Have you ever been in a situation where you are totally unacknowledged, looked over, ignored?
Perhaps you were one of the last to be picked for the kickball team, the eyes of the team captains just passing you over as if you weren’t there. Or, maybe you are constantly passed over for that promotion or perhaps you always feel out of place and ignored at parties.
Whatever the case may be, it hurts, right?
Being sat at a different table
When I was twelve, my parents left the ultra-conservative religious community my family had been a part of for generations. Part of the consequences of that choice involved enduring various methods aimed at shaming my parents back into the loving embrace of ‘the church.’
One of those methods centered around meals. The rule was that those who were in the church couldn’t sit at the same table as those who had left (or been excommunicated).
This meant that when we went to my grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving, for example, there would be 22 plus people sitting at the big table while my parents sat by themselves off to the side at a card table.
Since my parents left the church prior to me being baptized into the church, this rule didn’t physically affect me. But, I recall feeling sad, ashamed and confused. It didn’t make sense to me that the people who loved my parents the most would treat them in such a manner.
While I was happy to have the opportunities that leaving the church offered me, like being able to attend high school and college, I hated seeing my parents shamed and suffering as a result of a difficult, yet ultimately freeing (in my mind), decision.
And, it wasn’t painful for me alone. The greater family wasn’t complete without my parents. My parents were hurting. My grandparents were hurting. My aunts and uncles were hurting. Everyone was experiencing pain of some sort as a result of my parent’s decision and the consequent shunning.
Let’s make this a little more personal, ok?
Take a moment and notice your body. Is there any area where you notice chronic pain or tension? Perhaps you have a ‘bad’ shoulder or an achy hip. Maybe that spot between your shoulder blades flares up from time to time. Or, perhaps your low back is chronically tight or you get headaches more often than you’d like to admit.
I’m curious: how often do you take the time to check in with this area of your body?
I think it is very common to treat the painful parts of our bodies much like my parents were treated once they left the church. These parts aren’t behaving the way we want them to. They aren’t following the rules; they are being difficult.
The rules say everything should feel good and work/do the things they are intended to do. These parts hurt; these aren’t working correctly. So, they are punished. They are shunned.
They are sat at a separate table.
All the rest of your body gets to laugh, play, eat and hang out together. The difficult, misbehaving parts are set off to the side, ignored and isolated.
But, how does this look in the body? It’s rather subtle, actually. It happens in small, seemingly insignificant ways. Here are a few of them:
- The words you use: “that’s my bad shoulder (knee, hip, ear, etc).
- Overriding (or ignoring) the pain and doing whatever you want anyway. This may look like throwing a softball when you know it aggravates your shoulder, running when your knee is sore, pushing yourself at work even though you feel a headache coming on…
- Numbing the pain with pain killers or other drugs or alcohol.
- Pretending it doesn’t hurt. “Oh, you know, it’s not so bad. I’m fine, really.”
And, many more…
The point is, all these actions serve to set the painful part of your body apart from yourself. It is no longer a part of the larger family of your body. Its needs (to be heard, accepted, loved) are not being met. So, it suffers in isolation.
The worst part is, the ‘good’ part of your body suffers as well. It is not complete without all of its parts at the table. There is loss and confusion. There is pain all around.
What a painful situation. But, there is a solution:
Invite the painful parts back to the table.
Here’s a suggestion:
Change the way you talk about that area of your body. I’m not suggesting you say “That’s my good shoulder” especially if it’s not true. But, instead of saying it is ‘bad’, try checking in with your shoulder and then acknowledging what is really going on for you. Perhaps something down the lines of: “My shoulder is feeling tender and achy today.”
And, if your painful area is hurting, rather than downplaying the pain, acknowledging that it is hurting, at least to yourself.
It is through allowing yourself to feel and acknowledge these so-called misbehaving areas that you are able to reconnect with them, to invite them back to the table.
Yes, these areas may still hurt. But, they are now again part of a greater whole. They have support. They can begin to heal.
And, back to the grandparents. :)
Yes, my grandparents did eventually invite my parents back to the big table, despite the rules of the church. It was simply too painful for everyone to have part of the family cut off.
If what I’ve written here speaks to you, pay attention over the next two weeks to how you relate to and talk about the parts of your body that are in pain. And, if you feel inspired, practice a bit with changing your language to more accurately reflect how your body is feeling in the moment.