts to protect ourselves from the hurt.
This really isn’t any different in terms of physical pain than emotional pain. We’ve all struggled on despite the pain believing, or even saying to those around us “I’m fine” rather than acknowledge that we’ve hurt ourselves. We blame our shoes, the road surface, the terrain, our speed, other people, our equipment – in fact, pretty much anything else for our pain rather than accepting that our bodies are struggling with issues.
3. Numbing hurt – This is when our first response to pain is to make it go away as quickly as possible. Dr Brown suggests that with emotions we use “a whole bunch of stuff, including alcohol, drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, work, caretaking, gambling, affairs, religion, chaos, shopping, planning, perfectionism, constant change, and the internet” to numb our hurt. But with physical pain we also numb.
We use taping, painkillers, more exercise, support bandages and much more to numb our aches and pains, rather than dealing with the real cause of the issue (muscle tightness), and, as Dr Brown points out “when we numb the dark, we also numb the light” – in other words, if we don’t deal with the real cause of the issue, we won’t experience freedom from it, and in the context of sport, freedom from it is getting back to enjoying our movement without pain or restriction.
4. Stockpiling hurt – In a similar way to Chandeliering, stockpiling hurt starts with us firmly packing down (ignoring or denying) our pain. Dr Brown describes this as “we just continue to amass hurt until the wisest parts of us, our bodies, decide that enough is enough. The body’s message is always clear: Shut down the stockpiling or I’ll shut you down. The body wins every time”.
Interestingly enough, it’s at this point, when the body has shut down the stockpiling that people start to acknowledge that there’s a problem. In the context of injury, it’s that point when you can no longer train through the pain. During the stockpiling process, we continue to train despite the low level of pain, either because we believe that the pain will go away on its own, or because we’re in denial that we have an issue. We’ll try everything, including switching our training method to try to keep training, while still ignoring the problem. It’s only when training is no longer possible that people start to seek answers.
5. Hurt and the fear of high centering – Dr Brown uses the analogy of a vehicle stuck on a median strip, where all four wheels were off the ground while the vehicle is supported by its underbelly to describe “high centering”. She describes this as the fear of getting stuck once we acknowledge our pain. It’s the fear that even engaging with it a little bit will result in us not being able to move backwards, pretending that it doesn’t matter, but moving forward might open a floodgate of emotion that we can’t control.
In the context of injury, this is the fear of having to stop training. The fear of feeling helpless and out of control of our own fitness while we rely on someone else to “fix” the problem. We’re scared that if we scratch the surface of the problem, we’ll end up in an endless, money draining cycle of paying for regular “maintenance” treatments just to keep the problem at bay – or we’re scared that once we start the process of dealing with one problem, we’ll uncover other issues we didn’t even know were there.
Dr Brown suggests that giving into the fear is just denying emotion (injury) and that “denying emotion is not avoiding the high curbs, it’s never taking your car out of the garage. It’s safe in there but you’ll never go anywhere”.
Are you suffering from any of these fears? What is your little voice saying about your aches and pains? Comment below and let me know – seriously, I wanna know!
So what’s the best strategy for dealing with these fears?
According to Dr Brown it’s to “Give yourself permission to feel emotion [read pain/injury here], get curious about it, pay attention to it, and practice”.
There’s no other way for you to deal with your aches, pains and injuries either. You must acknowledge them, get curious about why they happened, pay attention to the changes in how your body feels, and practice moving in different ways to deal with it.
Fear is a super strong emotion, especially when you feel like you’re on your own with something – but you’re not. There’s loads of ways you can connect with other people going through the same issues as you, and our little Facebook family community is a great place to do that.
If you haven’t joined us yet, come on over and introduce yourself, together we’ll help you fight your fears and deal with your injuries!