Q: My child is constantly complaining of stomach pain, but our doctor hasn’t found anything physically wrong with her. What could it be?
A: I’m so sorry that your daughter is suffering from stomach pain. I’m also glad that the doctor didn’t find anything physically wrong with her. My hunch is that both the issue and the solution are emotionally based, rather than physically based, even though the symptoms indicate a physical ailment.
As a Somatic Healer and Clarity Coach, I have been trained to help women dive into their emotional world to discover their G-d given discerning wisdom, and help them heal from physical and emotional symptoms. Emotions are energetic, meaning that they are not set in stone, but dance around as subtle vibrations and physical sensations in our body, before our mind even registers the name for them. By the time our brain tells us that we are sad, angry, fearful, or excited, our body has already been feeling the energy of sadness, the energy of anger, the energy of fear, or the energy of excitement.
Now that we’ve defined what emotions are, meaning ‘energy in motion’, we can imagine what may happen when that energy is not paid attention to, but ignored or suppressed. It can result in emotional pain—such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, or grief—or even physical pain.
The wonderful thing is that when we are honestly aware of our inner emotional world, we can ease our symptoms, such as the ones listed above, and we can even heal ourselves of physical symptoms, such as back or neck pain. Our healing is faster, and our wisdom arises, because by recognizing that our emotions and physical sensations want to be heard in order to teach us something, we get physical relief, as well as discernment, to help us navigate relationships and situations.
Unfortunately, as adults, we may have fallen into the habit of dissociating from our bodies and rationalizing our emotions away. Hopefully, our children have not. But even if our children have fallen into some of these societal patterns, it’s not too late to help them stay in awareness of their body, and to find the gold in their emotions.
I would like to share the following story of an experience I had with my young teenage son, which shows the intimate connection between suppressed emotional energy and pain, as it gets expressed in the body. With this sharing, I hope others can use it as an example of how beneficial and healing it is to tune into our emotions, and help our loved ones do the same.
On the first day of my son’s vacation, he woke up in terrible pain from a stiff neck. He couldn’t get up or move his head in any direction. As a sensitive child, he cried long and loudly from the pain and the frustration of being stuck in this very awkward position.
As a mom, my first reaction was complete internal panic as I tried to calmly (outwardly) access the situation in order to make sure we didn’t have an emergency on our hands. No fever and no injury quickly indicated to me that it was ‘just a stiff neck’—painful and awkward, but it did not necessitate a rush to the doctor.
‘Now what?’ I asked myself. ‘How do I help get my son pain relief, and get him up and running as quickly as possible, so that he can enjoy his vacation?’ He goes to an out-of-town school, so this time at home is very precious to him, as he loves to play with local friends and his very active siblings.
After having him take some deep belly breaths, getting him some ibuprofin and letting him cry it out for a bit, I asked him if anything had been bothering him recently. Through his sniffling, he asked me what I meant.
“Well, has anything happened lately with your siblings or friends that made you angry or sad?” I asked.
“Mom, this is about my neck, not my feelings,” he responded with exasperation.
“Oftentimes, our body is giving us a message when it’s in pain that there is some emotion that needs to be addressed. Perhaps something is bothering you in one of your relationships, or maybe you’re worried about something?” I said.
And with that opening, he proceeded to share that two days before, his friends had been jumping on our trampoline, and though he kept telling them to calm down, they ignored him. In fact, one of them put a hole in the new net. He was worried that when his father saw the hole, he would be angry.
He also wanted some alone time to play with his brothers, but his friends always just walked into the house, and pushed past him at the door, even when he said that he didn’t want to play. He complained that they don’t listen to him. He also rationalized to me that it wouldn’t be nice of him to ask them to leave.
Anger, sadness, frustration over being ignored, powerlessness, guilt – a whole host of emotions were swirling in his body, wanting to be heard.
From my training and experience as a Somatic Healer, I knew that tapping into this spring of emotional energy was exactly what would bring my son relief and get him on his feet again.
I started by having him breathe deeply, with long and slow inhales and exhales. This helped him to relax his body a bit.
Then I had him notice what he felt when he thought back to the scene of his friends ignoring him. With some gentle prompting, we labeled his emotions as anger, frustration and powerlessness. This was helpful, but he needed to notice his physical sensations too. Remember, emotions are energy-in-motion, so the key is to NOTICE and FEEL the physical sensation of whatever is happening in the body.
For my son, it was difficult for him to understand what his ‘koo-koo’ mom was talking about, but he played along. He noticed ‘something’ in his belly. I had him keep his attention on his stomach for half a minute. I used a few other somatic techniques with him, each time prompting his awareness of his body and his emotions.
Even though he rolled his eyes, I kept explaining to him that his body and emotions had messages to share with him, and that we could be confident, as we kept listening to what they wanted to tell him, that his neck would get better—perhaps not that day, but certainly within a day or two. This was comforting to him, because he knew of friends who had had stiff necks, and it had taken them a full week to feel better. He wanted to be goofing around on the trampoline and flying his drone with his siblings, and he didn’t want to be out of the action for that long.
Throughout the process, we continued to notice other physical sensations of his anger, sadness and fear. We continued processing throughout the day as he rested.
Though we addressed the pain and the physicality of the stiff neck by using ice and ibuprofin, I made sure to emphasize to him that we were also allowing for all his emotions, and hearing whatever messages that they wanted to share with us. I spoke about how important it is to honor our feelings and to set boundaries with people. I also said that it’s not healthy to tell ourselves, “It’s not nice to …..” Being kind to others is important, but if someone ignores what you are asking them to do or not do, then you need to be assertive and let your needs be known. I told him that if that feels uncomfortable to him, we could work on it together. I let him know that I would help him be assertive and speak to his friends, and that the most important thing for him is to notice and be honest with himself when he is feeling upset, including when he feels that towards me.
He slept great that night, with much more flexibility in his neck. The next day, he felt better, though still in pain, and we continued the emotional processing and physical care. By day three, the stiff neck was completely gone and he was his happy, rambunctious teenage self, able to goof around with his siblings.
Whoo – hoo!
As painful as this situation had been, my son learned the important lesson of how crucial it is to address his emotional inner world. We took the time to speak to his friends openly about the things that had been bothering him, and we set boundaries and guidelines for treating him respectfully.
A few days later, when my son had another unpleasant interaction with one of his friends, he shared what happened with me immediately, and we took the time to address his feelings and body sensations. He said to me, “Mom, I don’t want to get another stiff neck.”
As I comforted him, we dived into his emotional wisdom and addressed the real source of his pain.