Marcie said, “I didn’t listen to my body. My body knew I should get married to Ron, but my head was screaming at me to get married. I thought I had to get married. It wasn’t until I started having panic attacks that I felt I couldn’t ignore my truth any longer.”
These words were spoken this week in one of my groups. But I hear similar stories all the time. Women tell tales about how their body literally started acting out, or shutting down, when their relationship became abusive or when they were at the altar and knew they shouldn’t be saying, “I do.”
Often, it is the physical ailment that gets the person’s attention to even get them to come in for therapy but I’m often amazed by how much people can ignore the wisdom of their bodies in favor of a brain that has a very skewed perspective, or one that lies and sugarcoats the truth, for example.
It’s also not uncommon for the physical ailment to serve as a symbol for what the person needs to do. Case in point, the woman with the panic attacks (and there’ve been many others besides her—this is perhaps the most common way the body tried to get your attention) has a sensation of “get me the *bleep* out of here!” and she has to run to the door to take a breath.
Another common problem occurs in the throat. One woman had a salivary gland that kept swelling up and another had her throat close up for no (apparent) reason. Literally the life force was getting choked out of these ladies. Their bodies wanted to talk but their minds wanted them to be silenced.
Nancy experienced back pains and herniated discs and wondered if part of what was happening to her was that she was literally folding under the pressure of being the sole provider for her family while her husband tried to launch a new business. She felt angry at him for putting the burden on her and she felt like it was all too heavy for her to manage.
Finally, I had a woman who told me that she quite suddenly lost her ability to walk. She went to numerous doctors and none could find the cause of her ailment. As quickly as it came, the problem went away and she continued to live like this for some months. She never thought to connect the unhappiness she was experiencing in her marriage to her physical problems but literally, the minute she filed for divorce from her abusive husband, she never had another recurrence of losing the use of her legs.
Perhaps the most striking instance of seeing the physical ailments show up was when two women who had never met, were in their first group together comparing notes about their asthma and acid reflux. Both of these women had oppressive, controlling and addictive husbands. Coincidence? Maybe. But I actually don’t think so.
I’m not a doctor or a scientist so I don’t know whether there’s a literal connection to behaviors and diseases of the body, but the irony of where these troubles show up is not lost on me.
The late Louise Hay, author of, You Can Heal Your Life, has the following chart that may help explain why certain places in the body are targeted. See if you can relate.
If you are experiencing physical ailments and you suspect it may have something to do with the stress you’re feeling from your relationship, I recommend you seek out two professionals: A medical doctor and a therapist.
You’ll want to consult with a physician to find out exactly what is going on and to diagnose conditions that need to be treated (and to treat them if you so choose).
Talking to a therapist about your relationship strife will not only help alleviate some of the burden but it would ideally help you get to the bottom of whether the physical issue has an emotional root cause.
You can also take a temporary break from your mate, as JoanAnderson did, and see if that takes care of the aches, pains or ways your body is malfunctioning. Or, if you can’t afford to leave physically, an in-home time out.
Our bodies hold so much wisdom. We just can’t always hear what it is trying to tell us. Illnesses and injuries are nature‘s way of turning up the volume so you can’t ignore the message any longer. So, do yourself a favor and tune out your head and tune in to your body. Ask your body what it wants you to know.
Note: This article primarily examines this phenomenon as it happens to women, since that’s the majority of clients I work with. I know this can happen to men as well but, generally speaking, men externalize their pain so it may show up as an anger issue, over-indulging in alcohol/drugs or in buying lots of “toys” as a distraction technique. Also, keep in mind that this is anecdotal based on 18 years of work with divorcing people, and not empirical information.