What would you do without your pain?

As discussed in my last blog, being preoccupied with pain can be all-consuming. For several of my clients, pain is the first thing on their minds in the morning. As soon as they wake, these clients actively seek out their pain, scanning their body for it and, if/when it is found, judge the intensity and quality of it. Likewise, it is often the last thing on their minds in the evening as they turn in for the night. As they lie in bed, they may review how their pain was during the day, notice how it feels currently, and dread how it may affect their sleep. 

When pain is your central focus, nearly all your thoughts and behaviors revolve around the pain. You continuously ask yourself many questions about it, including, How can I make it stop? Should I try this therapy, that type of bodywork, or something else? Can I [insert activity/sport of choice, e.g. walk, garden, swim] or will it cause pain? Is my pain better or worse today? Maybe I’ll improve faster if I double my rehab exercises? Do I need shoe inserts? And on and on the internal chatter goes . . . 

These concerns take up a huge chunk of your mental and emotional bandwidth and are utterly exhausting. But what would you do without them? How would you use the time and energy you are currently spending on worrying about and trying to fix your pain? Recall from last month’s blog that pain preoccupation can become addictive and that being in a stressed out state becomes your “comfort zone.” Recognizing this issue is one thing, but having the motivation to change it is another entirely.

 

Life Beyond Pain

When you are out of pain, what will your life be like? Take some time to ponder this question. Can you envision your life without pain? If you have been in pain for a long time, this can be difficult to impossible because it seems unattainable. You might also resist this idea because you have been disappointed so many times before and don’t dare hope for anything different from how things are now. And, although it may sound crazy, there may be some unrecognized fear around your recovery. There may be hidden fears about how your life will actually change as well as unknown fear about what will engage your brain when all that preoccupation with pain is gone. (Please don’t say another preoccupation. Ha!) Honestly, though, what will fill the void, not only in your brain’s thoughts and behaviors but also in your routines and relationships? 

Consider that if you are preoccupied with pain, you likely spend copious hours of your day thinking about your pain and managing your behaviors to avoid the pain. Then, you spend several more hours of your week consumed with various treatments to address your pain while at home, at office appointments, or in the gym. This routine has become comfortable. Perhaps you’ve made friends with your providers and going to appointments and workouts has become a significant part of your social life. Losing this familiarity (remember, “familiar”=”safe”) in your schedule is scary. Hence, you can stay stuck in pain because there is fear of recovery. Fear fuels pain! To relieve your pain and lower your fear of recovery, then, you need to be able to envision your pain-free future.

 

Your Recovery Vision

A vision statement is often used in coaching. I introduced the idea of a “Recovery Vision” in my book titled, Winning the Injury Game. Essentially, a vision depicts your desired result. This idea is much like the second habit, “Begin with the end in mind,” in Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s famous book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

When you create your vision, it should be as descriptive, vivid, and inviting as possible. It should engage all your senses–sight, touch, smell, hearing, taste–as much as possible. With this vision, you are creating the picture of what you really, really want in your future. This vision captures the following: what you will be doing and enjoying (career, activity/sport, leisure, etc.), where you will be living (an engaging depiction of your environment), who you will be with (relationships, community, etc.), personal characteristics (joyful, energetic, etc.), and more. Include anything you desire in your bright future. 

It takes time to create an inclusive vision. Work at it steadily for a few days and then condense it into a few sentences. It doesn’t need to be exactly right; you can always modify it. Notice how it makes you feel when you read it out loud. You may notice physical sensations such as lightness in your chest along with optimism and excitement for the future. There are several ways to use your vision. Here are a few ideas:

  • Post it in a place where you look regularly and read it daily.
  • Write it out each morning or evening.
  • Make an audio recording and listen to it each day.

Repetition of your recovery vision linked with positive emotions and sensations will wire these ideas into your brain. The clearer you are on where you are going and what your life will be like when you have eliminated the pain and the accompanying preoccupation, the safer you will feel and the quicker you will heal.

 

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About the Author

Jessica

Jessica uses an integrative approach to help you overcome chronic pain. She believes in treating the whole person utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to healing. Her offerings include posture therapy, online exercise classes, pain science education, and individual or group wellness coaching. She is certified by the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI), Egoscue University®, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Wellcoaches.