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Injuries and Illness Can Be Messages from the Unconscious: How to Explore their Deeper Meaning

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

In a recent episode of my podcast - Dose of Depth, I continue reading from my book, Your Soul is Talking. Are You Listening? 5 Steps to Uncovering Your Hidden Purpose.

By learning the language of the unconscious, you will notice the subtle messages a deeper part of you is sending to get your attention. After sharing all the different ways your unconscious speaks, my book goes on to offer a framework for decoding and finding meaning in the messages.

Sometimes, flashes of insight come quick and other times it takes months and even years to fully grasp the meaning of the image. My personal stories are meant to help you connect to the concepts and to entertain you too. A sense of humor was an important coping mechanism during my midlife unraveling.

In Chapter 10, I talk about another way your unconscious speaks to you – through bodily symptoms and injuries.

Many women have a difficult relationship with their stomach. Sure, part of the issue is feeling pressured to look like the women in advertising, but it’s way more complex than that.

The stomach is part of the sacral chakra, the energy center having to do with sexual energy, emotions, creativity, power. This part of the body contains the womb, the place of literal and metaphorical creation. This part of the body also holds not only personal trauma, but collective trauma experienced by women over centuries of physical and sexual oppression, violence, and murder.

During one of my somatic depth psychology courses – soma means body – I was intrigued by an active imagination exercise offered in one of the textbooks. In the exercise, my imagination took me in an elevator down to my stomach, my womb. When the elevator door opened, I felt the warmth and humidity and saw the dark moist caverns like those in a volcano. As I walked and felt my way through the darkness, at my feet were slow moving rivers of lava with swirling colors of dark red, orange, yellow and brown.

My emotions included caution and curiosity, and when I rode the elevator back up to consciousness, my first thought was, “Wow, there’s a lot going on in there.”

Over the next few years, as I came into relationship with my feminine and surrendered and became receptive to the direction of a deeper part of me, the relationship with my womb changed. Later, during a time of menopausal hot flashes, along with acceptance of some buried righteous anger, I felt compelled one day to draw, although I didn’t know what.

I ended up drawing what I titled Womb on Fire. The image of a uterus engulfed in flames with a penetrating phallus was circled by words like womb as vessel, feminine phallus, fire, volcano, mad woman, crazy, creative, purple, take in phallus, and God. The next day, I brought form to what had been being processed in my unconscious. I wrote my first workshop about my research on reconciling sexuality and spirituality.

I share this to emphasize how powerful the unleashing can be as you come into deeper relationship with your unconscious, which speaks through the body too.

So, let’s get started.

Chapter Ten: Bodily Sensations and Injuries

Sometimes our unconscious speaks to us through the body, aches, pains, and injuries. The field of somatic depth psychology (soma means body) and physiological science affirm that memories and adverse childhood experiences are held in the body and are factors that contribute to future physical and psychological disorders. I did not fully appreciate how the trauma of my mother’s childhood lived in her body, and how not having the capacity to explore these wounds only intensified her physical and psychological suffering.

One way to find meaning in your pain is to look for the metaphor that might be at work. During a stressful phase of my first post-divorce relationship, I fell down the steps twice in the span of two weeks. In the same way and at the same time of night. The first time, I was stomping down the steps to take my nervous dog to his kennel during a thunderstorm. I was so angry I didn’t bother putting clothes on before I grabbed the dog and angrily left my room.

It was both amusing and significant when I found myself laying naked at the bottom of the steps, my nakedness being a perfect symbol for needing to strip myself of all the trappings of my persona. And then I looked up to consult a higher power and wondered what message my unconscious was trying to send me. Did I miss a step, was I overstepping, what was I exposing?

Clearly, I hadn’t gotten the message. My second fall the next week was severe enough to require an x-ray and crutches, and my daughter wisely suggested that I slow down. My entrenched pattern of manic movement was difficult to change. Danger was the theme over the next couple months as I continued to have new aches and pains.

During this time, I was preparing to reunite with the man who was my first post-divorce relationship after some time apart. He was moving in with me, and my son was so angry about it he put a lock on his bedroom door and threatened to get a gun. I didn’t know it consciously at the time, but my injuries, aches and pains were warning me about what was going to be unfolding psychologically. Simply being aware that these events had significance contributed to my ability to handle what would come next—the fulfillment of the purpose of the relationship and the capacity to end it when it needed to end.

Today, as I continue to meander into my new life as a writer, my body gives me clues about what lurks beneath my conscious awareness. The occasional tightness in my jaw reflects my insecurity about transitioning from student and researcher to expert in my field. From time to time, surrendering my body during yoga class inspires a burst of creativity in the form of a blog post.

Those aches and pains are also ways your inner being is trying to get your attention. If you’re in physical pain, your inner being is in pain too. Your body is talking to you all the time. Once I accepted the fact that my family and marriage were falling apart, I lost the extra fifteen pounds I had gained during my last three months of manic avoidance of what I couldn’t face.

Reflection Questions

Have you considered the potential psychological meaning of your physical pain? Are you carrying extra weight around? What or who in your life is causing the pain in your neck? Do you have allergies or asthma, knee or back pain, menopausal hot flashes, or interrupted sleep? Do you get up to pee four times per night? Do you bruise easily, or do you trip over air and bump into random objects? How often do you get sick, what time of year, and is getting sick the only thing that disrupts your manic approach to life?

Try This

Reflect about past or current physical limitations, timelines, and circumstances of your life at the time. Can you find any metaphors at work? What aches and pains plague you? Lower back or knee pain, jaw pain from grinding your teeth while you sleep, stomach bloating, headaches? Do you get migraines, have digestive issues? Do you suffer from menopausal symptoms like hot flashes or extra belly fat? Do you feel fatigue?

Journal your thoughts about these questions and see if you can find a potential metaphor, connect any dots, find meaning, or identify an action you could take to disrupt the psychological prison you’re in.

In this chapter, you reflected about how the unconscious may be communicating through your body. Are you beginning to see how creative your unconscious can be in its attempts to deliver messages from your Soul? Do your digestive problems reflect something in your life that you are having difficulty digesting, or how your asthma may be symbolic of living or working in an environment where you can’t breathe or get a breath? I encourage you to consider the psychological aspects of bodily experiences.

I hope you enjoyed my reading of Chapter 10. Perhaps you’ll be more aware of how your body shows up each day and curious about the psychological component of your aches and pains, injuries, or illnesses. Oh, and if you’d like for me to lead you in an active imagination exercise where you visit the inside of your body, go to my YouTube Channel. You can get there via my website I call it the elevator exercise.

As usual, I encourage you to journal about all this and just be curious. Not only writing, but drawing too, especially if there are no words available to articulate what you’re experiencing.

More Resources

If you want to learn more now, purchase my book. Chapters 16-18 will teach you some specific techniques to explore the ways your unconscious speaks.

Stay tuned for what comes next. There’s a link in the description box to my website, where you can find more free content and check out my book. Thanks for listening – and sharing with others who need my framework for self-reflection.

In my podcast, we’ll explore the deeper meaning of ordinary life experiences through conversation, stories, and education. You might have a serious ah-ha moment, or you might be amused by the movie your life seems to be imitating, or you might just be entertained by one of my awkward stories. I’m hoping you’ll become more aware of those moments when a deeper part of you is prompting you to see things differently and maybe even go a new direction. So, let’s get started.

I'm on a mission to inspire and empower people to self-reflect, and this reflection booklet, which contains pages to process through journaling and drawing, started as posts on my Instagram account. One day, a follower told me he saved them, and a new idea was born, to offer collections of ten at a time in a workbook format.

You're going to find some juicy stuff when you reflect about many of these questions. The ones you want to shy away from are those that potentially offer the most significant insights. Hang in there, and draw what cannot be expressed in words. It's just as effective.

I've experienced the power of self-reflection in my own life. Honestly, it's what helped me make sense of my midlife unraveling, learn the lessons I needed to learn, and be able to surrender to mysterious forces that were leading me to a more fulfilling life.

Serious self-reflection leads to more compassion for yourself, which automatically leads to a heightened sense of empathy for others. C.G. Jung, one of the founders of depth psychology, the study of the unconscious, suggested that the fate of humanity depends upon the self-reflecting individual.

Your personal self-reflection is happening in concert with millions of others, and eventually the effects will emerge as new ideas erupting from the collective unconscious.

That's how important you are!

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