Who am I?
For the next couple of days I will be immersed in conversations about the sense of self and consciousness ~ see here. This is becoming a bit of a ‘buzz’ area, and rightly so. This is something we need to really understand and draw into healthcare. We are, or should be, treating people and their unique lived experiences. The predominant thinking remains dualist and is condition-focused rather than viewing a whole person, their life, their prior experiences, their beliefs and how this informs ‘now’.
Two of the best examples of conscious experiences are love and pain. In the moment of the phenomena, both absolutely dominate the ‘self’, the ‘me’. But what is the self? Some argue that the self does not exist. It is an illusion. I have some sympathy with this view because to answer the question of self, we must know where it exist ~ where is my ‘self’? And with different ‘selfs’, to which are we referring: physical self? Narrative self? Where is the ‘I’? It encompasses the whole person, but is this ‘I’ the same one that other’s experience? Whatever I consider to be my ‘self’ may not be the same that others perceive.
“Where is your ‘self’?
For some years I have supported an approach that addresses the person as much, if not more, than the condition. This means that together we consider the continuous story that results in the present moment and the context within which the person’s pain exists. The person describes their pain but digging deeper reveals the suffering they endure, and the two are different. Suffering emerges from a loss of sense of self. We even use the phrase ‘I don’t feel myself’ to describe this loss and then ‘I feel myself again’ when we are complete once more. Therefore I maintain that in treating the whole person, we are seeking to restore their sense of self according to their definition of ‘me’.
Treating a person so that they may feel a sense of complete self requires us to look at their unique causes of suffering. We can then design a bespoke programme that addresses the existing patterns by creating a new pathway, carving a way onward with new habits. A focus on what the person wants, their clarified vision of success, is vital as this provides a direction and reference point: am I thinking and acting in line with this picture? The decision to commit to this journey then becomes the day to day, moment to moment practices.
The ‘I’ reference in a particular context is what we are treating. Gaining greater insight into this sense of self will help us to sharpen our messages (explanations) and tools. Together with our ever-increasing knowledge of pain, this becomes a potent force. We seek to deliver results by providing the means to carve that new pathway forward: both the tools and the know-how. This is the essence of Pain Coaching that taps into an individual’s vast potential to get better and live meaningfully, leaving behind concept of coping and management. This is about living well because we can by making certain choices. Pain Coach presents these choices to the person.
The Sense of Self conference will enlighten this whole person approach. I look forward to bringing you cutting edge thinking and how we can use it to continue our pioneering work to change the way society thinks about and addresses pain.