All of the things that we do that don’t serve us might be likened to tension headaches.
Generally, tension headaches are caused by the static and prolonged contraction of the muscles in the head, jaw, neck and shoulders, also known as tension. Makes sense!
We always have some degree of contraction in our tissues. Muscle tone maintains posture. If we didn’t have some muscle contraction our heads would be flopping around on our necks and our mouths would always be open. Not a pretty sight.
But when enough becomes too much, tone becomes tension, and tension can become a headache.
Think for a moment about the typical sequence of events when a headache surfaces.
Most people take over-the-counter medications: get headache, take something, headache goes away…until the next time (and the next time) and then the pattern becomes a habit.
We may start buying larger and larger bottles of medications. We might even start taking something if we think we are going to get a headache.
Then again, we might not take medication at all. We might meditate, bathe, see a chiropractor or apply ice while singing old reggae songs. We might just tolerate the pain with a growl, grunt and grimace.
The point is, we address the headache in some fashion.
The thing to note is that we are treating the labeled problem (headache) and its symptoms (pain) but doing nothing to solve the underlying issue.
If we are doing something to treat a problem, the problem must already exist or we are projecting that it is going to. Our focus is on the problem, our dysfunction (in this example, the headache).
Our attention is on the result of the tension instead of the tension itself.
What if we could identify when tone began to shift to tension?
If we have the self-awareness tools or discernment to detect the change in state (tone to tension), we can be proactive.
When we sense our neck beginning to tighten or the desire to clench our teeth arising, we can take action.
We can loosen our shoulders, jaw and neck with targeted, effective movements.
If we act before the muscles are in a death clench, it is easier, doable and effective.
If we can learn to fully and subtly perceive our physical state, we can use that ability to ensure that tone doesn’t become tension. If tension never happens, tension headaches never happen. Never. Tension is the precursor to a headache.
Like tension preceding headaches; anger, addiction, stress, frustration, jealousy, blame, poor relationships, stalled career and depression all have pre-symptom and pre-result states.
The pre-symptom and pre-result states of our dysfunctions have components, just like the parts that make up a tension headache.
If we start to investigate what was present before we became emotionally dysfunctional (angry, sad frustrated, etc.), we can begin to alter the components.
I call this deconstruction, finding the parts of the dysfunction and determining which of them, or which combinations of them, put us into a state of overwhelm—leading us to reaction and dysfunction.
When we have an understanding of the components, we can start looking for solutions.
Some will be simple; others will take some willpower.
If any of the components seem too overwhelming to change, deconstruct them and alter one or more of the subcomponents. It is a process and a practice, but it works every time.
What I have found is that my tension (and stress) is a presumption of future pain, not actual pain. I was worried about what might happen or not happen at some point after right now.
Worry put me into a defensive posture. Worry was the creation of stories about how I might be attacked. The preparations included tensing my trapezius muscles, which led to headaches (actual pain).
I learned to feel for the change in state, transition, from relaxed to not relaxed. The sooner I can discern a change, the easier it is to relax.
When we are able to discern our transitions, we can forestall dysfunctions.
If we can feel ourselves moving toward becoming mad or sad, we can make adjustments! Adjustments keep us balanced and moving in the direction we want to go.
Initially, we might need to make big adjustments, but as we get better at staying balanced, our adjustments will be more subtle.
As we stay balanced, we generate momentum.
Momentum leads to effortless progress, fluid success, happiness and fulfillment.
Awareness + deconstruction + choice = Change.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Emma Ruffin / Editor: Travis May
Photo: Frank Lindecke/Flickr