At one level, a headache–or back ache or neck ache–isn’t something that happens to you. It’s something you do to yourself, albeit unintentionally. A famous therapist, Fritz Perls, would redirect clients complaining of a headache. He would have them instead say, “I am hurting myself with my head.”
Next time you have a headache, give it a color. Close your eyes and visualize colored light at the center of your forehead, behind your eyes, wherever you feel discomfort. Imagine this light pulsing in time with your heartbeat. Now try to intensify the headache. Imagine the colored light burning more brightly, pulsing more intensely. Mentally invite more tension into the area. If you can worsen your ache by visualizing it, by consciously intending it, you are taking more ownership of your own body. You are operating from the belief that mind and body are intricately connected.
If you can make your headache worse through visualization, you can also make it better. It’s the same switch inside of you–you’re just flipping it in the other direction. See the colored light fading from the area. Imagine your heart rate slowing, slowing, the pulsing in your head calming. Notice the tensions draining from your eyes, your jaw, your tongue. Your neck, your shoulders, your stomach. Keep alternating back and forth–more colored light, more tension, less colored light, less tension.
Doing this simple exercise reminds you that your head isn’t a separate enemy that’s attacking you. It’s about expanding your awareness, paying more attention to the experience you already have right in front of you. When it comes to suffering, it’s hard to hit the OFF switch if you don’t accept at least partial responsibility for hitting the ON switch.
About the Author: James Robbins is a licensed professional counselor, published author and co-owner of Dallas Whole Life Counseling. He has over 15 years of experience helping people in various life stages that come from a wide variety of cultural, economic and family backgrounds. Learn more about his background by clicking here.