Physical Pain "Management"
While I sit here trying to think of a nifty illustration to
get into this section, my daughter's adorable 12-week-old kitten is climbing
around on me. He has been working his way up and down the back of my chair and
going back and forth across my shoulders. As he works his way down to my legs
and makes an attempt for the floor he slips and tries to catch himself on my
bare leg. The two outside claws on one
front paw dig efficiently into my skin as he drops. My reaction was not pretty.
The little monster drew blood.
We all know what pain is. We all know the different types of
pain. There is no need to dwell on the science of pain. What we need to be
concerned with is our attitude towards pain.
Physical pain is a good thing, we need pain. Any good captain
wants to be informed when something goes wrong with the ship. I could have
bled out from the cat scratch if I did not feel it. Thankfully there was very
little blood, and I am now only concerned with infection, gangrene, the loss of
my leg or cat scratch fever (whatever that is).
The largest obstacle to dealing
with pain artfully is you. Here is why. We spend way too much time thinking
about our self. We are self-oholics. One of the many aspects of this disease is that we naturally judge the pain to
be bad because we do not want it, and we react emotionally. Of course we do not
want it, no captain wants to hear, "the engine in on fire!", but why
would he get irritated, angry, or frustrated at the messenger?
With these points in mind, let
us use a more enhanced definition for pain. Pain is your emotional reaction
to the negative messages from your body to your mind. The worse our
emotional reaction the higher degree of pain we experience. We want to focus on
how we feel about the pain and not how the pain feels.
The first step is to get your
head off of yourself and accept the messenger, we need him. He lets us know when
there is something wrong. Without him we would have no idea if something were
going wrong inside the ship. Can you be thankful for pain? If he is persistent, if
he is loud, he is just doing his job. If you react emotionally to him he will
just get louder and more persistent.
Living Artfully involves paying attention to the pain messenger and not selfishly reacting to him. If you listen to the messenger carefully and let him know you are fully aware of the problem he may become less loud and persistent and perhaps go away all together. Confronting the messenger serves no purpose. You cannot fight pain and win.
This exercise is exactly the
same as Section 3 except for the breathing and release steps.
Remember the Rules
Do this in a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Keep in mind you can adjust these steps and do whatever in comfortable for you.
Step 1. Breathe Out.
This is a
very common step actors and athletes perform before any event. Take a deep
breath in and hold it for a moment, as you tense your body. Now breath out
forcefully. With that outflow of air, take note of the release of your physical
and emotional tension.
Step 2. Center Up.
Find a chair you can sit straight in. Stand in front of the chair and place your feet shoulder length apart. Sway in different directions and find your center of balance. Then sit in the chair. Do not move your feet; keep them in contact with the floor.
Center the spine. This has a direct influence on your state of mind; you feel more attentive and positive when your spine is straight. With your shoulders back and your head up and move your body in different directions until you find your center. Hold that position and do not rest your elbows on the arms of the chair.
Step 3. Widen Out.
Look at an object directly in front of you and focus on it. Without moving your eyes notice how many other objects you can see, and how far to the left and right you can see, take your time. Now take a big mental snap shot of the whole picture and hold it for a few moments.
Step 3. Take inventory
Close your eyes and take an inventory of all the noises in the room, mentally check them off as you find them.
Step 4. Breathe
state of mind you have just cultivated and focus on only your breathing. Listen
carefully to each breath and count softly each time you exhale. When you get to
10 go back to 1.
After a few minutes give your attention to any pain
messengers from your body, take in the loudest or the softest. As you give your
attention to the pain remember to keep breathing. Try not to react just observe
and focus closely on the pain, accept it, softly exhale, focus, and exhale,
back and forth, over and over, just like rocking gently in a chair. Go from one
pain messenger to the other and remember the rules, no judging, no
expectations, and no frustrations.
Do not forget, your thoughts will drift, and that is okay,
acknowledge them and then give your attention back to your breath and your
messenger. If you drift a thousand times just gently go back a thousand times.
If you can, do this for at least 15 minutes or more.
Step 5. Release
are finished, open your eyes and recall the pain messengers that came to your
attention, describe to yourself the loudest most persistent message as if you
were talking to a doctor.
During your daily activities you can go directly to the
focus, accept and breathe technique whenever a pain messenger demands your
attention. As you exhale you will feel the pain soften and perhaps go away.
Reread this information often to make sure you are not forgetting any points or steps.
Food for Thoughts
Study: Why Does Feeling Low Hurt? Depressed Mood Increases the Perception of Pain