On Monday, my gym routine stalled. I hurt my shoulder.
It was during a set of tricep dips that the pain started. Over the last few days the pain has progressively worsened and currently, a dull throbbing has made its home amongst the muscles that inhabit my left shoulder. It sucks. As I think about it, it seems that there are quite a few parallels with both physical pain and emotional pain. Here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Pain can take time to subside.
The feeling in my shoulder was probably at its worst today. It’s distracting and incredibly frustrating, but it needs time to heal. It would be naive to assume that it would be fixed instantly – the nature of this sort of damage is that time is required to repair the problem areas. It can be easy to forget that the same is true of the emotional pain that we encounter in our lives. Very rarely is that damage irreparable but often it takes times to fade. That healing process could take days, weeks or even years but if you allow it, time can heal many issues.
2. Pain can be restrictive.
My shoulder was at its most painful today when I was writing on a whiteboard. The raised-arm motion started as nothing more than uncomfortable but very soon became unbearable; so much so that I had to stop using the board altogether. The pain restricted my motion. Emotionally, we can encounter pain that is so severe it restricts our action in some way. Remember that time you walked a different route to your destination to make sure you didn’t bump into that ex of yours or how you loathe maths because of a certain teacher you had when you were younger?! Notice, however, that with a physical injury, the restriction is created as a response to pain; a method of dealing with it. Sometimes it’s necessary to ensure space from the source of emotional pain in your life until it relents enough for you to be able to forgive. It’s important to note here that forgiveness should always be the end-game though, even if you aren’t there yet.
3. Sometimes pain can only be addressed by the help of others.
One of my colleagues in the creative arts team at Kerith happens to have been a physiotherapist in a previous phase of life. Today I managed to persuade her to assess the damage on my shoulder – she proceeded to poke, prod, lift and twist my arm before using a word that sounded like ‘supercalifragilisticexpealidocious’ to describe what was happening with it. I’d been planning to resume my standard exercise at the gym straight away in the delusional hope that the pain would vanish. My physio friend wasted no time in putting that idea to bed, saying that my shoulder would need more time to recover. Isn’t that similar to emotional pain? Sometimes we find it impossible to realise just how damaging a situation can be for us without the help and insight of others. I can think of countless people (including myself) who have been so immersed in dysfunctional relationships that they have been completely oblivious to the pain that is being caused.
I find hope in the knowledge that my shoulder will heal – along with the emotional injuries that I carry. Perhaps the physical and emotional realms aren’t so different after all!