Many of our clients present with chronic pain that can include headaches, general aches and muscular tension which may be the result of injury – traumatic or otherwise – torture or with no specific physical cause. It is often accompanied by other health conditions such as diabetes, cardiac and gastro-intestinal issues and auto-immune conditions.
Perhaps because of the complexity of the picture it is common for our clients to focus strongly on what they know to be the physical cause of their pain while ignoring the many other factors that are contributing to it – such as the effects of their traumatic experiences, dislocation and loss, adjustment to a new cultural milieu and language as well as financial and other daily stressors. These factors and the capacity that the client has for integrating what are often overwhelming experiences will have an impact on how the tissues of the body organise. The ways in which the tissues respond often reflects the person’s capacity for emotional regulation and expression – which also affects their cognition.
By drawing on the experiences of one Iraqi woman this presentation will discuss how paying attention to the movements and sensations that feel supportive and give a sense of ease help the tissues to organise around comfort and pleasure instead of responding to an ongoing sense of threat. As her felt sense of safety strengthened she was gradually able to recognise other factors that were contributing to her pain. This opened up other avenues of working with her pain while also helping her to integrate her traumatic experiences.