The term, Pain-body was coined (as far as I know) by Eckhart Tolle in his first book, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. He develops the idea much more fully in his second book, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose.
The pain-body is a complex of built up thought patterns and emotions that results from unprocessed or unacknowledged pain experienced in the past. (Tolle goes so far as to hypothesize that we can be born with a certain amount of pain, but we need not agree with this view for the concept to be of service to us.) It lies dormant for varying periods of time, depending on the person, and is triggered by certain stimuli.
The stimuli could be just about anything that--to enlist the aid of an electromagnetic metaphor--resonates at the same negative frequency at which the pain-body resonates.
When the pain-body is triggered, our egos tend to align themselves with it. That is, the ego identifies the pain-body as an extension of itself; this, Eckhart calls the "unholy alliance."
Once the unholy alliance is forged, the pain-body takes us over and acts upon the outside world in a misbegotten attempt to dissipate the sensation of pain felt in the physical body. The pain-body acts upon the outside world because it incorrectly perceives that the outside world is the source of its pain, when in fact the source of the pain is internal.
People are capable of much ugliness when pain of any sort is at issue. The pain-body is no different. People with heavy pain-bodies can be quite pleasant under normal circumstances. But when the pain-body is triggered, that can change 180 degrees. Other flare-ups are not so severe.
The tell-tale sign of the pain-body is disproportionality. If a response is out of proportion to a particular triggering incident, chances are good that the pain-body is the cause of the scene, the drama that will almost inevitably result.
There is one caveat to this: as we learn to dis-identify from our pain-bodies, they may still be triggered for a period of time, but the proportionality will begin to come into line little by little until the pain-body is dissolve.
Dissolving the Pain-Body
And that's the good news! To strike out into a new metaphor, the pain-body is very much a psychic tumor, for some benign, for others very malignant. This tumor can be completely dissolved by the radiation of awareness. The cure rate: 100%.
By focusing our awareness on the actual negative (painful) sensations that arise when certain things happen or when certain topics are broached or when certain situations are encountered, we can acknowledge a few important facts. We can acknowledge that the person who made the comment or committed the act is not the source of our pain, it is internal; we can acknowledge that the pain we feel is real; we can acknowledge that although the pain is real, it will not kill us.
Finally, we can acknowledge the we are not the pain--the pain is one thing, we are another thing--an eternal thing of infinite depth. When we begin to see ourselves as separate from both the pain-body and the ego, this is awakening. The process of becoming fully awake, or conscious, is enlightenment.
To put this in motion, you have to stop what you're doing, excuse yourself and focus on the pain. In this way, you cease to feed the pain-body the negative energy it requires to survive. Over a period of time--could be an instant, could be longer dependent upon density--the pain-body will no longer reside within the energy field that is your body. (Of course, your awareness of it always takes place at this present moment.)
What's the proper reaction to the pain-body?
Whether you encounter it within yourself or in someone else, the only proper reaction to the pain-body is the same: non-reaction.
We understand non-reaction best in relation to children. When a child throws a tantrum (and this can be the pain-boy too), it's always best when the parent doesn't get drawn into the drama. The parent is outside that tempest. So whatever the parent does in that situation, it isn't motivated by a need to react in kind to what the child is doing. The ego is not in play. (I realize, with a smile, that this is is the ideal scenario and not the reality sometimes.)
So too with adults. Tolerance and empathy are the keys here. Whatever you do, ensure that the ego does not arise within you, providing the impulse to bring this person down a notch or two.
Or worse yet, keep an eye out for the pain-body arising in you! This is what pain-bodies do. They press the buttons of other people, searching for the stimuli that will bring their pain-bodies out to play. And those closest to us--we know what buttons to push, don't we? This is the main source of negative energy that pain-bodies feed upon.
This advice goes doubly when we catch (often after the fact, after the drama) that the pain-body has arisen in us. Non-reaction is the only proper response. While apologies are likely to be in order, give no place to guilt.
Guilt is just another convenient hook for the ego to latch itself on to. Guilt is a way of saying, "I'm a better person than that." You're not, you're just like all the rest of us. And you are made of divine stuff. Let that be enough.
Because this awareness, that the pain-body took you over, is the arising of consciousness within you. It will be better the next time and the next and then at some point there won't be a next.
Photo credit: Mostly Aikido
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