Pain – Meeting It

Early in 2006 I received a letter about dealing with sleeplessness, pain and waking drenched in sweat. I answered and there followed a several correspondences that looking back I think might be interesting to read. So here they are.

Hello Tony,

I recently read your on-line article “Nightmare” and I found it VERY insightful. I am hoping you can provide some advice.

My name is Jan Vavra. I’ve recently returned to Canada from Singapore where I was working  as a trainer. Although I returned to start my own program, I made a series of decisions based on fear, as well as an incessant need to live in the past and worry about the future. As a result, I’ve fallen into a depression. It’s the first time this has happened, and it is no fun at all.

I picked up a book by Eckhart Tolle called “The Power of Now”, which encourages us to move out of the past and future, and start living in the moment.  It also talks about facing and dissolving the “Pain Body” – a blockage of energy that represents our past pain and suffering.

I have been using some of the suggested techniques to dissolve my pain body – specifically to surrender to the pain body and “watch” it while still feeling the pain, thereby bringing in a higher consciousness that transforms the pain into peace.

The technique works! At the same time I do have a challenge with my dreams…

I fall asleep for about 30 minutes and then wake up. I am then restless for a few hours. I finally fall asleep for 2-3 hours from 5-7 am. When I wake up, I am drenched in sweat.

I sense my pain body is keeping me from falling asleep. It knows that the more sleep I get, the more alert I will be. And when I am rested and alert, I have a greater ability to dissolve the pain body. It therefore wants me sleepless and fatigued.

Furthermore, when I do sleep, the pain body is causing me to have horrible nightmares. This creates a conditioned fear of falling asleep. It seems to be another method that the pain body uses to keep me weak.

Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with the pain body during the night? It’s much harder to remain detached from my thoughts and my pain body at that time. It’s equally difficult to bring my “presence” or consciousness into the state of watching my pain body. These techniques demand concentration – by definition a state of mind that seems contrary to sleep. Should I just get up and find the will to do these exercises and then try to fall asleep again? This has given me some relief.

It’s amazing how our inner demons can be so clever and manipulative!

I look forward to any suggestions you might have Tony.

Sincerely, J.

Hi J – Well, I can only think that Eckhart Tolle didn’t have much of a Pain Body in the first place.

Having worked in this area for 30 years my experiences is that “pain bodies” do not dissolve all that easily.

Just looking at what you have told me let me turn you around and look back at your own experience.  Firstly you are restless, you have nightmares, you wake drenched in sweat.

As you must have read in the feature about Nightmares, I point out that they are usually an attempt on the part of the self-regulatory process within us to deal with past trauma – the pain body.  Such dreams are often quite active in that not only do they produce high emotion, they often also produce body movements, and we might even speak or cry out.

Put these together and we have cries, movements, high emotion.

If you can accept what I say about nightmares being an attempt to deal with difficult areas of our experience, and if you can accept that this is your own life process doing it – and is there anything much more experienced than that – then to burn out your pain body you would need to be able to allow quite powerful movements, cries or crying, and high emotion.

If you want to read more about what I base those statements on, then look at It is quite long but really gives full physiological and psychological reasons and ways our being deals with the internal engraved experiences that lead to depression and emotional pain.

As those things emerge, and it sounds as if some quiet powerful internal patterns and memories are emerging, things get worse before they get better.  I mean by that, that you begin to feel emotionally unstable, cut off from enjoyment of everyday things, wondering what the hell is going on.  It is like a boil bursting.  If you can let your body really spontaneously move, cry, discharge, then the process will heal you.

I know this for certain because I have had a very rough past and found healing.  I am not denying Eckhart’s wisdom, only saying that for many of us we need something more dramatic than simply feeling the pains.  I needed to let my body get involved to discharge some of the things that I had been imprinted with.


Thanks so much Tony. After reading your article, it certainly seems that pressure demands a release. And a release is usually dramatic and messy. If that’s the way it is, then that’s the way it is.

On that note, I do have one more question for you…

As I go through the cathartic process, I have an urge to isolate myself in a friend’s cottage in the woods. I feel that this would allow me the freedom to let my body release its pain naturally.

However, I have been warned by many people that a depressed person should not isolate themselves for a prolonged period of time. The rationale is that they can easily spiral into their own negative thinking in the absence of support and “reality checks” from others around them.

Any thoughts or personal experience on this?

Thanks again Tony.

Cheers, J

Hi J – Personally I have done a lot of my release work alone.  But there are two sides to this question.

I have an impression from what your friends say about spiralling into negative thinking and feelings that they are not talking about “working on one’s stuff” but are talking about simply being isolated in an attempt to get away from whatever it is creating the depression.  When you set out to really deal with what is inside you, you know that what is emerging is stuff you are dealing with.  What happens with many people is they completely identify with the feelings.  So they say, “I am unhappy, I am no good, I am unloved”.  When you are really working on yourself this changes to – “I am looking at feelings of being unloved; I am looking at what lies behind feelings of unhappiness”, etc.

So I have never found being alone a problem.  But there is a huge plus in being with at least one person who is capable of being a part of your work.  I have seen again and again that if somebody is witnessing what you are releasing it gives it enormous extra power.  You can get places you might not get otherwise.  It isn’t that they need to have any expertise.  They do not need to be a therapist or to understand what is happening.  All that is needed is for them to be able to witness what you’re doing without interference and with some level of interest and involvement, perhaps working themselves, taking it in turns.

One of the first times I ever really released anything was in an experimental group two friends and I started.  I hadn’t set out to do it, but my body started shaking and I lay back and let it happen and I re-experienced a tonsil operation I had as a six –year-old, with full body movements and emotions.  I’m sure that happened because I felt easy with the people I was with and supported by them.

If you get stuck, the arm circling exercise is a useful way of starting.


Sorry Tony, I know you must be busy. One last question for you…

My dream self is doing a lousy job of standing up to my fears. In fact, it usually gives in through fear rather than conscious surrender.

On the other hand, my waking self is striving with great intensity to face my pain and ride it out.

I have read that the dream self and waking self influence each other – depending on which side has the greatest energy.

From your experience, if I maintain my focus on facing and riding my pain while I’m awake, will this have a “bleed through” effect to my dream self? Over time, will my dream self be more likely to face the pain? Is there anything I can do to accelerate the process?

Thanks again Tony, J

J – Age gives me the luxury of time. Also it seems to me one of the most important things to do to support those who have the courage to dive into their own depths.

So – I honestly believe your dream self is doing its utmost.  However, there are problems, and a simplistic way of looking at the situation doesn’t help.  (I am not suggesting you are looking at it simplistically.  It is important though to recognise you are dealing with something that is new in human terms.) I mean by the last statement that in the past human beings really had not developed the skill to re-evaluate and maybe even reprogram areas of the unconscious.  Buddhism had a stab at it, but nowhere is there any mention of the ability to reappraise one’s childhood, birth or even conception. See Life’s Little Secrets

So you are developing a new skill, part of an evolutionary thrust, because if we can do this we can transform ourselves in some measure.

Yes, your waking intensity is very important.  But the intensity needs to be something like a detective inquiring into a mystery, or a student of animal behaviour watching creatures in the wild. Alongside of that you need the ability to surrender, to let things happen, to drop preconceptions.

It is only in that space, that receptiveness, that the unconscious can really express.

The problem that exist between your dream self and waking self is that the dream self has not yet clearly formulated what it needs to express.  It is, one might say, an instinctive thing, reaching around for ways to do what it needs.  It needs your conscious rational self to give it feedback, to ask questions, but also to be aware of the resistances that you may be unconsciously putting up.  What helped me most was a mixture of exploring a dream – not analysing – and deepening the experience that the arm circling technique I mentioned leads into.  In this way you relate to the unconscious while wide-awake, and you can work with the process much more fully than you can a dream or with simply waiting for things to happen.  But it isn’t something that everybody can use effectively.  And again, it seems to be more powerful in the presence of others or a witness. So to some extent you will probably develop your own tools, or reshape old ones.

In fact, the unconscious is incredibly skilful at presenting things to us if we are ready to experience, learn, and follow its lead. Remember what is said in the feature about self-regulation, that we have an instinctive urge to pull away from pain, physical and emotional.  But sometimes it isn’t pain, it is the avoidance of seeing who we really are, seeing what we have done to ourselves.  Sometimes we simply have to develop qualities like ego strength, because it is only with strength that we can meet certain parts of ourselves.

I had the good fortune to read the book Myself and I before my own journey really began.  It is by Constance Newland, and by no means is specific to what you’re doing, but it does really highlight the sort of struggles between consciousness and the unconscious that occur, along with the incredible fantasies and way of working with them that are sometimes part of self-discovery and healing.

As ever — Tony

I didn’t expect a reply so quickly. Thanks. Your advice makes a lot of sense.

Thanks for letting me know about your openness to help others Tony. I didn’t want to feel like I was intruding on your time. So I am grateful for you pointing this out.

I will practice the arm circles to become more receptive to my unconscious side while awake. And I have someone in mind to be my witness for release. I just need to find a comfortable environment for a few weeks where I can free to explore and experiment.

I’ll be sure to let you know how events proceed. And I will probably have some additional questions along the way.

Again, I really appreciate your time and feedback Tony.

By the way, I ultimately said “no” to antidepressant drugs that were recommended to me. Are these drugs as disastrous as I think they are? It seems to me they are impeding the evolution of our race by keeping tens of millions mentally and emotionally “stuck”. Sure, they reduce the pain, but for most people, an absence of pain decreases the motivation to explore their inner selves and return with some jewels of discovery.

Actually, this brings up one question…

I am quite certain that I released my demons prematurely – before I had sufficiently developed my strengths and skills. This happened because I didn’t listen to my inner self’s messages. In my arrogance, I actually thought I knew better. This led to my depression and opened the gates to my inner demons. So…I am now forced to fight a premature battle. In such a case, is there any room for the argument that antidepressants can act as a crutch to help your mind heal? The argument is that you can later get off the drugs and be better prepared to take your inner journey. The logic makes some sense. But something inside me just doesn’t sit right with this position. Artificially tampering with brain chemistry seems dangerous under any circumstances. Just wondering what experience you’ve had or seen with antidepressants.

Once again, thank you for your balanced, informative and experiential advice Tony

I recently took three antidepressant pills over 6 days. During this time I had dreams that my brain was being snipped with scissors. I also developed a large pimple between my eyes – the region of the third eye or crown chakra. And…my friend in Singapore developed a searing headache between between her eyes (again the crown chakra) just after I took the third pill. When she called me to tell me about it, her headache automatically went away.

All of this suggests to me that antidepressants cut off our third eye connection to our higher selves or whatever spiritual connection exists.

However, there is that blasted catch 22 – If you release your demons prematurely, you need outside help to fight them (including anti-depressants). But if you take anti-depressants, you lose the higher connection to access help from your higher self. It’s no wonder I have a song continually in my head with the lyrics “…I can’t live with or without you…”.

I am choosing to “go it alone” without the drugs on the faith that I have assistance from my higher self/soul/Universe.

You were inquiring why I feel I released the pain prematurely?

If you don’t mind then Tony, I’ll give you my quick background.

I don’t know if I mentioned it, but my name “Jan” is originally Czech for “John”. Sometimes I feel like Johnny Cash’s “A boy named Sue”. I just hope my name made me tough enough to tackle my current challenge!

I came to Canada at the age of 3 when the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.

I graduated with a Science and Law degree, but I decided to become a white water raft guide for a few years instead. At the time I saw it as a liberated move to have some fun with life. And it was fun. In hindsight, I was really running away from responsibility and my own power. I didn’t feel I could handle it.

In the spirit of “Fun”, I then worked for a film production company, after which I moved toward an adventure training company. This evolved into joining with an international corporate training company. My last two years were spent in Singapore, where I developed a surprisingly good talent at instructing and presenting (I say surprising since I was always scared of speaking in public until I had taken the bull by the horns).

A few months ago I returned to Canada to start up my own corporate workshop on developing more passion at work. But I soon realized I was developing the workshop for my own sake – to find my own passion in life.

Then I hit a personal challenge: my savings ran out. My chance to return to Singapore was gone. And I felt my passion program was fraudulent; how could I instruct on finding passion when there where so many areas of my life that were passionless.

And that’s when I made a grave mistake. I started condemning myself for not returning to Singapore when I had the chance. This quickly turned into a condemnation for all the major mistakes and inactions in my life. By judging myself in the past, I created tremendous feelings of guilt and shame. The results? Depression. And of course I extrapolated into the future; I would have a terrible life in Canada since I had missed the opportunities in Asia. The result? Anxiety.

In hindsight, this was a spiraling attitude that I should have nipped in the bud. Unfortunately I didn’t pull out of the dive in time. The depression and anxiety released a deeper inner pain that really overwhelmed me and amplified the situation. Perhaps the depression and anxiety are two symptoms of the pain itself.

I then felt as if my consciousness was knocked back two or three pegs. My cognitive and decision making skills are down, as are my motor skills. A very disconcerting situation. In all fairness though, this is an exaggerated expression of the way I have always lived my life: regretful about the past, and anxious about the future. Without focusing on the present moment. This unfocused state has now just become more evident. And, it has forced me to appreciate and apply the importance of living in the here and now. A blessing in disguise in some way. I just hope I can snap out of the fog sooner rather than later.

But here’s my challenge…if this had been a natural (unfettered) unfolding of events, then I would say it was time for me to face my demons. But that wasn’t the case. I had more than a fair number of dreams and real life events that were URGING me to go back to Singapore before the crap hit the fan. I even had images of an apple being slowly eaten away to reveal a continually thinning core. I felt that I must not let the core be breached.

Well…I screwed up. I refused to listen to my inner voice. Pure arrogance on  my part. I was then offered some new opportunities in Canada, but I missed the boat since I reacted with fear rather than faith. As a result, the core was breached and I was literally gripped with depression and anxiety. And this released the inner pain which seems to have taken on a life of its own – invading my mind, body and dreams. I strongly feel that I still had many lessons to learn before I was to get to the stage of releasing my pain. But here I am.

So I am in an in a bit of a bind right now. I am waking up drenched in sweat every morning. It must be a major inner pain to have taken over my waking AND sleeping state. That’s why I thought of using antidepressants as a crutch or cast to help me gain strength to deal with this more effectively. But then I had all those signs showing me how the meds would diminish my ability to use higher powers – including meditation. Definitely a catch 22!

One good sign…I’ve been sleeping more and waking up with less sweat as I make strides in my waking state. But it’s taking some time.

Thanks for your inquiry about my “premature demonic release” Tony.  I realize my circumstances are quite different from your own. I suspect the fears are the same though.

Cheers for now,  J

Hi J – I suppose there is a time and place for everything.  I see drugs and medicines like tools.  One should pick them up and use them with care and skill when one needs to.  Otherwise they need to be kept out of the way.

If you can do without an antidepressant, then, because you are actually attempting to deal with your situation there is the possibility that you will develop skills and strengths that will transform you.  But even then it might be that you hit a situation where you need help.  Then by carefully choosing a “tool” that is relevant to the situation it could help the process.

I read quite a lot about Prozac when it was released.  As with everything else there are highly conflicting views about what it does and its possible side-effects.  For some people it acted as a sort of secondary strength that enabled them to face things they could not otherwise do.  In those cases they became, in their words, “The person that I really was all the time but could never be.” But in many cases it had completely different effects.  So even if you decided to use a drug, I think you would need to experiment to see if it was helping or hindering.

A friend of mine, a lifelong depressive, used ecstasy and managed to heal his depression.  I have occasionally used psilocybin, as it is a wonderful amplifier for working.  But I only used it after about eight years of learning the tools and techniques for inner work.

It strikes me that it is very important to learn the therapeutic tools that enable you to deal effectively with unconscious content.  Once you have learned the tools without drugs, then you could always choose to use something else because after all you are not dependent upon it, and you are using it with some awareness.

I was very interested in what you said about releasing your demons prematurely.  I have never heard anybody say this before, yet I felt I did the same because I was using yoga in such a way that it broke down the threshold between my conscious self and unconscious.  The breakthrough was so unsettling I clammed it all down as tightly as I could for a while.  At that time I had no knowledge of how to deal with what was emerging.  I didn’t have the tools.  In fact there wasn’t very much about it in literature at the time – back in the Sixties.  It was only just emerging that people could undergo their own transformation.

What did you do to effect that release? I tore my body apart and overworked.

Remember though that there are accelerators and there are brakes.  The accelerators are things causing excitation, radical changes in the body, stress and overwork, relationship break-ups, rushing processes of psychological change, accidents, war scenes, rapid breathing etc.  The brake can be applied by slow breathing, taking lots of the B. vitamins, certain types of meditation such as TM, some of the yoga postures that control and slow down the body functions and nervous system such as any of the upside down postures.  Jung mentions this in his autobiography.  He used some of the yoga postures.

Coming back to antidepressants, I think that in most cases people who suggest using them are not those who are really working hard to deal with their own problems.  What they are saying is that you can take the things and as time has passed and you have strengthened then you can come off them.  Meanwhile they have learned no skills in dealing with whatever the cause is, and they have not really learned to transform the underlying issues.

Having worked with, been the witness with, people who were daring to look at underlying causes, I have seen again and again that when things are difficult, if you have the courage and strength to dive into the feelings and look for where they are coming from, the pain goes out of them and you resolve the situation. See Meeting yourself

As ever — Tony

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