It is clear that we all need gestures, words, or images to be able to express our ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It’s much like the most advanced computer in the world, which would be useless without its peripheral components (monitor, keyboard, printer, scanner, and so forth). It seems then that the human mind would have little reason to exist without its materialized projection: the physical body.
Continuing with the example of the computer, there would be no point in it being powerful if its peripheral components couldn’t express its power. It would not be useful either to have extraordinary peripherals if the memory and processing capacity were not up to speed, such as, for example, having a color printer if the display is only black and white. It is the same for the person who has to seek balance between body and mind.
By looking at what the body expresses it is possible to decipher what is going on in the mind and spirit of the person. When the whole body-mind-spirit functions in a coherent way, physical reality is in harmony with the spiritual reality of the person, and there is health as a result. When there is an imbalance between these aspects, between the conscious and the nonconscious, between the actor and the script, danger signals are going to appear.
The Body's Three Danger Signals
There are three main types of signals, three ways of experiencing these inner messages of distortion in the body: as nervous tension; as physical or psychological trauma; and as physical or psychological illness.
The first type of signal comes in the form of tension and discomfort, for example, tension in the back, digestive problems, nightmares, and psychological malaise or depression. This is a fairly common way inner tension expresses itself. Here the nonconscious expresses imbalance or inner conflict in physiological or psychological terms, producing a feeling to express what is happening. This is the inner master who is knocking on the window of the carriage to alert the coachman and let him know something isn’t right (wrong direction, uncomfortable or dangerous driving, fatigue, need to take stock).
If the person is open and ready to hear and accept the message at the conscious level, she will make the necessary behavioral changes and the tension will disappear. The more she has worked on herself and is in harmony with herself and with the finer and more powerful aspects of herself (the nonconscious), the more sensitive and capable she will be in perceiving and receiving this first type of message and the more capable of understanding it.
If she has arrived at a certain level of self-awareness she will even be able to anticipate these messages and avoid the possibility of tension even arising.
Unfortunately, most of us have a hard time being receptive to even this early stage of messages.
There are numerous reasons for this, in particular our natural tendency to want to take the easy way out and our culture’s dualistic approach that says that things just happen to us as a result of some external agent. This is how we develop deafness to what the nonconscious is trying to tell us.
This first level of messages is nevertheless extraordinarily rich. Numerous signs come to us from our environment, notably from what we might call the “mirror effect,” a subject I will come back to later.
To make itself heard the nonconscious must sometimes resort to stronger signals, including trauma and illness. In terms of effectiveness, these are clearly more hard-hitting messages than mere tension and discomfort.
Trauma and illness are always offset in time in relation to their source. The gap is proportional to the person’s deafness, to his or her inability to hear the underlying message. This offset is greater for illness than it is for trauma and both are proportionately greater than mental and psychological tension. That is, the offset in time is greater in relation to the meaning being “refused,” notably because it touches areas of strong sensitivity in the individual.
When the difficult information touches on key, fundamental aspects of the person, its effects can even take place on different planes of consciousness and in different incarnations on Earth. That is, an unresolved situation from a past life can generate physical symptoms in a person’s current life.
Trauma in the body and limbs, usually in the form of some sort of accident, is a second stage in the gradation of messages. Here the person, through her nonconscious, seeks a solution. The accident is therefore an active expression in the sense that it represents a double initiative on the part of the person experiencing it.
First, it is a new message, more blatant than the previous type, but despite everything is still a mode of open communication. The inner master is knocking much harder on the carriage window and might even break it to make enough noise to force the coachman to listen.
This stage can still allow for a change in the situation concerned because it appears during a process of densification or freeing up of energies. It indicates that the person must stop and obliges her to take stock and halt the dysfunctional dynamic in order to understand what’s really going on, and then make changes.
However, trauma can also be an active attempt to stimulate and free up tension that has accumulated due to some inner distortion or imbalance in the person. This is why it never appears randomly. The shock, break, sprain, fracture, etc., is going to happen at a very precise place in the body in order to stimulate the energies that circulate at that point or to release energy blockages at that point, sometimes both at the same time.
Trauma can provide us with information of great precision as to what is really happening. Spraining the right ankle, cutting the left thumb, displacing the third cervical vertebra, bumping the head—in each case there is a specific message as to what is wrong.
For example, in one of my seminars I was outlining this very idea and providing examples. I was talking about knee problems and explained that these problems indicate tension in relationship with others, and in particular difficulties in letting go of, bending to, or accepting something connected to a relationship with another person. I received a gigantic burst of laughter from someone in response.
I addressed the person who had just expressed his disagreement to me in this way and asked him what was so funny in what I had just said. The man replied that he had sprained his knee two years earlier simply because he was competing in an intense soccer match and had kicked the ball while turning around. He asserted that there was nothing in that to understand except that in team sports you can get hurt.
I asked him which knee he had injured. The right, he replied. I then suggested that he consider if at that point in time he was experiencing any tension in a relationship with a woman where he was refusing to let go of something. Not wanting to get sidetracked into a discussion at this point I went on to something else without asking him to reply.
During the next half hour I observed him thoughtfully pondering my question. Suddenly his face began to turn shockingly white. I stopped to ask him what was going on. He then shared with the group what he had just remembered: The day before the match his wife had served him with a divorce proceeding. He had been in conflict with her for several months because he had refused to give her the divorce.
Trauma is active because it manifests in the yang element. It generally involves external parts of the body such as the limbs, the head, or the upper body. It acts at the level of defensive energies that circulate mainly on the surface of the body. The wounded part becomes an essential piece of information for understanding, but laterality provides even more precision as to the deeper meaning.
A sprain of the wrist means something in general, but whether it’s the right or the left will pinpoint the meaning even more accurately. You need to know that the stronger the tension is or the longer it lasts without being perceived, the more likely it is that the resulting trauma is great or even violent.
Trauma is a positive signal in the sense that it represents an unconscious attempt, albeit extreme, to release, to change things. It is clear that the deeper message of trauma must be acknowledged and understood, otherwise we will fail to gain any insight.
The third type of message comes from illness, either physical or psychological. This involves the yin element in the sense of representing what is occurring in the depths of the body or the mind. The person is eliminating tension, but in this case in a “closed” way. The inner master has caused the carriage to break down to force the coachman to stop.
Illness comes at the end of a cycle of densification, when our resistance to change has crystalized and hardened. It is then necessary to repeat old patterns and experiences, reliving them in order to integrate them and change, if possible, the memories of one’s holographic consciousness. This repetition can be done with a heightened awareness, and its success depends on the understanding we have of the origin of the illness and on our ability to decipher and accept the illness’s message.
Illness facilitates two things. First, it frees up tension that has been stored in us, and in this sense it plays an important role as a regulator. Illness also serves as a warning signal that is every bit as precise as trauma. It speaks to us very clearly about what is happening inside us and gives us revealing information for the future.
Inasmuch as it’s a passive, yin message, illness is ultimately a flight, a weakening of the person experiencing it, and it is sometimes experienced unconsciously as a defeat of some sort. The carriage has broken down, and even if it has been repaired it is not as solid as a new carriage or at least doesn’t inspire as much confidence in its owner.
Consciously or not, illness represents an inability to understand, admit, or even simply feel the inner distortion that is the underlying cause of the illness. We don’t know how to do things differently or, worse still, we think we haven’t been strong enough to resist the illness. If we are able to draw a deeper lesson from the illness, after recovering we will develop inner immunity; otherwise we will weaken further and will tend to get sick more easily. The more long-lived the tension that needs to be cleared, the more serious the illness.
The Difference Between Illness and Trauma
The difference between the passive/yin character of illness and the active/yang character of trauma is fundamental and is observable in the way in which the physical body resolves these two.
In the case of trauma, the body repairs the damage through the miraculous phenomenon of healing. The healing is active because it is the traumatized cells or those of the same type that reconstitute themselves. The coachman himself can deal with it.
In the case of illness, the body repairs itself using the immune system. This process is passive in the sense that the cells that intervene are of a different type from those that are sick. In this case you need to call in a mechanic to repair the carriage.
The help, the assistance, the solution comes from the outside, from foreign elements (white blood cells for example), whereas in the case of trauma it is the traumatized part that helps itself, repairs itself, using its own cells.
©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.