On Pain

Pain is an interesting thing. Spend enough time in it and it becomes your baseline, your normal. You stop being able-bodied gauge where your pain levels care, at least in the way you used to, in the way most people do. Other things become your sign posts – energy level, mood, sense of humor, ability to cope, short term memory. These are now the things that tell you if you’re in pain, if you need to sit down, scale back, take it easy. They’re harder to read.

And then there are the times you do notice the pain, despite all of that. The times the pain wakes you up out of a perfectly good sleep. All the dreams about being in pain. The shooting electrical pains that make you stop whatever you’re doing or create involuntary jerking motions.

People who are in chronic pain develop weird coping mechanisms. They always have a distraction going on. They have weird self-soothing rituals. They find ways to release the weird pent up energy than pain generates, like humming tunelessly.

The biggest challenge a person with pain has to overcome is the fact that, for most people, pain is a danger signal. It automatically produces anxiety, if not panic, because it’s supposed to be the message of “don’t do that.” If that is merely existing, you have to override it, or you’re going to be in a constant state of panic.

Pain automatically makes us want to avoid it or push it away. But it is in bringing our attention into it, focusing into the point(s) of pain, that we are able to turn the volume down the fastest. By focusing into the pain, we let that part of the body know it is being heard, and it starts to relax. By imagining our breath going into that space, we loosen the area even more, creating more release. It’s the same idea as naming your fears – stop pushing it away into the shadows, which increases its power. Shine a light on it instead, pay attention, and you take your power back.

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