If you are struggling with Vulvodynia, Interstitial Cystitis, or another Pelvic Pain Syndrome, if you’ve seen a doctor (or several) and haven’t been able to find lasting relief, there is a good chance that the underlying cause of your pain has to do with the ways you’ve learned to process emotion.
Please don’t think this means that you’re doing anything wrong, or that your pain is your fault.
It absolutely is not!
Many women develop an unconscious reflex of guarding and protecting themselves – from perceived danger and from their own emotions – by tensing and contracting the muscles in their pelvic floor.
To determine if this may be true for you, all you have to do is start noticing what happens to your pelvic floor muscles when you feel stressed, anxious, angry or afraid.
If your pelvic floor muscles tense when you’re in a stressful situation – or when you feel angry or afraid – it’s a good indication that the way you are unconsciously processing emotion is contributing to your pain.
And, if you have no idea if your pelvic floor muscles are tensing and contracting or not, because you can’t feel them, that’s also a good indication that the root of your pain is emotional.
If you’re ready to get to the root of your pain and achieve lasting pain relief so that you can get your life back – than read on!
Learning how to process emotions (past and present) in a healthy way is the crux of effective Mind Body Healing.
Things like yoga, relaxation, and meditation can help, but they will usually not be effective long term on their own – unless they are combined with skills that help you to feel and process your emotions.
If you’re wondering what the heck I mean by that or how to do it, I’m going to explain that in just a moment….
First, let’s take a closer look at emotions.
What’s the deal with emotions and pelvic pain anyway?
About 8 years ago I came across the idea that my emotions were guidance from my soul and that they actually had a purpose and served a function.
Hallelujah! You mean there’s actually a reason for these things!
I can’t tell you the relief I felt.
I had spent most of my life feeling really bad for having too many emotions, for not knowing how to handle them better, for being too angry, or feeling sad or depressed when I thought I should be happy. I thought something was deeply and irreversibly wrong with me.
Maybe you’re someone who can relate to this, or maybe you’re someone who doesn’t struggle with emotions.
You may think that for the most part you are fine. Everything is fine. Your life is just great.
Except of course for this awful pain.
Whether like me, you’ve considered yourself “over emotional” and you’re not as happy as you’d like to be, or you feel just fine and don’t struggle with emotions much at all….
I’m going to take a wild guess that you’ve never really learned how to feel and process your emotions in a healthy way – let alone how to use them to access your guidance and intuition and live a rich, rewarding, joyful and radiantly healthy life!
Most of us don’t.
In fact, for the most part we are shamed or threatened out of allowing our emotions.
The culture we live in does not value or understand emotions – or the impact they have on our body and our lives.
Don’t you find it surprising that we learn so little about something that is so much a part of all of our lives – every day?
We receive precious little, if any, guidance about how to feel or interpret emotions – as children or as adults.
In fact, we figure out at a very young age how to not feel them.
…with varying degrees of success.
So, why bother learning how to feel and process emotions now?
Well, aside from the fact that they provide incredible wisdom and guidance once you know how to access it….
Not feeling them is causing Physical PAIN, yes even pelvic pain.
Can you remember a time – as a child or an adult – that you stopped yourself from crying?
Maybe you would have gotten in trouble if you did. Maybe you were told, “Big girls don’t cry.” or warned, “I’ll give you something to cry about!” Or maybe you just felt embarrassed or unsafe about showing your true feelings in front of others.
Whatever the reason, take a minute and see if you can remember what it feels like in your body to hold those tears in?
Do you notice that you feel contracted? Maybe you held your breath or tensed your muscles. Maybe you felt a lump in your throat, some heaviness in your chest, or a knot in your belly. Maybe you notice another sensation entirely.
Whatever physical sensations you remember, I can pretty much guarantee that they didn’t feel good.
It takes a lot of energy to hold back emotion.
In order to stop emotional energy from moving, so that we don’t feel or show it, we have to tense and contract muscles, hold our breath, and usually dissociate a little from our body to tolerate the discomfort of the resistance.
Just like holding back our tears, it doesn’t feel good and it takes a lot of energy.
Energy that could be much better used on other things.
We get so good at suppressing emotions that we are able to do it without having any idea that we are.
The process becomes completely unconscious, just like tying our shoes or riding a bike.
Pretty soon we end up tensing and contracting certain muscles all day long, day in and day out, in order to hold back emotions we’re not even aware we’re having.
This can result in:
- Chronic Pain – including Vulvodynia, Interstitial Cystitis, and other Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndromes
- Feeling totally fine – well except for that pain that won’t go away
- Chronic anxiety or depression – which aren’t actually emotions, but the result of unfelt and unprocessed emotion, or
- Excessive levels of anger that are either held back, or inappropriately expressed.
Depending on where the muscles that you’re tensing and contracting are, you can end up with….migraines and headaches, back and neck pain, hip and knee pain, pelvic pain, and of course bladder, vaginal and vulvar pain.
Chronically contracted muscles cut off blood flow and oxygen to muscles, skin, nerves and organs. This is hard on the body. It actually puts your body into a semi state of emergency triggering your brain to activate the fight or flight response.
Then the fight or flight response releases a whole cascade of stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol that increase your heart rate and physical tension, decrease blood flow to your skin, digestive system, and reproductive tract, and in general wear your body out.
Chronically tensed and contracted pelvic floor muscles can lead to other issues too. Sometimes before burning, stinging, or inflammation arises, women experience issues with sexual desire, arousal or orgasm. Sometimes they have difficult birth experiences or struggle with chronic yeast or bladder infections.
Feel Your Emotions
Reversing all of this requires learning how to allow and feel all of your emotions – in a way that they will not take over or negatively impact your life.
Unless your doctor has identified another cause for your pain – like an injury or other pathology, it’s very likely that your vulvar pain is the result of long-term chronic contraction of your pelvic floor muscles.
And, until you address the underlying cause of the tension – which is emotional, whatever else you do to relieve pain – is not likely to be a long-term solution.
The pain will keep returning until you learn a new way to be with your emotions.
The good news is though that although it takes some time and a commitment to learn a new way of processing emotions, it is totally doable, and it has lots of other benefits!
Not only will it help you relieve pain, it will allow you to access your intuition and create an entirely new relationship with yourself, your body, your emotions, and your soul.
Which improves every area of your life.
Start by paying closer attention to your body.
Which muscles regularly feel tense? Which ones feel relaxed? What happens in your body when you are under stress – emotional or otherwise?
If you’d like some help connecting to your body and feeling your emotions, make sure to check out the Healing Female Pain program. This program will walk you step by step through learning what you need to know to relieve your pain.
In upcoming articles I’ll be sharing more with you about what emotions actually are and how to process them in a healthy way.
For now start with attention and awareness.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
As always I’d love to hear from you!
Are you aware of regularly holding tension in your pelvic floor muscles or anywhere else? Does this idea that thoughts and emotions can cause or contribute to Vulvodynia and other Pelvic Pain Syndromes resonate with you? Leave your thoughts and any questions in the comments below.
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