From Pain to Possibility
Episode 5: Obstacles to Progress
Intro: You're listening to From Pain to Possibility, with Susi Hately. You’ll hear Susi’s best ideas on how to reduce or even eradicate your pain and learn how to listen to your body when it whispers so you don't have to hear it scream. And now here's your host, Susi Hately.
Susi: With this episode, I want to dig into obstacles, particularly obstacles to smooth progress. Going to dig into four of them, and I hope by the end of the episode, you'll see that the obstacles aren't actually a bad thing, that they're a part of the learning process and the recovery process. And once you see them for what they are, you can begin to see them as opportunities for growth and development, and they'll actually take you to the next level of recovery and healing.
So let's get into the four them by starting with the one I call line in the sand. Lots of times when I'm working with a client, they will gain a really good understanding of how to find symptom relief. In fact, many of my clients who become clients have had a lot of different experiences of short-term relief, so they know how to get it. And then, they learn a few more techniques from me, where they can get some more confidence about bringing their symptoms under control. Then, they begin to retrain their movement patterns and their breathing patterns, and they get a bit better mind-body connection, and they grow better neuromuscular feedback. Then, their symptoms stay gone for longer.
Now, there is a point at which a lot of people then say, “Ooh, I'm done. I've had a long period of time without my pain going up, without my symptoms going up. Maybe I'm done. Maybe I'm through the line, the line in the sand where I used to be. And now here I am.” And then they stop doing the movements or the exercises. They stop paying attention because they think they are through the line.
Now, the thing to keep in mind with this is that there really isn't a line. There is a gradation, I think, but there isn't really a line. And here's why. Whatever it was that helped contribute to the symptoms that are being experienced, whether it was an injury or an illness or an overuse situation, whatever contributed to it, that is imprinted into our neuromuscular, psychoneuromuscular system. Said another way, if I ask you to remember something from when you were four, you can probably bring up a memory that has some visceral remembering to it. You may even notice smells or sounds. The image or the memory might be positive, it might be negative, but whatever it is, you can remember it. There's an imprint of that memory.
So it's much like symptoms and pain and strain is there is an imprint of that neuromuscular patterning that is in us. When someone has gained some success around symptom relief and gained some success about movement retraining, they haven't unlearned the other patterns that were correlated to the symptoms being there. They've trained new patterns. So it's similar to weight reduction. Someone can go through a program, and they lose some weight, and they make their magical way, and they're like, “Woohoo, I'm there.” And they don't maintain the attention on the patterns that contributed to them getting to their goal weight.
The same can happen with symptom reduction is that they get to a place where they feel really comfortable, and then they stop paying attention to the movement patterns or the breathing patterns that contributed to the retraining of those new patterns. So, then, it doesn’t actually stick, because there's almost a reverting back to what was, and by reverting back to what was, those old patterns start to gain some prominence again, and then it's not surprising when those symptoms come back, to the point that I have had clients who will only do their program when they feel bad. So when they feel good, they don't feel as motivated to do their program, and so they don't. But when they feel bad or when their symptoms arrive, then they're like, “Oops, look, I better do something, and I better get this done.” Yeah? So sometimes that's how people begin to work with it.
When I'm working with someone who wants to do more than just that, do more than just, “Oh, I feel bad, so I'm going to do my movement patterns or the exercises,” or whichever the program is, for people who want to up level from that, what I share with them is this: that it's much like the weight conversation that I just mentioned and that you need to continue to maintain the movement patterns and the breathing patterns that contributed to the scenario that you have.
But also what might be going on is a little bit of boredom. So I'll ask them, “Now that you've had the experience of a lot less pain or a lot less symptoms for a longer period of time, now what do you want? What now is possible for you? Is there anything niggling at you in terms of what more you would like to do?” And sometimes people will say, particularly if they've had the symptoms for a long period of time, they'll say to me, “You know what. I've never even considered it.” So I'll say, “All right, well, now's the time.” And so oftentimes just starting to have the conversation around, okay, so there's new patterns that you were starting to develop some stamina around. You still have the old patterns. Those old patterns aren't going to go away. So now that we have these new patterns, what now can be a compelling reason so you can continue on the path and up level your abilities and maybe do something more?”
So once we get that, then we can start to program. Once we've got that, we can say, okay, you now want to ride your bike for x number of kilometres or miles. Or you now want to run 10K, or you now want to quilt, or you now want to fill in the blank. Then, at that point, I get to look at how they are moving and do they actually have the capability to do the movement now or the activity now at the endurance level that they need to do it? So now we've got a new problem to solve, a problem that we can build from this new foundation of new movement pattern.
Now, that leaves, perhaps, a lingering question of, okay, so the person's symptoms have come back. Now what do you do? And all I do is I remind them that there were old movement patterns and old breathing patterns and other patterns related to those factors that contributed to their symptoms. And so now we just have to refresh the patterns that were working. And so then they build that, and it doesn't take long to get back to what they were. And then we get to build to that next level.
So what becomes really interesting is it's more of a sign that maybe it's time to up level, or maybe it's just time to get better at their movement, or maybe they need a challenge. It's a way of seeing that they've come as far as they can come, and now it's time for growth. So the next time that this comes around, it won't necessarily be surprising. It's more just a little knock on the door saying, “Hey, you've made some gains. Now it's time to take it up a notch.”
The second obstacle is very related to the first, and this one is there is a line in the sand, but what often can happen is the person then becomes afraid of doing any more movement because they don't want to wreck the gains that they've made. So it's almost as if they have this static understanding that, “Okay, I’m through the line. I've got what I've got. I don't want to wreck anything. Because, I don't know, maybe I don't know how to actually resolve something if it were to break.” So a lot of times there is this idea that we're not a dynamic being and that it's static, and I don't want to change what I've now gained. So when I'm working with a person like that, what’s predominant in the space is the emotion of fear. What's also predominant is a lack of confidence and maybe even some self-esteem. So then my job as the teacher is not to be a cheerleader, not to be a motivator, not to kind of kick them in the pants, but rather, to provide movements or breathing or exercises or technique that has them see what they're truly capable of. And I do it slowly, and I do it methodically, and I do it within the available range that they have and the available bandwidth that they have.
Now, the reason why this is important is that what I see with people who are afraid is that there is a degree of safety, or perceived safety, that is lacking. So I don't want to push someone into doing something when they don't feel an inherent safety and support. Part of my job as a teacher is to help that student grow that inherent safety and support, because if someone has an internal sense of support, they've got an internal locus of control, they know that if symptoms start to come back, they know they can do something, and they can make those symptoms go away again. But if someone has a fear that now they've got all this—the pain reduction is gone, but they’ve got all this fear that maybe they don’t know what to do, then I have to help them recognize that they do. So through a variety of different movements and exercises, then I can support them to come back to that understanding.
The other thing I'll do, which is not dissimilar, as in the first situation, is I'll say to them, “If you weren't afraid, then what might you do?” And what's interesting that comes out of that, and it becomes very curious what arises out of that question. And so then from there, I can break down whatever that activity is into smaller bits and say, “You know what. If you feel up to it, why don’t you try the smaller bit of that bigger activity you really want to do?” And I just kind of lay it down just as an offering. I don't suggest that they do it. I just lay it down as an offering. And invariably, the person will move forward with it and come back and say, “You know what. I did it. I had a little bit of symptom increase, but you know what, I actually knew what to do to be able to support myself.” Or they'll come back and say, “That wasn't so bad. I was afraid, but it wasn't so bad. I think I can do this. Now I want the next step.” So it's very interesting to be able to see how someone responds, but the really key part of that is that I don't push them. I simply offer what could be possible.
A third obstacle is what I call B as the new A. And I initially learned the concept from a business-executive coach by the name of Dan Sullivan, out of Toronto. And what he was sharing is a lot of entrepreneurs, they will start at A and have their outcome desire at B. And then, they'll get there, but once they're at B, that B becomes the new A, and they have another new B, which is actually C. And oftentimes they'll be frustrated at their new A because they forget from where we've come.
And he further described this to really drive the point home of if you drive your car and you're going somewhere, you're driving into the horizon. We're always looking toward the horizon. So let's say you're driving from your hometown to three hours away from where you live, and you get to a point about two hours in. You're now forgetting from where you've come. Your focus is totally on the next hour and where you're getting to. And this is really common with people who are determined and ambitious that they're just keeping moving forward.
When I learned that concept, at the time I had a number of clients who were saying to me, “Yeah, it's really great I'm at point B. Yes, it's really great that my back pain’s going away. But there's this shoulder thing,” or “I really want to run,” or “I really want to…” blah, blah, blah, blah. And it’s like, but hold on a second. There was all this great gain that came to this point. And I found myself a bit flummoxed on how to describe it. And so then I started to work in some techniques so that when people actually got to point B, they had a really strong foundation on recognizing what got them to point B, they could acknowledge point B, and then build upon what happened between point A to point B to then go to the next goal.
So let me explain how I did that. So each time I see a client privately, I either go through their body diagram that they drew up for me at the beginning of their session, or I'll simply ask them, “What new insights have you had this week? What new insights have you noticed since the last time that we spoke, or the last time that we worked together?” And then what they'll say to me is this: they’ll explain the things that were positive, and they'll explain the things that were negative, and then they'll share insights from both of those.
What I'll also ask them is “Tell me how your program went. How did the series of movements and breathing techniques and stillness, how did all of that work for you? Let's go through it and see where your movement is at now compared to what it was before.” In both of those situations, what I'm doing is I'm having people tell me their results, what they have done for themselves. What they have as insight. And then when we're looking at how they're doing their movement and how they did their program, I'm looking at my notes and I'm able to say, “Wow, look. Your leg bone’s moving a lot differently than what it was in the last session.” Or “Do you notice how your pelvis is now this way?” Or “Did you notice this?” And then as I say this—so I’m just kind of planting those seeds—they'll often come back and say, “Oh, yeah, you know what. And I also noticed that I'm not doing this with my jaw, and that my breath is generally easier, and you know what, my leg bone moves way better.” So then what I'm doing at each session is it's like a little mini evaluation, and they can then see their progress as they go, so that when they get to that place where they're happy with the gains they've made, they're not unhappy with what they don't have. They can see it's like, ooh, you know what. I've made all this progress. Now I want this other thing, but it's more from a positive, inspired standpoint because they see the foundation and the gains that they've made, and they've got a lot of confidence and capability for where they know they can go next. And that’s a really important distinction for people. It helps reduce the impact of the line in the sand on both scenarios of being fearful or just kind of blowing by and thinking that they are through and they can just keep pushing forward. So the way that I work, that third obstacle can benefit the first two.
The fourth obstacle is what I call blowing by the yellow lights, ignoring and pushing through. This is when somebody is well aware of what the contributing factors are that are correlated to an increase of symptoms, and then they just say, “Screw it. I'm just going to do it anyway because I want to do it.” When someone comes in and says to me that this is what happened, then what I'll say to them or what I'll ask them is this: was it worth it? Oftentimes they'll look at me and sort of cock their head kind of like a dog cocks his head at you when the dog thinks you're crazy. And I'll say, “That's okay.” A big part of the process of recovery and of healing is the conscious choices that you're making. So if you knew that those yellow lights and those whispers were in existence and that they were there and they were letting you know that maybe your bandwidth was a little bit small and that the choice to do the activity that you did was probably going to lead to an increase of symptoms, but you did it anyway, you're making a conscious choice to do that. It doesn't make it wrong. It doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make it bad. Doesn’t make it good. It just is what it is. You recognize the result. You recognize your bandwidth. You recognize the scenario that played out. And that gives you power. That gives you the opportunity to make choice.
The question becomes, do you beat yourself up about it, or do you now say that, well, this process doesn't work? And if one of those two things are happening, well, that becomes really curious. Where this often evolves to for my clients is because many of them are quite active, is they will tell me scenarios of, “I really wanted to finish that 10K race,” or “I really wanted to summit that mountain,” or “There was 30 minutes left to play in this game, and I really wanted to…” Right? There's a lot of, like, “really wanted to.” And what I will say to them is, you have to understand that we are all really well compensated. All of us have the bandwidth that we have. And then depending on how tired or how fueled or where our general state of being is, our bandwidth will be what it is. And so if there is a really strong desire to go and do something, go for it. Just know, by checking in with your body, if you've actually got the bandwidth to do it or not. And then if you choose to do it or choose not to do it, there's nothing wrong with it. It's just you've made that choice.
Sometimes what I will do for my own self, if I know that I don't have the bandwidth to do something, but either I want to or I have to do it, what I'll say to myself—it's like offering a little prayer—is I'll say, “You know what, body. I know that I probably shouldn't be putting you through this. And I promise you that I'm going to take care of you later.” And somehow, on some really weird, esoteric level, it works. And it's like my body and my mind and my spirit all kind of come together, and it all works out.
Now, I've been through this process enough where I know that I can't just keep doing it and doing that and doing that and doing that, and so I generally work within my bandwidth, and I generally recover really well from the activities that I do, and I’m able to do more and more and more and more because I've got such a large bandwidth for a variety of different activities. So when I share that with my clients, what I say as an addendum is, “Yes, make the choices for the life that you want to live and understand, too, that there is an opportunity that if you do work within the bandwidth that you actually truly have, that if you are able to listen to those whispers, you won't have to hear the body scream if you work within those whispers.” And at times it might feel frustrating to make the choice to listen to the whispers when you really want to go and do something. But then what happens is you up level to this whole new place of body, mind, connection, and bandwidth for activity, and you keep being able to grow so your ability to do something, your ability to do lots of things, grows as well. And your ability to recover becomes a lot better and a lot more efficient. But along the way, if you really want to go and do something, go and do it. Just say to your body, “Hey, body. I know I shouldn't be doing this, and I'll take care of you later.”
So those are four obstacles that can get in the way of progress. But as you see, whether it's going through the line or perceiving that you're through a line; or if you are through the line, but there's fear of growing, whether it is A to B and then B becomes the new A; or whether it is just blowing by the lights and shoving aside symptoms and doing it anyway; in each of those, there's actually an opportunity for growth. It's being able to see us for who we are and recognizing what inside of us is driving our action or our inaction, and then how can we utilize that part of ourselves to really move ourselves forward and make the next leap, the next step in recovery, and then, ultimately, into healing?
If this episode resonated with you, I would love to work with you to help you improve your movement, to improve your overall capacity and bandwidth, to help you recover and to help you heal, to help you do the activities that you want to do. We have four open spots this month for a private series with me. These are three-month private series, and we are happy to give you information on how those series work. Just scoot over to functionalsynergy.com and click on the Contact Us, and Kiya will be able to help you out.
All right. Thanks so much. You have a great day. Happy exploring.