Evolve Your Fight or Flight Response!

Breaking through pain.

Breaking through pain.

Last Friday night, I was experiencing day four of what turned out to be a five-day cluster migraine siege and every fiber of my body was tight, tired and clinched.

When any sort of pain hits – physical, emotional, mental or spiritual – the natural response is to clinch up, feel a little short of breath and then start fighting like hell or flee as quickly as we can.

And, it does not work.

For three days I’d been fighting through the pain so I could honor client sessions and other commitments, though wound up cancelling half of my appointments anyway.

What does work is becoming vulnerable to the pain. 

Becoming vulnerable to our pain begins the healing of it. Vulnerability opens the door to compassion, self-love, and recovery. No, it is not about avoiding, going around or escaping that produces healing. Sure, those actions may temporarily delay the pain but they do not heal it.

Knowing I could not avoid or wish it away, last Friday night I took myself straight into my pain with the system I developed while coaching clients to move through their pain.

Here are the steps you, too, can use to walk yourself through physical, emotional, mental or spiritual pain you are experiencing.

1. Vulnerability – Acknowledge your pain’s presence. (Now, I did not say roll out the welcome mat and give it your spare room…!)

This is almost like a “Namaste” greeting to your pain – honoring its presence, knowing there may be a valuable nugget to learn from it and taking a moment to simply be with (rather than judge or blame yourself for) what is going on.

My “Namaste” sounded something like this: “Dear Migraine – I acknowledge you, I feel you, I am on my knees before you. I am powerless to diminish your pain in this moment. I accept your presence right now even though I am not a big fan of it.”

I then put my attention on the space in my body that contained the pain. “Dear Head – I know you are full of this migraine experience right now, and I am as sorry for you as I am for me that we are experiencing this pain. I will continue to do my best to relieve the pressure you feel with ice packs, peppermint oil and anything else that comes to me.” 

2.  Conscious Breathing – Gently yet deeply inhale through your nose, exhale slowly and audibly through your mouth – repeat three times. When thoughts arise, return your awareness to your breath.

This step begins to reduce the Cortisol and Adrenaline pumping through your system, which immediately diminishes the fight or flight muscle response. It also allows the mind to take a break.

Friday night, my hips and thighs burned from all the clinching as if I’d done 100 squats (don’t I wish!) and my shoulders were so tense coins would have bounced off of them. 

After my three deep breaths, I imagined my breath as a beautiful, soft wispy light source, in turn lovingly surrounding and releasing my clinched shoulders, neck, hips, buttocks, thighs, feet, and forearms. Next I brought my breath gently into my head, imagining space opening where there was pain. With each exhale I felt more release of muscles and diminishment of pain levels.

3.  Love – Express your love: for yourself, your body, your mind, your emotions, your connection to spirit/god/goddess; for all the times you have felt free from pain, and the fact that you have the ability to feel (yes, even pain).

Expressed love opens the door wide for healing to occur and transcends the experience of the moment. It also feels good to concentrate on the word love.

Lying in the dark, eyes closed, I envisioned my little girl within – me before the headaches began in puberty. (It is important to envision the younger you before your current pain began.) “I love you,” I whispered, repeating the phrase intentionally and slowly with my hands resting on my heart center.

After about a minute, my heart stopped pounding in my temples, blood pressure slowed and I noticed a deeper release of muscle clinching. I don’t remember what I did next because I drifted off to sleep in the middle of my self-love whispers. 

Your turn! 

What physical, emotional, mental or spiritual pain are you experiencing right now? (Doesn’t have to be at def-con 5 – when pain is registering as low-grade is a great time to walk through the three steps above!)

Would love to hear your experiences in the comments below in becoming vulnerable to your pain and loving yourself onto the road of healing.

Much love,



  1. Good advice for getting to the other side of a cluster headache. But my question is this: why do we have cluster headaches? Is there a spiritual or energetic cause? Or is it just a flaw in our brains that we simply have to learn to live with? It certainly FEELS like tortuous punishment. I would just like to know whether there is any real meaning to cluster headaches, other than whatever meaning we choose to assign to it.

    • Susan – you ask some potent questions. And I so relate to the experience of feeling torturous punishment when those headaches strike. The research I’m doing suggests a malfunction with the hypothalamus. I started working with a neurologist to see what the last 20 years of science has revealed, offered as treatment / alleviation, and will report back after all my testing. Wishing you loads of feeling good in your head.

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