The Body Holds the Key- Psychosomatic Muscle Pain and Tension
Reza Mohammed B.S. with Dr. Andrew Hahn, Psy.D. and Joan Beckett, LMHC
Sarah was a 42 year old mother of two who came in for a session because of profound anxiety, that she described as “the most anxious I have ever felt in my life.”
“I feel like I am going to jump out of my skin, this anxiety is paralyzing and overcoming my soul/being. I can’t breathe, I am having a hard time concentrating and I don’t feel like I can be around my in-laws and family this week at Thanksgiving,” she said.
“We just had a pre-thanksgiving meal where I had a confrontation with my father. I told him I forgive you for everything you have done to me, and the only thing he responded was I don’t recall being mean to you. He has dementia so that was the end of the confrontation...There is just this unrest inside my being, I can’t seem to calm it down. I woke up at 4AM today and couldn’t fall back asleep, it’s too difficult to function in my life right now. I have no idea what is causing this unrest.”
“There is a lot of fear along with anxiety that makes things doubly difficult, the only comforting thing is cuddling with my family. That is all I want to do, I don’t want to do anything else,” she said with an exasperated look on her face before breaking out in tears.
“Now I’m sensing some anger inside, which I have been unaware of. It’s coming from my spine, there is a lot of emotion there. Yoga brings up a lot of emotion for me, it feels like that. After I saw my father and family yesterday, I felt pain in my upper right back, and my inner right ear inexplicably...It’s interesting because when I was a teen, my father struck my head and ruptured my eardrum.”
“I’ll do anything to make this stop, I am desperate.”
Muscle Testing indicated that Sarah’s highest priority intention was nothing she said, and we could not work directly on anything she said. It indicated that Sarah’s highest priority intention was a Deathwish. A Deathwish pattern is present when some part of the client wants to die. It typically results from one of two situations:
- Something so terrible happened that a part of the client wishes to be dead. And/or
- A parent cannot stand something about themselves, projects it onto the child and wants to destroy it. The child perceives that in order to receive the parent’s love, it must let itself be destroyed, i.e. they must die.
A Deathwish pattern can manifest as mental hopelessness and suicidal intention, emotional despair and depression and/or physical illness.
After I explained this to Sarah, and asked her if it resonated in any way, she began crying. “Both my sister and I attempted suicide as teenagers because of our parents,” she said through her tears.
MT indicated that the inducting statements were to be “A part of me wants to die, A part of me wishes I were dead, Someone who was supposed to love me wants me dead, and in order to receive their love a part of me has to die.” MT also indicated that the root cause was at age 11. When I asked Sarah if this resonated, she said she immediately felt “[her] back on fire.”
As she fully allowed and experienced “ A part of me wants to die, A part of me wishes I was dead, Someone who was supposed to love me wants me dead, and in order to receive their love a part of me has to die,” she immediately felt a “pressure right around vagina, heat and tension in mid-upper back, a nervous inner angst in mid-upper back, and feeling like screaming at the top of [her] lungs and hitting something, spazzing out”.
As she fully allowed and experienced the sensations, a narrative came to her:
“I feel like I am having a nervous breakdown, I give up, it’s like I am competing and I surrender. I think this is when the sexual abuse began, I am feeling strong sensations in my vagina. I can’t remember how early it was when it began...I thought it began when I was being groomed to be abused and molested sexually. I did everything my father and my friend’s father wanted me to do, to please them. I talk about knowing myself and taking care of myself all the time, but I didn’t truly know myself. I am feeling this throbbing energy in my crotch...yes, this sexual abuse began at age 11. I am feeling sensation in my left inner ear, right inner ear, tension in jaw...”
“When my friend’s father touched me, fondled me, and brought me to orgasm, I would contain the orgasm. He would ask if I came, and I would say yes. Although it felt good, I was afraid. I am feeling strong sensations in crotch/ inner ears, the focus is flipping back and forth...I’m remembering that when I smoked my father’s cigarette, he hit me as hard as he could in the ear, and tore my ear drum. That has stayed with me.”
“I’m experiencing a throbbing sensation in my vaginal crotch, and I’m now remembering sitting on the couch at my friend’s house with her sister, and their father. Their father fondled me and went into my vagina as I sat next to his sleeping daughters watching TV. I feel petrified as I was succumbing to a man fondling me, and I was afraid my friend and sister would wake up, so I laid as still as I could.”
“My friend’s father frequently asked me if I came/ orgasmed because I didn’t know how to freely orgasm, and I always contained the sensation in my body. And so, I was pleasing him by allowing him to do that. Part of me felt good to finally be noticed, but another part of me felt violated, polluted and dirty. I always had conflicting feelings.”
“I was seeing my best friend’s father from age 11-18 before I stopped. I attempted suicide when I was 16 from the inner toil and stress of the relationship...I’d like help where to go from here”
This was a crucial point in the session. One of the gems of Life Centered Therapy is that everything is part of the process even those statements or beliefs that the client is sure are simply content level statements about the here and now. What Sarah may believe she means is that she was unable to do this process because she felt she needed guidance on where to go from this point, it was much more likely that her content level reaction was in reality a process level comment, i.e she was in a story where she needed guidance on where to go.
Muscle Testing indicated that this content level statement was a part of the narrative itself. We gained movement by saying, “You’re still in the story. You’d like help where to go from here. What happens next?”
“I have trouble feeling alone, and I never want to leave my acupuncturist. I always feel alone, needing help, I needed a lot of help when younger, I needed to be saved, rescued. The abuse I endured on a regular basis always left me so alone...both my inner ears are killing me.”
“ I have a chronic problem of grinding my teeth when I sleep. It’s from the angst of enduring the hell of my younger victimization. There is this intense tension in my jaw right now.”
MT indicated that an acupressure intervention called Boundary Tapping was necessary. Sarah intuitively felt that the necessary statements were: “I am in full control of my body and who touches me, I am at full choice about taking on other people’s emotions, and I am not truly alone when I am with myself. I have the ability to comfort myself in a way so that I don’t feel alone.”
When she checked in with the “paralyzing anxiety” she reported that it had moved from the worst in her life, a 10, to “total calm, a 0”. The pressure right around her vagina had lessened, as had the mid-upper back heat and tension, nervous inner angst in mid-upper back. The feeling of screaming at the top of lungs and hitting something, spazzing out, had gone completely”.
This session is a powerful example of how efficient and effective the therapeutic process can be when the mind and body are properly utilized together. The wisdom of Sarah’s body held the key to her healing; the powerful sensations that arose for her were a window into a series of traumatic sexual and physical abuses that she had been unable to handle at a younger age. The unexplainable pain in her inner ear was a remembering of her father striking her in the ear and rupturing her eardrum, and the throbbing energy in her crotch may have been a crystallization of the molestation by her best friend’s father, during which she had to contain herself to avoid waking her up.
Due to the fact that the anxiety completely vanished, we can assume it was a direct result of these crystallizing experiences that were unconsciously playing out in her mind-body system. By tapping into the deeper wisdom of the body, Sarah was able to access what she needed to heal and release it so that the worst anxiety she had experienced in her life dissipated from a 10 to a 0.
If we were to employ talk therapy that only utilized the conscious mind, we’d be unlikely to get the same results because of one foundational premise: the body holds a memory of any experience we have had that we couldn’t handle, and we have to tap into our unconscious minds and a deeper level of wisdom in order to heal most efficiently.
Every time we experience some kind of shock, it creates an imprint in our body. Sooner or later, this imprint leads to some kind of difficulties in our life. The difficulties get stored in our body as a discomfort and present themselves in our sessions as body sensations. In this way, the body holds the key to our healing, as it is a direct doorway into where exactly we got stuck and our difficulty crystallized.