Freedom in Pain
I stole this title because I like it very much. Nobody likes the sensation of pain, therefore we want to get rid of it, move away from it, manage it, control it…
I am not arguing which ways are right which are wrong. That’s not the point of this writing. I only want to focus on what works for the sensation of pain.
Like a lot of things in paradoxical life, managing, controlling, moving away from, getting rid of… should not be our focus or goal, they become natural side effects when something else happens.
The sensation of pain is simply a signal to tell us some important information. Like a red light on a car dashboard telling us the fuel level is low. We can, of course, do something to disconnect the light signal so it stops, but that can be dangerous if the car is running on the road. When you fill in fuel, the signal automatically goes off.
Every pain is different. There are phyical, emotional, and social pain problems. Generally speaking, the first thing we do when pain occurs is to go to see a doctor and find out what causes the pain. When the physical problems are corrected, the pain doesn’t have a reason to be there any longer.
Unfortunately, for many people, even though we get a diagnosis from a medical doctor, the pain doesn’t go away immediately. It can even become chronic and we have to feel it almost on the daily base.
Many people come to my Self-Hypnosis class to learn techniques to deal with the pain. The techniques help – such as objectifying a sensation, relaxation response, disassociation, glove anesthesia. They help to ease the sensations.
And if the students are open for this, in the class we will also introduce the idea of going into a pain, rather than running away from the pain. Paradoxical, yes I know, but that’s how life is and how life works, always paradoxical. And in paradox lies the power.
In my private practice, in the safe and relaxing setting, we would dive slowly into the pain, let the pain speak, fully feel it, communicate with it, see what memories coming up, memories that we need to look at and resolve; or what messages it has for us. This is very critical when there are emotional and psychological components to the pain – almost all pain has. Some of the stories that are told directly by the pain can be astounding. Yet to the conscious mind, it’s not so important, as my clients would say, “Really? I almost forgot this episode in my life.”
- Does your heart want to take you somewhere but you find yourself not moving or not reaching out for that desire?
- Are you benefiting in some strange way from the pain you have? Or is the pain you have a coping strategy for a perceived greater pain?
- Are you biting into some secrets/guilt that your stomach can’t digest?
- Are you taking up too much stress that your head can’t relax?
When we already have pain, treat pain as our friend. The physical sensation is never too much to take as long as we are mindful with it, which can simply mean doing nothing but sitting with it.
Communicate with it. Dive into it. It won’t become more severe. When we create a space for it, it eases. Sometimes it’s the stories we tell and the added emotions towards the pain that keep us suffer further. They say pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. There is no reason to create suffering out of pain, which is simply a signal, a friend who is trying to help us.
This is indeed very much in line with mindfulness practice. Dr. Peter Tamme, who wrote that book from which I stole the title, is specialized Mindfulness-Based Pain Therapy (MBPT). His book is about slef-help for pain. He also has a beautiful website (Link here). I’ll end this post with a quote from him:
The goal of mindfulness-based pain therapy (MBPT) is to learn how to differentiate between the natural suffering and self-made suffering, to let go of entanglement in the self-made suffering, and to find a balance between acceptance of natural suffering and the desire for change. Practicing what has been learned reinforces the mindfulness exercises (meditation).