Embracing pain

We are programmed to think of pain as being a bad thing, but pain has lots of functions for us. It warns us away from things that are bad from us. It tells us when to reach out to others and get help. It’s easier to think about how to deal with physical pain than it is to deal with psychic pain. When we have physical pain, it’s easier to think of something to “do” to “fix” it, but when you experience chronic pain either physically or psychologically, it’s much more challenging to “fix”.

Discussing physical pain first, it’s very interesting to read studies on Mindfulness and pain. Two different people can experience the same degree of pain, and one person may find it overwhelming and another as a mild annoyance. How we react is very personal, but research does show us that how we think about pain and what we do about it can impact the degree of effect it has on our lives. People who practice “Mindfulness” actually experience pain as less severe and recover quicker. People who are instead focused on relieving all pain and numbing themselves to it, don’t function well at all. Because pain is a part of life.

Sometimes it’s a matter of the way we let ourselves think of what’s happening to us. When we think of a situation as painful, we do actually feel more pain vs thinking of a situation as challenging. Case in point is Matthew Sanford who wrote a book called “Waking”. Matthew is paralyzed and is a yoga instructor. Matthew is inspirational without a doubt, but it’s also how he took what happened to him and incorporated that disability into a part of his life that enhanced his life, rather than destroyed it. His paralysis was a challenge, not an obstacle. He found new ways to do things, and the power of our brains is so strong that Matthew’s practice actually resulted in greater muscle tone and movement in his paralyzed body than others who don’t and who accepted “can’t”.

Certainly Matthew’s circumstance is fortunately not one many of us have to deal with. The amount of challenge and discomfort in his life is one most of us can only imagine, but it is a very good example of what happens when something bad happens to us. When something bad happens, what thought processes do you have? Does the situation seem insurmountable? Do you go to a place of feeling like a loser, or a failure? Things happen badly regularly. We have a tendency to focus on what goes wrong instead of the thousands of things that go right every day. When things go wrong, whether it’s emotional or physical, we tend to panic. If instead we consider these things in a different way, we might feel differently about them. I invite you to think of discomfort as a way the body has to tell you something needs to change in your life, and other feelings we think of as negative as an alarm telling you something. The alarm is telling you it’s time to think about what you’re doing, maybe it’s telling you to think before you do things, or even stop what you’re doing, but try not fighting or numbing these feelings, because if you do you’re missing an opportunity to listen to what your body and brain are telling you- something needs to change. Listen, explore, and figure out what it’s trying to tell you. The solution to happiness is inside you, and you can only get there if you truly embrace what your body and brain is trying to tell you, and sometimes, you just have to stop and be with it, instead of fighting it. Let yourself cry. Let yourself grieve. Love yourself. Surround yourself as much as possible with those who love themselves and you. Only when you can tolerate pain and discomfort can you truly feel peace and happiness because of it’s absence. If you spend all your time trying to avoid feeling bad, you will always feel bad because running away also doesn’t feel good and things have a way of popping back up over and over again because we do need to face them head on and deal with them. The alternative is to keep making the same life mistakes over and over. So try embracing the pain you feel, welcome the message it is giving you. Spend less time fighting it, or trying to numb it, and try to listen to the message. When you’re able to do that, you’ll be able to endure it and possible find new ways to survive it, and then you will be able to enjoy all the times it’s absent. We have to find a way to endure pain, because there is no life without it.

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Embracing pain

2 thoughts on “Embracing pain

  1. Anne Garcia says:

    Hopefully my Like will load, also I do hope my comment loads. There is much to say about this topic. Matthew has suffered grt loss, 1 I hope I never have to endure. I agree on quite a few things here and yet also find myself feeling as if we can mentally will away our pain by embracing it as a part of life, a lesson to learn of and from psychologically speaking. Idk how long a comment can cont on ur blog. I don’t want to skip or forget the importance of saying what I’ve taken from this. In some ways you mention Mindfulness as a key to experiencing less pain and I’ve read about these studies, Idk if u are referring to psych or physical or both possibly in the reduction of pain practicing Mindfulness. I do believe we must accept both types of pain in order for our lives to move on or even our physical capabilities that have lessened due to chronic physical pain. I’ve read that w/chronic physical pain many ppl now suffer a loss of self ( whom they once were prior to chronic pain because they feel a sense of their own body has betrayed them, they can no longer physically do what they once were able to do and w/this comes anger, sadness, a feeling of worthlessness, and hopelessness). I believe we physically hurt for a reason. Pain is a signal something has happened to our body and we must either address it or choose to ignore it. Who doesn’t ignore simple physical pain? I think we all do. We know in time it will end. In a case of chronic daily pain that has altered our daily functioning due to a disease process beyond our control I still believe Mindfulness can help in controlling or slight easing of pain felt. Our brains have so much to offer along with our thought processes and our perspective over chronic pain. I believe the largest hurdle is being able to tap in2 that ‘sense’ when anyone is in the throws of severe pain. Chronic daily pain is well known to cause depression,a true loss of self,a process of grief over that must be accepted over loss of whom u were. It’s also well known as a cause of suicide due to the unnecessary suffering from not having just a few days of never being pain free but a few days of pain that’s tolerable. Chronic pain is exhausting. I’m not referring to something Advil or Ibuprofen or an Asprin can relieve. Many ppl don’t have the money for Alternative medical treatment. For some Mindfulness isn’t achievable.How wonderful it would be if this was the cure we all could have. Not everyone is able to tap into that place. For those whom don’t experience daily incapacitating chronic pain? I don’t believe the person who doesn’t can say how easy it is if u just think ‘this way’. This is like saying to 1 whom suffers mental illness- it’s mind over matter or if u just do this u won’t be depressed. For psychological pain we all I believe know this pain possibly brought upon by a close friends betrayal, a childs suffering, a loved ones suffering, those who’ve let us down in any important aspect in our lives that we never thought would happen. An adult childs shunning of a parent who did nothing to deserve that severity. We must embrace, grieve, forgive, and finally release this pain in order to move on.No? Question ourselves,our possible wrongs, our own hurtful words all must be scrutinized imo.Also imo no one has any right to treat another as worthless, to displace,ignore, abuse, or make one feel unloved by purposeful action. I won’t allow anyone to treat me this way.If I’ve wronged a loved 1, I prefer to talk it out but unfortunately when the other person wants nothing to do with u it eventually becomes quite pointless. This point to me is where I move on for myself.If I know I’ve done all I can do to rectify and been met with resistance and indifference over and over there must come a time for me to say ‘enough’ for I have value, I have worth and you can no longer continue to hurt me. I hope my comment hasn’t offended anyone. Not my intent. I believe your post was an excellent 1 Rhonda and I ty for it.

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    1. Anne, you are completely right. I have seen many people struggle with constant physical pain and those people need to be taking the meds that actually control it – Methadone, Suboxone, and Morphine and not question it. No on should have to endure that pain and no one can function with that pain. But I’ve also seen both sides – people who rely on those meds forever and shouldn’t, and those who refuse to take them and should. Pain has to be relieved somehow because otherwise there is no quality of life or function. You make many many good points. My main point I was trying to get to, in case I didn’t quite make it, was that it’s a message that something has to change, and sometimes we try too hard to numb it or run from it, when to recover we actually need to let ourselves feel it.

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