By Troy Headrick
I’ve long been interested in the connection between self-awareness and healing. This interest didn’t begin in some academic way with me reading something about the causal relationship implied here. It started in a more practical way. It began with me trying to deal with a medical condition that has long bothered me.
When I was in high school, I played American football and tore my anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee. Because I didn’t think I’d been hurt very seriously, I did not see a doctor at the time the injury took place.
Many years later, because the joint had been weakened in the original mishap, I started having recurring knee injuries, each one more problematic than the one coming before it. Then one day, while jumping to spike a ball over a volleyball net, I came down wrong and heard a loud pop, almost as if a gun had been discharged. I was rushed to the hospital and underwent surgery the day after I was admitted.
I was then told, after the anesthesia wore off, that I’d been living with a torn ACL for a long time. Several years later, I had a second surgery on that same joint. As a result, I have one knee that will never be normal again. Over the years, I’ve had some pain and lots of inflammation and have needed to constantly rehab the damaged joint.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through all this is that pain is the body’s way of speaking to us. What I had to do was realize this fact and then come to understand what that discomfort was trying to tell me.
In “Mind over Melodrama: 5 Lessons on Self-Awareness and Healing,” Vironika Tugaleva writes that each person is the “world’s foremost expert” on herself. I agree, in part. This can be true only if we learn how to know ourselves and therefore understand those things that are bothering us.
Most people with pain get so emotionally involved in experiencing it that they forget to use it as way to open the door to self-learning. In my own case, I began to pay attention to it, not in an obsessive sort of way but in a way that involved close observation and questioning. I became, in other words, much more mindful and analytical. Did the pain increase or decrease after physical activity? In my case, it increased when I was less active. So, I thought, aha, that’s important. As a result, even though it felt counterintuitive at the time, I began to exercise to see what the result would be. I took a walk and my knee got worse. I paid attention to that. I then rode a bike and, lo and behold, the knee felt better. My body was telling me what it didn’t like and what it did.
In “Awareness of Self,” an article composed by the Earl E. Bakken Center for Spiritually and Healing, which is affiliated with the University of Minnesota, the writers provide readers with practical techniques that can be used to increase self-awareness as well as comparing each human being to a “system.” This means that every person is a complex organism made up of many parts that all interconnect and interrelate.
In the case of my knee, as my self-awareness became more developed, I began to notice that my joint also responded (both positively and negatively) to all sorts of stimuli. It felt better if I ate certain kinds of foods and worse when I ate other stuff. I also learned that quality sleep was extremely important. If my emotional life was not healthy, my knee would begin to hurt. Thus, as I started paying very close attention to what my leg was telling me on an hourly and daily basis, it began to heal and strengthen when I gave it what it wanted (and needed) and got worse when I took actions that were detrimental. I learned to become my own doctor, a kind of hyper-self-aware healer.
Have you had similar experiences with self-awareness and self-healing? What do you think about all this? I’d love to hear your responses!
Troy Headrick’s personal can be found at Thinker Boy: Blog & Art.