Respected reflexologist and teacher, Lee Anthony Taylor, gives an insight into why pain is integral to our current way of life and how we can better understand its powerful message regarding our spiritual wellbeing.
In order to gain a greater understanding of the purpose of pain, we need to let go of and re-evaluate our current models of thinking on the subject. We have tended to see pain as the cause of our suffering rather than the expression of it. If we look deeper into the meaning of our pain, we can see how much there is to be gained by listening to the potent message that comes with it.
To ignore it, or suppress it, is to merely provoke the body into finding another way to tell you there is a problem. No-one likes the idea of being in pain or having to cope with constant suffering; and our natural instinct is to find ways to make it disappear. So why is it so necessary in our lives?
The Physiological Response
There are mechanisms in place within the physical body to detect and to diffuse pain when it is felt at a conscious level. Some are explained in terms of a physiological response to the stimulus of pain.
How The Brain Recognises Pain
Pain is described in the dictionary as an emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. It motivates us to avoid potentially damaging situations, protect a damaged body part while it heals, and steer clear of those situations in the future.
There is an International Association for the Study of Pain that categorises pain in five ways according to: –
- its duration and severity in chronic and acute cases
- its anatomical position such as a headache or lower back pain
- the body system involved, e.g. rheumatic pain
- the cause- this can be very difficult to locate and is the source of much criticism for the classification system
- whether it is intermittent or constant pain
The brain has key centres that acknowledge pain in its different forms and stimulate the body to take appropriate action. Most of the transmission of the pain occurs in the dorsal horn of the spinal column. There is also currently an understanding that the thalamus, found in the midbrain, is responsible for regulating and inhibiting strong pain impulses.
Scientists have various classifications for the expression of pain. They include: –
- Nociceptive pain is caused by stimulation of the peripheral nerve fibres that respond to either thermal (heat or cold), mechanical (crushing of the tissue) or chemical events (external substances reacting with the body).
- Neuropathic pain affects much more of the central nervous system involved in bodily feelings and can best be described in terms of strong emotional response like burning, tingling, stinging or stabbing. An example of neuropathic pain would be to bang your funny bone. Phantom limb pain is a type of neuropathic pain where the brain no longer receives signals from the amputated body part.
- Psychogenic pain is much more related to mental and emotional anguish caused by a possible underlying physical condition. It has a psychological basis but is no less real than physical pain, for example, chronic tension headaches.
The Pain Gate Theory
In 1965, Melzack and Wall introduced their ‘gate control’ theory of pain and explained it in terms of the size of the nerve fibres that transmitted the pain. They said that thin diameter nerves fibres carried pain while thicker diameter fibres gave details about touch, pressure and vibration.
The information was taken to two separate parts of the dorsal horn of the spinal cord known as the inhibitory cells and the transmission cells.
When signals from both thin and thicker fibres stimulated the transmission cells to a certain point, then pain would be acknowledged. The role of the inhibitory cells was to provide a buffer against too much pain. The transmission cells would open the gate to the pain, but the inhibitory cells would close the gate.
The Religious Connotation
It is worthwhile mentioning at this point the significance of the historical religious connotation placed on pain. We mere mortals traditionally placed our trust in a God who, according to Old Testament scripture, both loved us unconditionally and would punish us resolutely for our weak will and for our indiscretions. He sent us pain to remind us of that mortality and of his power and, in Christian terms, even sent Jesus to die for us and take away our pain and suffering.
This will have had an ingraining effect in Western culture to make us believe that pain equates with some form of punishment; that somehow we have strayed from the path that God has set out for us and that there are consequences for this. Even today, it keeps us in a role of subjugation and unworthiness, where we have to constantly cleanse and sacrifice in order to avoid the hurt. However, it is just a state of mind.
My personal belief is, just like the philosophy of the holistic principle, that God is all about unconditional love – there can be no exclusions to this concept. Traditional interpretations of God drove a wedge between us and our creator. However, the new model can present a different explanation.
Regardless of your viewpoint on God, and your religious beliefs, as a complementary therapist, there has to be a consensus that the universal energy that created us has only done so for the good of the cosmos. The idea of universal suffering is a man-made construct based on the teachings of a few holding the power, namely the Church, both historically and perhaps even today; and the rest of us living in fear that we will be damned for being of mortal flesh.
The Spiritual Significance of Pain
This new model that I have alluded to is formulated by our emergent spiritual unfolding. Even if we take God out of the equation, we can see pain in a different light. What I find especially exciting about the latest paradigm is that we have the opportunity to see, possibly for the first time in many thousands of years, how useful pain
can be in helping us to get back on track with our lives.
We have a purpose here on this planet, at this time. Every single one of us can contribute to the evolution of both the human race and the better application of universal energy. But, in order to do this, we have to do some major soul-searching about what has real meaning and value in our lives.
Pain, and its associated illness, is a key indicator to the degree of separation between us and our spiritual truth. It highlights very clearly how far off our ‘track’ we are with our purpose and, at a spiritual level, starts to provide solutions as to how we can get back on course.
As therapists we can use correspondences* to translate the information that comes from the pain and suffering and build up a vocabulary of terms about why illnesses affect specific parts of the body in specific ways.
Acknowledgement of a problem provides a significant part of the solution, in my opinion. At this time, we are trapped by fear when it comes to confronting our demons. When we can face up to our illnesses and view them honestly, rather than denying their existence or suppressing the message contained within, then we will have a new relationship with pain that is both intuitive and truthful. This is not something that will happen overnight but we have to start with small painful steps
Copyright © Lee Anthony Taylor 2018
email: [email protected]
International Association for the Study of Pain, https://www.iasp-pain.org
The Gate Theory of Pain, Melzack and Wall, Science 1965
*Effective Reflexology – A Practitioner’s Guide, Lee Anthony Taylor, Effrex Publications 2004
*Effective Reflexology – The Way Forward, Lee Anthony Taylor, Effrex Publications 2010
*Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Lee Anthony Taylor, Effrex Publications 2018
Born in England, Lee Anthony Taylor was press-ganged into trying reflexology while meditating on the banks of the river Ganges in India many years ago. What started off as a simple head massage turned into a foot treatment with the most amazing results and benefits. He immediately left a high-flying job in London and began to train as a reflexologist within weeks of his return. He’s never looked back.
Since then, he has become an internationally-renowned speaker, presenter, author and teacher within the reflexology world but still retains his roots as a practitioner. His work takes him all over the world where his unique teaching style has been universally acclaimed for its simplicity and its highly effective delivery.
His fresh approach on challenging subjects such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, pregnancy, diabetes and allergies has been welcomed by students who have been given guidance on how to apply their skills and knowledge.
His first book ‘Effective Reflexology™’ has been essential reading for all therapists interested in the feet. He has pioneered Coronal Zone Reflex Therapy™ – a powerful but subtle form of reflexology which has been praised by both practitioners and patients for its immediate health benefits.
He has also published two more books to add to his growing list of publications – Effective Reflexology- the Way Forward and Don’t Shoot the Messenger as well as a practitioner’s manual on ‘How the Planets Shape our Health’.