You react or respond to events in your life according to the image that you hold of yourself, your image of the external world, and the relationship you visualize as existing between them. This is why two people can have widely different responses to events that appear the same. A physician, therapist, or other caregiver is in an excellent position to shift the way the person thinks about themselves, about what has happened to them, and about its meaning.
“The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
— Victor Frankl
Dissociation and Immersion:
Two Basic Ways To Deal With Pain (once organic factors have been addressed).
Dissociation: The fear that the pain is going to get worse and worse and become intolerable creates internal tension and releases chemicals within the body that intensify the pain. The goal of dissociative approaches is to interrupt the fear and the thoughts and reframe them. CDs can assist you to visualize the pain becoming less and less, encouraging irritating chemicals to diminish. If this can be achieved, awareness of the pure neural impulse is no longer frightening.
As in the case of hypnoanesthesia, even when the source of the discomfort is purely organic or traumatic — it can be shown that shifting a person’s thoughts and their self-image with soothing imagery — dramatically modifies a person’s experience of pain. The affected part can be allowed to go numb, the pain can be visualized draining off, or the injured part can be visualized across the room. Learn to shift your awareness with Dr. Miller’s guided imagery program, ‘Change The Channel On Pain.’
Immersion: Paradoxically, focusing on the pain itself may actually diminish it! “What you resist persists.” Through meditation the patient learns to stop resisting — which produces tension and conflict — and to accept, surrender (not give up), and transcend. To put an end to suffering, the Buddhists simply say, “Put an end to desire.” This approach involves relaxing and focusing on the “trigger” sensation.
In Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s studies it was shown that a large proportion of these people were able to gain significant relief through the use of mindfulness meditation. Meditation along with deep relaxation, self hypnosis, biofeedback, autogenic training are all useful techniques, technologies for purposefully shifting one’s Self-image and image of the world. This immersion must be one of non-judgmental non-action, of not wanting things to be any different than they are. In effect, we give up the desire to make things any different from how they are and enter the present moment, knowing it is the only moment. Choose your wisest behavior by tuning into Dr. Miller’s program, ‘Serenity Prayer.’
The experience of pain is biologically programmed into us to include the intense drive to do something — something that would result in the relief of the pain. In the meditative state you calm the mind and allow yourself to passively be aware of the sensation that you have been interpreting as “pain.” By noticing this sensation without anxiety, the impetus to catastrophize or escalate is soon lost. Tension, anxiety, hyperalertness, hyperreflexiveness, etc., are markedly lowered — followed by a diminished flow of irritating chemicals and the reduction of muscle tension in the area. As a result, the chemical signals reaching the nerve endings become less, and, due to fewer nervous impulses reaching the brain, there is a shift of attention away from the focus. Ease the pains of loss and promote a whole self image with Dr Miller’s program, ‘Accepting Change and Moving On.’
“God asks no man whether he will accept life. That is not the choice. One must take it. The only choice is how.”
– Henry Ward Beecher
A Reality Check:
How do I feel about expressing my pain?
The habit of stoicism (sometimes referred to as denial) can rob you of options — if you won’t admit it’s there, it just may really get out of control!
“Experience is not what happens to us, experience is what we do with what happens to us.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Can I handle it now?
Chronic pain is intensely personal — while others may see the effect it is having on you, they cannot see or measure its intensity. Even the sufferer himself is a poor judge of intensity of pain. Frequently you are asked to rate it on a scale of one to ten so that care-givers can relate to how you are doing. The assessment of your pain, ultimately, begins and ends with you.
How does being in pain affect my life?
Don’t mistake your frustration for weakness — or your fear, or your anger. Pain acquaints us with the full range of our “negative” emotions and we can feel confused. It exaggerates our reactions, but it doesn’t invalidate them. Pain medications can alter our personalities and responses also. Just like the pain itself, the drugs used to control pain can alter our personalities — it’s how it is. Your acknowledgement of this is important and your emotions are real — it’s just that you’re getting to the “breaking point” sooner than usual or with apparently less provocation.
What does it mean to me?
There is pain and there is pain. Pain need not always hurt. How much you suffer with the pain has to do with the meaning of the pain in your life.
What do I expect of myself?
To the degree that the current picture of your life seems to be shattered by the event or pain radiating from the event, you will tend to suffer much more. Recognize the emotional responses to pain that you and others are having and take steps to modify the impact on you.
I’ve heard that emotional and spiritual pain can manifest physically — and that they are somehow less serious than organically-based pain. Can I tell the difference?
No, they are equally serious (once any treatable conditions have been dealt with). Both require you to come to grips with challenges and deeper questions most others don’t have to face. Both are opportunities to reach deeper into your being and bring forth the best that is within you. Though it may be possible to tell the difference between emotional/ spiritual and organic pain, it is not easy, and in most cases, is probably not an important discrimination to make.Know and accept who you are with Dr. Miller’s guided imagery program, ‘I Am: Awakening Self Acceptance‘.
“A voyage to a destination, wherever it may be, is also a voyage within ourselves.” — Lauren Van der Post