Don’t let your obnoxious pain get under your skin
If you live with pain, you know how debilitating and life changing it can be, and how it can dictate your entire days’ activities, as well as your moods. Because pain can often impact our level of activity, and of course because of how naggingly uncomfortable pain itself is, it’s very easy to lash out in anger, bitterness, frustration, etc. While it is important to vent, I want to share with you why these emotions need to be changed in order to reduce overall suffering.
To me, pain is like an obstinate, bratty kid that loves when you get angry at their antics. What do bratty kids do when they know they have gotten under your skin? They increase their bratty behavior until they are ignored or firmly and consistently disciplined. It’s fun for them, like a game. This is the same with pain. The angrier you get at your pain, the more pain you are going to experience. Just like the brat, when you lash out at your pain it says, “Ha! Gotcha. Now I own you and I will rule your life.”
This is because anger and other emotions cause an increase in a hormone called adrenaline, also known as epinephrine. Adrenaline is produced by a stress reaction to pain and other unwanted sensations or experiences in life, which causes more pain, then fear, worry, anxiety, and panic, all of which produce more adrenaline and then more pain. The cycle continues over and over If we don’t step in and consistently discipline our minds to NOT emotionally react to it. Below is a great image to show how the pain, adrenaline, fear, and emotional reaction cycle works (Retrieved from: http://cbt4panic.org/this-mistake-leads-to-a-cycle-of-fear-adrenaline-fear-adrenaline/).
Just like it is best to kill people with kindness when they act in a rude fashion, we need to do the same thing with pain to keep our negative emotions at bay to reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. The less stress, as we all know, the less our symptoms and the less we suffer. We just need to change the way we communicate with our pain, because when we change our reaction to pain, we change the chemistry in the body in our favor. Below is an image that depicts how many of us react when we are caught in the pain cycle, which keeps it alive more than it needs to be (Retrieved from: http://cbt4panic.org/this-mistake-leads-to-a-cycle-of-fear-adrenaline-fear-adrenaline/).
Some people might read this and think that I am saying that pain is all in our head and we can control it by changing our thoughts. This is not at all what I am saying. What I am saying is that we can reduce the intensity of pain by reducing the intensity of our emotional reaction to it. Others may read this and think I am suggesting that we give in to our pain. This is also not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that we need to stop feeding it with emotions because it increases pain, as mentioned. It’s a biological fact.
Pain is just like that annoying bratty child. They both thrive on getting us riled up. Just like cancer cells thrive on sugar, pain thrives on adrenaline and adrenaline is created with anger, fear, worry, and panic. Don’t let your obnoxious, bratty pain get under your skin. It will always win when we do this. You can read more about all of this along with coping strategies in my new book, Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges, as well as my first book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey.Pain is just like a bratty child. They both thrive on getting us riled up. Just like cancer cells thrive on sugar, pain thrives on adrenaline and adrenaline is created with anger, fear, worry, and panic. Click To Tweet
I have pain from dystonia every day, but this article was not prompted by the pain I have from dystonia, although it has been through 20 years living with pain from dystonia that taught me a lot of this. What prompted this particular article is a recent injury to my lower back. It was nothing major, but it came out of nowhere one morning and my first reaction was anger and dread because I knew it would slow me down and I didn’t need one more thing on top my existing challenges.
I then stopped myself because I knew that I could not get upset with this pain because when I did, I could literally feel the muscles tensing up around the area that was already injured. So rather than allow the adrenaline to rush in by getting emotional about the pain, I slowed my mind and my movements by half, and have been doing this now for 3 days, to my benefit.
I then of course used ice, heat, massage, trigger point tools, Oska Pulse (Pemf device), rest, and other things to target the pain. But these protocols would have little benefit if I remained in a state of anger, frustration, or sadness. I had to make myself calm my mind, trust in my body’s ability to get better, and then focus my attention on what activities I COULD do that still made my day fulfilling. This is what I am urging all of you to do. The research is vast in the area of the pain/adrenaline cycle, so please be careful with your emotional reaction to your chronic or acute pain issues. Or, as I like to look at it, don’t let the bratty, little kid get under your skin. It will make you miserable.
Tom Seaman is a Certified Professional Life Coach in the area of health and wellness, and the author of 2 books: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey (2015) and Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges (2021). He is also a motivational speaker, chronic pain and dystonia awareness advocate, health blogger, volunteer for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) as a support group leader, and is a member and writer for Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, The Mighty, Patient Worthy, and The Wellness Universe. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit www.tomseaman.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.