We are living in times in which the tools of communication have never been as powerful, what with cell phones, laptops, and tablets that allow us to write, text, or speak to anyone in the world at any moment through the all pervasive internet. However, this picture is not quite so rosy as it seems. Our communication is too often empty, vague, or misleading, only pretending to be real communication. All our gadgets are frequently only devices we use to compensate for our inability to have real, meaningful exchanges with others.
The way we conduct our lives, what with the pervasiveness and power of the media, the trap of materialism, and the accelerated pace of daily life, has gradually led us to believe that merely existing is living, that agitation and frenzy is energy. This has happened with our implicit consent. In fact, we even ask for it -- always more, always faster; that's how we feel. But to what end? Is it to wake up one day at whatever age, sick and depressed, only to realize that we have missed out on life?
Looking Outside For Answers?
We have been conditioned by modern society to try to satisfy our desires through external means, so we have learned how to manage, master, control and communicate with what is outside of us. Every day this rat race takes us further from our true, authentic self, eating away at our essence. It is only death or illness that seems to bring us back, forces us back, to face ourself. And when this happens, we feel helpless. Who is this unfamiliar person we sadly discover in the mirror? What does it mean that this body hurts? Who is this almost total stranger languishing in bed? And yet this stranger is our first and only true self, the one we've never really spoken to or taken the time to get to know.
Discovering this unfamiliar self can be so disturbing that we'll ask the doctor to give us whatever it takes to silence the suffering that we reject. And yet, if we only knew! The issues that underlie pain and suffering are nothing more than desperate cries for recognition that our life and our body are sending us. They are warning signs, indications that we are out of balance with our true nature, but all too often we are unable to hear these warnings, much less understand them.
After many years of practicing energy techniques, specifically shiatsu, I have been able to realize to what extent, for each one of us, our body speaks to us (shouting even) about what we are really experiencing in the depths of ourself. Our deepest reality, our nonconscious, our mind, our soul -- whatever your preferred term is -- speaks to us constantly, telling us what isn't working. But we don't listen and we don't understand. Why? The reasons are twofold.
First, we are not able or we don't want to listen to the messages sent to us through our dreams, intuitions, premonitions, physical sensations, and so forth. So these messages become stronger and stronger (in the form of illnesses, accidents, conflicts, etc.) so we can finally pay attention and stop doing what is causing us to be out of balance.
The second reason why we don't pay attention to what our body is really saying is that even though we cannot, most of the time, avoid perceiving pain, we don't know how to decipher it or read it. So the pain may stop the maladjusted process for a while, but we don't radically change what has brought it about. No one has ever taught us how to make sense of pain.
We are like sailors receiving messages in Morse code yet we never learned the language of Morse code, so the incessant beep-beep of pain ends up being unpleasant. It bothers us, upsets us. The thing is, that beep-beep is trying to warn us that there's a crack in the hull of the ship that's in need of caulking.
The Coded Language of the Body
How is the body put together? And what is the role of each of the parts and organs that compose it and support its existence and functioning?
We are now going to take a part of our body and study it in detail. This is how we will find the secret codes that will allow us to decipher its messages.
The Lower Limbs
The lower limbs are composed of two parts, the upper leg (thigh and femur) and the lower leg (calf, tibia, and fibula), and three important axes which are their main joints. They end in a masterful piece -- the foot.
The joints that connect and articulate the foot, the lower leg, the upper leg, and the torso are the hip, the knee, and the ankle. What is the primary physiological role of our legs? They are what allow us to move about, to go forward or back, from one place to another, and, of course, toward others. Therefore, they are our mobility agents that put us into relationship with the world and with other people. The “societal” symbolism of the leg is very strong. It’s the leg that makes possible gatherings, meetings, contacts, and movement forward. Our legs then are our agents of relationship.
Lower Limb Issues
In a very general sense, when we have tension or pain in the legs, it means that we have tension in our relationships with the world or with someone. We are having difficulty moving forward or backward in the relational space of the moment. The more precisely we can pinpoint the location within the leg, the more we will be able to refine the type of tension we are experiencing and the more likely we will understand it.
The hip corresponds to the primary, basic, “mother” joint of the lower limbs. It is from the hip that all potential movement of these limbs begins. It also represents the basic axis of our world of relationships. We term it the “doorway of the relational unconscious”, the point through which the elements of our unconscious emerge toward the conscious.
Our deepest plans, our beliefs about relating to others and to the world, and the way in which we experience our relationships are somatically represented by the hip. Any disturbance -- conscious or not -- in these areas will have repercussions at the site of one of our hips.
Problems with the hip -- pain, tension, blockages, arthroses -- show us that we are moving through a situation where the basis of our deepest beliefs is being brought into question. When the hip lets go it means that our deep inner supports, our most deeply rooted beliefs connecting us to life are letting go as well. Issues of betrayal or abandonment come to the surface, whether our own or someone else’s.
If it’s a matter of the left hip, we have the case of an experience of treason or abandonment with yang (paternal) symbolism. I’m thinking here of a person called Sylvie who had come to see me about a problem of arthrosis in her left hip just before having it operated on. After letting her speak about her physical suffering, I led her to the heart of the problem. Having her talk a little more about her life I asked, “What man betrayed you or let you down in the last few months?”
In spite of her surprise, she confided in me that she had lost her husband three years before, but she didn’t see any connection between these two things. I gradually explained to her the unconscious process that had taken all that time to be released in this way. She then recognized that indeed she had experienced the disappearance of her husband as an abandonment and as something that was unfair.
After two sessions of harmonization massage and work on this memory, her hip was released to the point that during the second week she was able to go two complete days without feeling the slightest pain. Her fears and her professional obligations impelled her, nevertheless, to make the decision to undergo the operation, which was a “complete success” and silenced the pain.
But a year and a half later she came back to see me for the same problem, this time in the right hip. It was clear that she had released none of the previous internal tension. The wound in the soul had not healed and it sought another point in the body where it could express itself.
I pushed her further then to speak about her experience and finally she confessed that after the disappearance of her husband she had had serious doubts about his fidelity and thought that he had cheated on her. She felt betrayed in her position as his wife.
It was not surprising then that the unconscious needed to send this unresolved wound, which was kept open by doubt, into a hip. If it’s the right hip that’s involved, we have the case of an experience of betrayal or abandonment of yin (maternal) symbolism. This time her pain went to the right hip because her femininity was at stake, but it also went there because the left hip could no longer “speak.”
©2018 by Michel Odoul & Inner Traditions Intl.
Translated from: Dis-moi où tu as mal, je te dirai pourquoi.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Healing Arts Press. www.InnerTraditions.com
What Your Aches and Pains Are Telling You: Cries of the Body, Messages from the Soul
by Michel Odoul
Offering keys to decipher what the body is trying to tell us, the author shows that we can learn to see physical ailments not as something caused by chance or fate but as a message from our heart and soul. By releasing the energies and patterns they point to, we can return to a state of health and forward movement on our path through life.
About the Author
Michel Odoul is a shiatsu and psychoenergetic medicine practitioner as well as the founder of the French Institute of Shiatsu and Applied Physical Psychology. He has appeared at numerous health conferences through the world, including the 2013 international meeting of Acupuncturists without Borders. He lives in Paris.