New Ways to Think About Chronic Pain

  • By Lindsay Tsang
  • 05 Dec, 2016

Can Chronic Pain Actually be a Gift?

New Ways to Think About Chronic Pain

Who on this green Earth enjoys chronic pain? Obviously, when you suffer from ongoing pain it can lead to debilitating thoughts. We’ve all seen the person who drags their legs a little bit more.

Let’s be real. Chronic pain sucks. But how we approach it with our mind can be surprisingly versatile. If we have to live with it anyway, we might as well think about it in the best possible way.

Let’s start with an uncommon way to think about pain.

Pain as a gift?

There’s a book title by the name the Gift of Pain by Phillip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand. The description goes something like this: Can you imagine living in a society where there is no pain? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Dr. Paul Brand did indeed live in a society like this, it’s called a leprosy commune. He discovered the disease of leprosy did not directly affect the skin on the patients. It was because they have lost the sensation of pain. Without pain, people can reach their hands into an open fire without flinching. They can wear shoes that are too tight and not know it. Pain is the gift that alerts our body when it is going down a path that will destroy it.

I’ve once asked a client what their pain taught them. They said that it allowed them to learn the important lesson that they cannot continue going as hard as they do. That need to rest. Chronic pain could be your body screaming out for you, “slow down!” Is it possible that pain can indeed be a gift to you?

Be the Boss

Chronic pain is a loss. It could be a loss of mobility or a set-back. So it’s not uncommon for chronic pain to lead to hopelessness, anger, or depression. First of all, I want to comment that it is okay to feel these emotions. Your emotions are there to teach you something. Don’t fight them, listen to them.

That being said, it is easy to fall into a victim mentality. The pain could seem overwhelmingly huge and boss you around. This is the mentality shift I want you to change to. Become the boss of your pain. Acknowledge it, but choose to control it.

Really, there are only 3 major ways to think about your pain. 1) Embrace your reality 2) Change your reality 3) Focus on other more important things.

Embrace Your Reality

The first way to think about pain is to make peace with it. Mindfulness, for example, is about allowing pain to just be and now judging or evaluating it. When you allow yourself not to get too worked up about your pain, it tends to lessen.

One good thing to do is to also measure it. Start a pain journal so you know exactly when in the day you have the most pain. When in the week you have most pain. Observe it. Put it on a scale of 1-100. Now remember that 100 stands for excruciating pain…like childbirth. Where does your pain land on that scale? You may be surprised to find; it might not be as much as your mind is telling you. Another benefit of journaling is that you can now budget your time around your pain. Do most activities when you feel less pain. Find time to rest when you have the most.

Change Your Reality

Instead of being a victim, do something about it!

Start making a plan of action against your pain, get help, and do whatever you can. With this mindset you’ll at least know that you’re doing your part in being a boss over your pain.

Why not inquire about different types of therapy? Naturopath, diet, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, the list is endless. Try one or two new things and stick with it for a while to see the effects.

Consider your plan for general health too. How’s your diet? How’s your sleep? Are you exercising? By all means, make a plan and just do something about it.

Focus on More Important Things

One important question to ask yourself: “What opportunities did pain give me?”

Sure it has slowed you down in aspects of your life. But slowing down also gives you new opportunities. Did you have new opportunities for creativity? Maybe it was time to connect with some people you haven’t had time to. Perhaps you’re finally taking a time to rest and think. Perhaps this is the best time to re-think and plan what is important for you and your values.

Conclusion

Chronic pain isn’t pleasant. But yet, you can have the mindset of taking advantage of this season of life. You may be surprised that pain can indeed become a gift.

Remember you’re not alone in this. Find a support group and learn from others who are also going through chronic pain. And if you’re in need for another person to join you in the process, feel free to give me a call or fill out the form below.

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