I’ve noticed that classes around headache healing can be an extremely compassionate way to move forward in solving longtime headache mysteries. I, and the entire class, listen carefully and neutrally to each person’s story. The class spontaneously learns listening distinctions and begins to model my listening. From there each person begins to experience compassion—compassion for others and, more importantly, for themselves. Inevitably, there’s always someone in the class who’s had it worse, one way or another, which creates empathy. And there’s always someone who isn’t as afflicted or who improves, which gives hope that life can be better and headaches can change.
Chances are you’ve already seen your primary care practitioner, a neurologist or two, and other practitioners. You’ve done everything that was advised, yet still suffer. You’ve filled out your headache, practitioner care, and medication histories over and over again. Yet during your appointment, your headache story seems like merely a side note, given the short amount of time allotted to tell it to your doctor.
However, it’s not a side note to you. Your story is your struggle with pain, your hard-fought attempts to solve its mystery, and the life you’ve had to curb because of its persistent grip. You’ve told your friends or partner about your debilitating bouts with pain, but they’ve heard it all before—many of them have been through years of it with you. You begin to feel like a burden and a complainer. No one seems to understand what you’re going through. You may feel listened to at first, but then you just hold it in.
Actually, your headache story can be a valuable tool to start the process of reversing your cycles of headache and/or migraine pain.
What is your headache story?
- How long have you had them?
- When did they start?
- What was going on in your life when you began getting them?
- What did you or your parents do for them?
- Did it help?
- If you’ve had them for many years, have your headaches changed over time?
- How has your life been shaped by your cycles of pain and other symptoms?
- Write your story or speak it out loud, and answer the above questions.
- Imagine that someone is actually listening compassionately to your story. What I mean is that you feel heard when telling it.
- There’s a distinction I’d like to point out here: If you’re listened to in an “oh-you-poor-baby” kind of way, that kind of sympathy can reinforce your staying stuck in that state as a victim. However, if you’re listened to with a “neutral ear” of compassion, you’re more likely to feel heard while not remaining stuck there. Reinforcing the victim position is a subtle way of dis-empowering the chronic sufferer.
- I’m suggesting that you split your attention into speaker, listener, and also observer. Try your story out on yourself using each persona—the over-sympathizer and the neutral compassionate.
- As the observer, notice what happens in your body when you imagine each one listening to you.
- Which makes you feel better? More heard? More able to move into a declaration to change your future? Where in your body do you feel sensations in reaction to that listening? What are those sensations?
Please share your experiences here!