What My Cubital Tunnel Syndrome Represents to Me

It’s been rough few weeks because I injured my elbow again. From playing the guitar.

I’ve maintained a healthy left arm for four years, but early November I had a session where I was recording a guitar solo for the cover song I’ve been working on. I recently made some changes to my equipment that allows me to play some fast licks and make them sound good.

My earliest guitar heroes were from the late 80’s hair metal era so fast rock guitar playing has always been my fetish. I never practiced diligently enough to actually play like that, or so I thought — the equipment change seemed to unlock that style of playing and I was excited. I can finally play that “burning” type of solo I’ve always dreamed of, and I happen to be working on a song that may call for it.

So in a session I just went for it, takes after takes I played as fast as I could. Most of it was sloppy garbage but there were gems.

And here’s the crux — I have never played that fast for that long and my elbow started tingling — BUT I KEPT PLAYING. I was after that one magical take and I didn’t have it yet. I got consumed.

I had done the damage by the time I gave up a couple of hours later.

That sounds really stupid, doesn’t it? It didn’t occur to me in that heat of the moment that I should let my arm rest. I could always come back another day and try some more. There was absolutely no reason to keep going when my body signaled that it wasn’t ready to do what I was asking.

But these things happen because there are lessons I’m not learning, and/or there are stuck feelings that needed incidents like this to come out.

It reminded me of an incident when I was around 10. I played Japanese chess (shogi) with my uncle. I was beaten completely. I remember feeling so frustrated that I cried, and then that embarrassed me even more. There was a sense of exasperation from realizing that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t win.

And that feeling is what connects the two experiences. It’s a seemingly innocuous childhood experience, but left unresolved it can powerfully affect your life. I look around and see many places where I have that experience of “no matter how hard I try, I can’t win.”  That’s what I perceive, even when the reality doesn’t reflect it.

When you see patterns in your life, the chances are that there is an underlying current like this.  There is an unresolved, buried emotion.  It may come from a specific incident, or a series of incidents.  Or it may even come from your family tree — young children feel what parents feel, and I also wonder if some feelings get so engrained in our physical body that they may get passed on in our genes.  The point is that all of us carry baggages of these unfelt feelings.

My elbow will heal, and I will learn to gradually strengthen my arm so it can sustain the rigor of playing. That’s the lesser of the concerns — the important thing is to learn the lesson and feel the feelings.

On the latter, I’m doing two things.  When the hurt feeling comes up, I pay attention to it.  Instead of distracting myself I fully feel it.  Like holding a child who fell and needs to cry.  He needs to be allowed to cry until he no longer needs to.

But in my meditations I also envision what I want.  The feeling of “ah, I can do this.”  That’s the experience I desire, so I’m training my emotional muscle to be able to feel it. It’s a foreign concept to my mind that’s so used to feeling powerless.  But I know that the more I generate that feeling, the easier it becomes to feel that way, and that will affect how I experience my life.

So, as embarrassed and frustrated as I feel about this incident, I have to accept that I needed it.  When I’m finished processing and recovering, I will feel grateful of the opportunity to heal and grow.

And if you’re reading this, I hope you learn something useful from my mistake.  If your body starts hurting, stop immediately. 🙂  And if you see undesirable patterns in your life, take a hard look at the feelings they conjure up.  The chances are, life is trying to give you opportunities to feel the feelings you’ve been carrying.  So that you can process them, and be free.