What Causes Attachment Traumas And The Surprising Ways They Lead To Chronic Pain
Have you ever felt like, "There's a part of me that wants to get better, but there's also a part of me that identifies with the symptoms"?
When we have these conflicting parts, we need to give the one identifying with the symptoms our love and attention.
These parts of us were created through our experiences with caregivers when we were children, and these experiences are what causes attachment trauma.
This is the part of us that engages in coping mechanisms, like perfectionism, anxiety, people-pleasing, and self-sabotage, because at some point your survival brain learned that this was an effective way to keep you safe. At some point there was a learned behaviour that helped you maintain an attachment to a caregiver, social peer, or someone you looked up to. Because to the survival brain your social attachments are part of your survival.
Maybe your attachment to your caregiver was conditional on good grades, or your achievements... Maybe your attachment to your peers was conditional on pleasing those you in your circle... Maybe your attachment to someone you looked up to was conditional on you remaining just a peg below them, and so self-sabotage was actually helpful in that relationship.
We need to fit in to survive, just like any other animal that relies on a herd or a pack for their safety and survival.
It's this need for survival that causes attachment traumas, and can lead to chronic pain.
You and your survival brain learned that to be loved is conditional. This created a part of you that now needs love from the part of you that wants to get better.... from that part of you who knows there's more for you in this life.... from that part of you who loves yourself unconditionally.
You've adopted some ways of moving through life that served you well at some point... and now these patterns no longer serve you.
But.... it's tough, because there's a part of you who has been achieving to maintain connections that every human needs, and now when you're not achieving your body feels unsafe and your nervous system becomes dysregulated.
Placing this pressure on yourself has unknowingly created chronic physiological stress, but because it's your familiar way of receiving love and support, it's scary to change... and now your survival brain has a reason to believe you're in danger when you're following old achieving patterns, AND when you try to change those patterns.
Enter the extinction burst. Your brain's way of getting your attention when you're going against the grain of familiarity - when it really wants you to be very sure you're doing the right thing and you are safe.
Preoccupation is your brain's way of keeping you in a familiar pattern, one that it learned keeps you connected to those who keep you safe... but when you decide to step away from that, what's a brain to do but throw a bigger attention grabbing sensation at you?
The key here is we need to break the familiar pattern in order to break free of the pain-fear, avoidance cycle... and finding safety, regardless of the symptoms we feel, is how we do it.
For some help with this, follow my guided meditation to find safety in pain.
Neuroplastic conditions, including chronic pain, occurs when the stresses of life trigger emotions that cause our bodies to react by producing physical symptoms.
The autonomic system is what gets activated during times of stress and produces the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which turn on the fight or flight reaction.
Because our emotional memories are stored in our amygdala, which is linked to the function of our autonomic nervous system, we can have physical sensations as a reaction to old stress and emotions, not only to real present moment situations.
All those old attachment traumas are stored in there as memories, but you can create new memories and new attachment styles... starting with your relationship to yourself!
It is so important as you do this work that you trust in the safety of your body, even though you feel pain.
Remember the idea is to find a place inside of yourself that you feel unconditionally safe.
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