BodyLogos Blog

The Healing Treasures of Pain

There are times that we choose pain and times that pain chooses us. When we’re chosen, it’s easy to feel victimized, and we are. But to heal, I believe, one needs to find the gift within the pain.

Being open to pain’s healing is like having a gift that keeps on giving. I was recently elevated out of a childhood pain of parental abandonment. One of those low-grade emotional conditions that you just live with and may not even name as pain. Instead, you may live in avoidance of its squeeze.

Avoiding pain’s squeeze, unfortunately and inevitably, catches up to you.

I met a man about a year ago at a favorite cafe whom I felt uncomfortable around. You know that feeling when your gut churns, your eyes squint, and you take a step back. Through the past year he was a regular customer, so I put a polite smile on my face and gave him the benefit of my doubt.

Well, I will be more trusting of my gut’s instinct moving forward.

While my boyfriend, Anthony, was chatting with someone else one evening, this man leaned into my breathing space and started asking questions about my fitness. He quickly shifted his commentary to my sexy, sophisticated, presence. The most beautiful in the cafe.

If this were my boyfriend whispering these intimacies, I would lean into his love and devotion. But, in this case it felt over-indulgent and self-serving. My brain froze. No words came to change the course of this man’s momentum.

As I shift uncomfortably in my seat, he slides his hand up my side and cops a feel of my right breast. A blatant uninvited intrusion of my space, body and relationship with Anthony, disguised in a gesture to steady me on the bar stool. But, let’s be clear, I needed no steadying.

Rather than stating my boundaries, all I could do was excuse myself. I moved to the other end of the bar until he left.

This moment of freezing is scary. It’s the same freeze that happened repeatedly in my childhood when my father inappropriately came into my bedroom at night. I felt, and feel, helpless, alone and terrified in these moments.

Different than my childhood story, in my adult story, the freeze is what scares me. This man’s conduct was inappropriate, but not threatening my safety. In these situation it’s easy to dismiss creepy disrespect, and instead, judge my muted self-respect.

I shared the incident with a woman who, unbeknownst to me, had had a similar altercation with this man. The story spread and an owner/bartender heard the report. My next visit there, my boyfriend held an outdoor table for us, because the man was inside at the bar.

What happened next blew my mind!

The bartender came out and confirmed the story. As it was told to me afterward, he returned inside and slid the man’s check in front of him. The man slid it back to him saying, he didn’t ask for a check. It was slid back in the man’s direction again and this time paid.

When the man exited the cafe I jumped up, now unfrozen and prepared, to tell him that he’d made me uncomfortable and set a clear boundary. But that’s not what happened!

The bartender followed him out and stopped him just outside the cafe’s dining area.
The man was asked to not return.

Soon after the bartender returned to his post at the bar, a gentleman friend stuck his head out the door and said, “There’s a seat in here for you Tammy.” When we went inside, a group of people ushered me into a love cocoon. I felt treasured.

I was stood up for, protected and loved by all of them. I was offered the cocoon my family of origin couldn’t offer.

I say to the woman, who had had the same experience, that I was intending to speak to the man and practice standing up for myself. She said, “I understand that, but can you accept being stood up for and feel safety from that?”

My whole life has been about developing mind body strength. It has served me well. But the self respect, love and trust gained by this strength isn’t to separate me from the respect, love and trust of others.

The pain I carry around from my childhood was just made lighter by letting others in. Not by becoming more independent and self-entrusted. I’m learning that it also takes strength to depend on others and trust they’ll be there. I am healing and I treasure these moments pain has constructed and amplified.

I would love to hear from others who have lived with a similar ‘freeze’ response to disrespect.

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Redefining Strength

I want to change our perception of strength. Strength is the ability to meet resistance and influence an outcome without compromising ourselves. And we already have it.

Strength is not an attribute; it’s a state of being. Gladiators, bodybuilders, and football players demonstrate strength through brute force, sheer willpower, muscle mass, and relentless pursuit. But we’re also quick to identify dancers and martial artists as strong. Their medium taps into a sense of vulnerability, balance, alignment, controlled power, and grace—but no one can deny their strength. Strength may look different on each of us, but it is an inherent part of who we are.

You are not weak by nature; you are stronger than you think. Your strength is not something you need to kill yourself to gain—it is already within you, waiting to be excavated. The key is to stop chasing something you already have and tap into it, so you can manifest that strength in your everyday life.

Because we don’t think we’re strong, we approach resistance with the idea that we’re not enough. We throw everything we have at it and push past our physical, mental, and emotional limitations. We see strength as domination, but it’s not.

When you learn to listen to your body’s divine wisdom, you cultivate a sense of where your body is developing tension instead of standing in its strength. You end the vicious cycle of unrealistic expectations, injury, and self-criticism and learn how to consciously embrace responsible growth. You stop compartmentalizing your strength into emotional, physical, and mental pieces and operate from the strength of your being at all times.

You learn how to align yourself with gravity—instead of working against it—so you can channel your strength to meet life’s resistance. As you meet resistance with equal parts power and alignment, you transform tension into strength

As in the sword dance above, the power lies in bringing just the right amount of force—not too little and not too much. By meeting the sword’s weight, I meet gravity. I am tapped into a larger source of energy, free of tension, and discover a strength that is wholly and uniquely mine.

About Tammy Wise

Tammy Wise is a widely respected mind-body fitness expert based out of New York City, owner of BodyLogos, Inc. author of The Art of Strength: Sculpt the Body ~ Train the Mind. A former Broadway dancer turned Tao minister, Tammy was voted the Best of Fitness by Time Out New York and has appeared in Martha Stewart’s Whole Living magazine, New York Magazine, Natural Health, Shape, and Thrive Global. She’s a Transformational Authors Contest Winner and regular contributor to Honeysuckle magazine and Medium. Visit her at bodylogos.com.