Energy Input, Energy Output, Chronic Pain, and Social Justice Activism

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

February 4th, 2010 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

I went to a support group meeting today. You know, a 12 step group, where people are purportedly all busy being conscious and mindful. I sat on the outskirts of the group, as I always do, to protect my body. A few minutes after I sat down, a woman got up and came charging toward me, on her way to the bathroom.

I have been working hard on speaking up and protecting my physical space, even if it means causing a scene, and even if nobody around understands what I’m doing or why – given that I look totally able-bodied. A few times, I had the intention in mind but didn’t actually manifest it. Today I did.

I put my hand up in front of me, in a “stop” motion, as I said, “Hold on, hold on. I am very sensitive.” Bitch ignored me completely and barreled past. In a concentrated second, her intent energy, coupled with uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and shock, jolted through my nervous system.

While I did move enough out of the way that the woman didn’t physically make contact with me, the energy zing set off my unstable ankle, leaving it in pain. Enough pain that I was concerned about biking home. Would the trip exacerbate the pain and leave me with another round of weeks or months of mobility challenges?

Then I was angry. And wondering if I should confront the woman. And pondering where confrontation is useful and where it is counter-productive. (Confrontation, mind you, does not need to be hostile. It can be very quiet and gentle and loving, yet still addressing a situation head-on.)

My natural instinct is that of a social justice activist. I experience something that is not OK, and I speak up. I intervene. I confront. I educate. I redirect. Where I feel fear doing so, I challenge myself to get past my fear and do it anyhow.

On the personal front, one of the side benefits of standing up for myself, even when extremely uncomfortable and socially unacceptable, is the healing alchemy of redirecting energy or transforming it altogether. It is powerful internally, as well as in its impact on the world around me.

The thing is, in the case of chronic pain, I wonder if it is more healing to retreat from others, to back off from situations. To address transforming not someone else’s energy, and not the energy between that person and me or that person and someone else, but the energy inside me.

I practiced it yesterday, when a woman with two stuffed bags pushed past me, forcing my body to contort and leaving me in pain. And I practiced it today:I felt my anger and focused on using it as raw energy. I felt the ankle pain and focused on using it the same way – recycling it to heal itself.

This mindset is a totally different than that I have had for much of my life. It’s not the “justice justice shall ye pursue” model, but rather an approach of taking everything that comes my way and internally juicing it as yet another opportunity to hone my skills of stripping energy of its original characteristic and infusing it with healing properties.

It’s energy input instead of energy output.

It feels weird, because I feel as if I’m letting people get away with things, as if I’m not using my voice and properly interacting with the Universe and that which is before me. But honestly, I will never prevent from being inconsiderate the people I encounter at cafes, on the sidewalk, or at Whole Foods — where the enlightened set pushes and shoves its way down the aisles.

I won’t say that all I can do is take care of myself, that I am powerless over others. I think that individuals have a huge amount of power when we choose to act on it. But that action costs me something. And as someone living with chronic pain, I don’t have that something to give. Over and over and over again.

There is so much to say on this topic. I’m just throwing out a few things, but I hope to set aside more time to go into this more in depth later.


Lisa September 28th, 2010

First,I would like to commend you on a great site.I just found it tonight while on chronic pain connection and can tell that I will be an avid reader of your blog.I understand where you are coming from on this post.I,too,find it hard to let some dumb ass in a hurry get away without giving a flitter that I may end up spending a few days in bed just because they held their pee too long.Also like you,I don’t have anything extra to give because the pain takes everything and then some.Another thing that really gets to me is when I do feel human enough to go out in public and we go out to eat,which is not often anymore,and some idiot brings their kids/kids that act like a bunch of bush monkeys,screaming,throwing food and grabbing stuff off other tables.There goes my little bit of enjoyment along with all the other patrons.You can’t be angry at the young-uns but the seemingly oblivious parents should a) be tarred and feathered and b) pay for everyone’s tab.Ok, I will get off my soapbox now,sorry got carried away.

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