Chronic pain can range from mild to severe, from an aching back to sharp, fiery pain in the head. It is exhausting and debilitating. Many people with chronic pain become addicted to painkillers.
It is clear we don’t want to experience pain, whether it be emotional or physical. In the west, we have a fairy tale operating that we’re entitled to a life of ease, good health and not too much loss. We feel ripped off if life doesn’t work out that way for us. We may blame and judge ourselves. We have built a culture around avoiding and distracting ourselves from pain. We have socially approved process addictions like shopping and overwork. We disapprove and shame people who resort to gambling, sex or porn or substance addictions like alcohol or drugs.
“What we resist, persists.”
It is interesting to look at our stories operating around pain. There can be a sense of “why me?” or feeling we’re being punished. “What if’s” abound. There is very often a fear that the pain will never end. We will never feel better, never recover and in fact it will only get worse. Catastrophic, anxious thoughts sweep through and carry us into suffering. We naturally tighten and contract against pain and that hardening makes it worse.
Mindfulness, breathing practices, meditation, relaxation, good sleep habits and methods like the Living Inquiries and Natural Rest can help support our nervous systems while we recover. Working skillfully with thought and mind allow us to observe thoughts for what they are – words and images arising in the mind.
Free guided relaxation and breathing practices
We have three possible responses to a thought.
A neutral thought, like ‘lemon’ most likely brings up an image of a lemon, the color yellow, perhaps some memories. Unless there is something distressing associated with lemon for you, there will be very little or no sensation triggered in the body.
A positive thought, like ‘a full moon over a calm lake’ will bring up an image of the moon, the reflection on the water. We can check our body and notice we may have relaxed our shoulders or taken a deeper breath. There is a positive association and experience in the body.
A negative thought, like ‘I will never be free of pain’ can bring a cascade of words and images and it also brings contraction and tightening in the body. Our shoulders might hunch up to protect ourselves from the pain. There might be a sensation of a black hole in the stomach.
Scott Kiloby talks about this triggering of sensation and contraction in the body from thought as the Velcro effect. He has developed a method of Living Inquiries and Natural Rest to heal and form a new relationship within where we gradually gain confidence that we can welcome whatever arises in our experience. As we develop the skill of being present with words, images and sensations, the reactivity and habitual contraction drops along with the Velcro.
Here are two blogs posts from his websites:
Contractions: Dissolving these little inner fists with gentle attention and loving kindness
The Growing painkiller addiction and the need to find alternative ways of treating chronic pain
To learn more, contact Lynn Fraser [email protected]