Have you ever had a heated discussion around the holiday table with the family? Gee wiz, what makes them always want to talk about politics? Well at least its not religion, right?

As you hear the comments flying back and forth, you manage to take a breath. You know better than to respond. You take another deep breath and smile, choosing not to say a word. Congrats, good control!

What you may not notice is that your back teeth clench just a little (or a lot) as the meal continues. That smile stays painted on your face. No words. You’ve learned over the years. It’s just not worth it.

As soon as the dessert dishes hit the sink, you’re out. Back to the hotel or to the backyard, maybe go hide in the living room or close the door to the bedroom.

After the meal, your jaw aches just a little. Hey, the turkey wasn’t that tough. You find that you intuitively rub your temples. You are wondering is the achy jaw from the smiling or the clenching? Oh the holidays…holi-daze…hold your gaze…holy days.

Turns out, there are some people are put on this Earth to be sandpaper.

Sandpaper? What do we know about sandpaper? This abrasive sheet of paper changes the surface of an item, doesn’t it? Normally sandpaper makes things smoother in the end, but it does so by removing an external layer. Turns out those gritty people in our lives are doing the same thing.

We can actually be grateful for those sandpaper people in our lives. They are our best teachers. Oh, trust me, I don’t like it any more than you do. However, the people who annoy us the most are the best teachers in our lives. For real.

When abrasive comments rub us the wrong way, we can look inside. We can ask, what are we making this mean. However, that’s a lesson for another day. I simply want to point out that those sandpaper people are our teachers. When they show up, the lips purse, the jaw squeezes shut and the teeth clench as we know we will forgo saying things we want to say. Right or wrong. Its how we roll.

Fun fact: Did you know, the human eye can detect the muscles of the jaw clenching even if the muscles of the face don’t move? You feel it intuitively.

Guess what? So can your spouse/partner. So can your kid. So…you’re busted. The emotions of the moment are revealed in body language without saying a word. That clench may keeping you from sticking your foot in your mouth, but it can also has an after affect, tempromandibular joint (TMJ) jaw pain.

The tempromandibular joint is an anatomical location and a joint. If you have pain in this area, saying I have TMJ is not 100% accurate. We all have a TMJ. You may have TMJD. (tempromandibular joint disorder) To describe your pain you can also use a pain scale of 1-10 saying, I have pain at a level of 7 out of 10 in my TMJ. Just so we are clear.

Yes, jaw pain can be about biological factors like grinding the teeth or misalignment of the jaw, bite problems. Is it straight up physical? Usually not. Why do people clench? Stress. Internalizing stress.

Looking beyond the purely physical causes of jaw pain, stress and anxiety play a big role in the onset of jaw pain. In a recent study by the National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery they found, “Stress is a significant etiologic* factor involved in initiation and maintenance of TMDs in Dental students.” *[causing or contributing to the development of a disease or condition]

Louise Hay says the TMJ is about anger, resentment and desire for revenge. That’s a mouth-full.

A brilliant bodyworker and author, Emily A Francis, in her book, The Body Heal Itself says, “The jaws are the storage space for old pains, anguish, shame and anger.” She goes on to explain that words that felt hurtful and words never said (that needed to be said) can get stored in the jaw.

The jaw is about communication.

Bio-psycho-social pain relates to the biology, the psychology and the sociology of the situation. We know the biology – pain in the jaw. What we want to figure out is what is the psychology? What is the social setting that occurred that contributed to the jaw pain. Making more sense, right?

We discussed earlier, the psychology behind jaw pain is stress and anxiety. What’s the social situation causing the stress? Jaw pain tells us that something needs to be said that has been left unsaid.

Nothing coming to mind?

Don’t know what it was that needed to be said? You actually do know. So let’s find out:

Grab a pen and your journal. Set a timer on your phone for 7 minutes. No journal, no problem. Grab a piece of scrap paper.

Find a quiet spot away from others. Even the bathroom will do.

In your chosen quiet place, shut the door and sit down.

Start the timer.

Breathe. Listen to your breath. Count 1-2-3 on the in breath. Count 1-2-3 on the out breath. Slow it down. Nice.

Ask, “What do I know about my jaw pain?”

Sit there.

Ask , “What do I need to say?”

What or who comes to mind?

Your answer is coming. Jot down any words that pop into your head. Any people. We will explain that later.

Ask, “What do you want me to know about my jaw pain?”

The you is you. It can be your Angels, the universe, intuition or the God of your understanding.

One more time, What do you want me to know about my jaw pain?

Breathe again. 1-2-3 in breath. 1-2-3 out breath.

Got some words on paper? Awesome. Did you get an answer you understand? If not, no big deal. Let’s investigate a bit more, shall we? (I love this part!)

Is your jaw pain left side, right side or bilateral?

Left represents feminine. Right represents masculine. So if your pain is one sided, it is either a masculine or feminine issue. Write that down on your paper.

We have already noted the jaw is about communication.

Right side pain: Is there a man (masculine energy) you need to talk to?

Left side pain: Is there a female (feminine energy) you need to talk to?

Bilateral pain: What family member do you want to talk to?

The jaw can also be about anger, resentment and revenge. Loaded questions coming, but be honest:

Who are you angry at? (maybe at yourself, but who else?)

Who do you resent?

Who deserves revenge? If you happen to be an ‘evolved’ person, you might say, “Karma’s a bitch.” Karma’s a bitch for who? By the way, that’s not really how evolved people think.

You’re not going to like what you read next…but, what the hell, keep going.

The very first step is to have a conversation with that person. In person or in your imagination, but have the talk.

Hold up. What happens if the person has died? You have the conversation anyway. You set a time and a place and you have the talk. The talk you wanted to have. For real. Sounds hokey, but its what your body needs to release some of the jaw tension. Act as if they are sitting in the chair next to you and let them know how you feel. Did you know that at some weddings a chair is left empty in the front row for the spirit of a departed loved one to sit? Likewise if you are invited to a bris, a chair is set for the prophet Elijah, who is said to oversee every ceremony. Mazel tov! Even if the person you want to talk to isn’t in the room, you can still have the conversation. Let me assure you, if even if they are on the other side, they’ll hear you.

The second step is, gulp, to forgive them. Forgive them for being ignorant. Forgive them for being scared. Forgive them for saying hurtful words. Forgive them for not showing up the way you thought they should. Forgive them for not showing you love and respect.

You can’t? I don’t buy it. Truth is you’re not ready and that’s okay. But own it. You won’t… for now. Odd how so many of our conditions come back to forgiveness work.

One last note: Jaw pain can be from tight muscles. Finding a good physical therapist or massage therapist who does intra-oral work can be a game changer. (Google intraoral massage therapist) You could find tons of relief. Reminder, if you don’t address the underlying cause of the stress, the condition will persist.

Namaste friends.