When life is dominated by the next appointment
Most people I see have a long story of pain. Frequently there has been years of suffering that has and does impact upon their life. For some their days are strung together by appointment after appointment as they search for an answer to their pain. The key that unlocks that door is understanding pain. To understand pain is to know what you can do to move onward in a chosen direction. Undoubtedly, we can be successful in overcoming pain because it can and does change. We are constantly changing, like the water of a river, there is constant movement in one direction. Embracing and harnessing our potential enables us to live a meaningful life.
Whilst seeking an answer, there are always boundless doctors and therapists who offer solutions. Skipping the understanding bit and hastening to a remedy or treatment is often the way, yet the foundation is not in place. We must understand our pain to gain a sense of meaning, to know that we need not fear pain and instead to focus on certain practices and skills to enable change.
Expectations are typically low in chronic pain, which affect outcomes. The promise of success followed by yet another failure hits hard. Some people even blame themselves as the self-critic chips in. Developing self-compassion is a key skill as we learn to be patient with ourselves, let go of blame and focus on living well. To be harsh towards oneself is to provoke the same biological protection as when we feel pain. Of course our expectations are based on what we know, past experience and in the moment adjudication of the likelihood the treatment will work (based on what we already know again). In essence it is a prediction as is our current perception. The wonderful thing about being human is that we can change the prediction and infer something else. It is time to expect to get better. To expect that life will be full of challenges, but to expect to face them, learn and move on in a meaningful way. This starts with understanding pain.
One of the issues with on-going appointments is that the person maintains their focus on pain in their life. There is plenty more to define the person than their pain. What we focus upon we get more of, is a loose rule. If pain becomes dominant and rents much space in our conscious capacity, then there is little room for anything else. We must make space and while we are attending appointment after appointment, no space is being carved out. But I need the appointment because I must check and see if I have…….. etc, you may say. It is true that we must elimate any serious pathology or injury that necessitates repair, but beyond that, if the focus is upon living well and practicing such skills, then getting better is possible. The roundabout of consulting rooms is not.
~ pain and injury are not synonymous
Regular readers know that pain and injury are not synonymous. They are different. And they are poorly related. We have known that for years yet the modern approach persists in a search for a structure or pathology to explain pain. There is no such thing as pain is a body, or whole person state. Like fear, like love, like hunger. You can see none of these because they are lived phenomena, experienced by a person and embodied by a person. A herniated disc, a disc bulge, an inflamed tendon, none are pain. Pain is a state of protect that emerges in the person in the face of perceived threat. Yes, these visible changes can co-exist with pain, of course. But they are not pain and not the cause of pain. The cause of pain is a perceived threat. It is how we and our body systems (they are not separate) interpret what is going on in our body but within the context of this moment (emotional state, environment, who we are with, what we are doing, prior events etc) that determines whether we feel pain or not. You will note from this description all the opportunities we have to change pain, because pain is part of me as much as my ears or my hair so it is mine to change. The change begins with understanding pain.
So, once you have seen the relevant specialists and determined that there is no serious pathology or injury that needs repair, and it has been confirmed that this is a problem of pain, then you can focus on getting better. This is through the practice of the skills of well-being whilst maintaining a course towards your picture of success, the healthy you with purpose.
Open space in your life to live well and be inspired to reach your potential, because you can.