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More on Mindfulness and Pain
Thursday November 10th 2005, 9:57 am
Filed under: health / healing
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I was revisiting my 8/05/05 blog on Mindfulness and Chronic Pain today to see who had written, and I was stunned by how many friends – some of you whom I have only just met – experience some kind of chronic pain. I would like to take this opportunity to invite you back to that blog for a few of my individual responses to your comments. Thank you so much! In addition, I’d like to start another conversation about how we manage pain and the accompanying fear. Several of you gave me some food for thought that I’d like to reflect and hopefully exchange some thoughts and healing energies. My thoughts focus around pain, remedies, fear, and mindfulness.

Pain: Given the huge separation of body, mind, and spirit that are part of our intellectual heritage, I think we have a distorted view of pain. I know that when I am in pain, I tend to think of it purely as physical. When I look more deeply, though, there are so many aspects to pain. Last blog I commented about the place of fear in the cycle of chronic pain. I think the emotional aspects of pain are really huge. In Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, she talks about the relationship between our emotional selves and illness and pain. Is there a relationship between “carrying the world on your shoulders” and having chronic neck and shoulder pain? Between having a job that “eats you up inside” and developing ulcers? When we bottle up our emotions, something’s got to give.

Remedies: I am so thankful to live in a time where remedies abound for pain. Although I believe in my heart that if I could only gather my resources and those of the universe to heal myself without surgery, pain interventions, and drugs, I am glad I have them to fall back on or to intervene in pain that I can’t control myself. I also think that I fall in that midrange way of thinking that values some kinds of “alternative” interventions (such as chiropractic or acupuncture) simply because they are physical. When I move into the areas of psychic healing, stress management, meditation, and mindfulness, I am so conditioned to think of them as unscientific (gasp!!) that I forget to trust them.

Fear: I’ve been thinking a lot more since my last blog about fear and its relationship to chronic pain. I’m thinking that being alone with my pain, being isolated from others, is one of the greatest contributors to pain. Pain separates us from others. “Nobody can understand” (They really can’t; nobody who doesn’t have it can understand it, and we can’t truly understand another person’s pain, even if we have some of our own). “I won’t be able to backpack in the Grand Canyon with my lover” (It’s a real possibility). Sometimes the pain is so bad it makes us cranky, causes us to withdraw, makes us depressed and not fun to be around. The future: what will this do to my ability to do the work I love? Will I become disabled? How will I stay physically fit if I can’t move? I think recognizing the fear is crucial. I have a deeply ingrained ability to not know how scared I am (of everything). And as I get more “in touch” with myself, I’m starting to know, and it is terrifying. Getting out of denial is a bitch. But necessary for healing.

Mindfulness: I don’t claim to be a mindfulness expert, just a novice who is experiencing some wonderful success. I hope those of you who practice mindfulness in a more consistent way will add to this conversation. To me, mindfulness means being in the present moment, quietly and peacefully (and with a sense of humor), nonjudgmentally, observing myself, my thoughts, my emotions, my processes. When I go to that place, I notice some interesting things. First, I notice the rushing of my fearful thoughts. When I observe them without judgment, they calm. They may still be there, but they lose their chaotic nature. When I notice pain, I learn that it fluctuates and that sometimes I have a lot of it and sometimes there is very little. Just that fluctuation sometimes gives me the hope I need to let go of the fear.

So these are just some thoughts to get us talking some more. Engaging in dialogue about this can help to reduce our isolation, increase our empathy and hope.

2 Comments so far
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Thank you so much for continuing to write about this. More than once during difficult bouts of pain I’ve thought about your post, and how the inspiration I felt after reading it really did seem to help my pain. Thanks also for your response last time — I didn’t see it until you mentioned we should all check out your previous blog again.

Pain’s a bitch. Plain and simple. It is without a doubt the one force in my life that has changed me the most. It’s totally changed the way I live, the way I think, and impacted just about every corner of my life in one way or another.

People around me are supportive, but you’re right: no one can really understand your pain. Not even if they have pain themselves. I’m not the only one in my family who suffers chronic pain, but I’m sure it’s as distant to me as my pain is to them. Talking about it really helps though, as does exchanging strategies or just being sympathetic.

What I really took away from your previous blog (and this one), and what gave me the most hope, was the concept of accepting the pain as part of who you are. That doesn’t mean saying “I don’t care” but rather “this may very well be with me my whole life. I have to learn to live with it, and not be afraid of it.”

You’re absolutely right: As soon as you stop being afraid of your pain, it becomes better. I just wish not being afraid of it was easier…

Comment by eric 11.10.05 @ 5:00 pm

I am catching up on D.S. today while I’m home sick. I find myself unable to focus enough to reply right now but I’ll be back soon!

Comment by zoe 11.16.05 @ 3:30 pm

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