Nature versus nurture when it comes to chronic pain and illness

July 1, 2022

If you live with a health condition, as I do with a chronic movement disorder called dystonia which is accompanied by pain, I have to be very careful how I manage my life. What I mean is how I manage my symptoms with treatments and therapies, self-care, how I emotionally relate to myself and what I am going through, and how I allow circumstances and people in the world impact the way I feel. This brings me to a question… What is your nature as a human being and does it nurture your health condition or do you instead beat yourself up and allow external factors fuel negative emotions?

This came to me as I was speaking with a coaching client the other day. She is someone who has an angry nature about herself, which she is well aware of and admits and we talk about from time to time when it is playing too much of a role in her health. What she does not do enough, which she also talks to me about, is nurture herself. Instead, she looks at her health condition and everything else she does not like about her life and the world in general, in an angry, non-nurturing way. It has become habitual where she is in angry reaction mode to things that don’t even matter and things over which she has no control. As a result, her health problems are dramatically impacted.

Further, because she is in this reactionary mode frequently, her stress levels remain high. This keeps her stuck in fight/flight mode where her perception of her health is often catastrophized. Please see the image below that shows this cycle. I have shared this in other blogs because it is such an important visual for us to see how it works within us. AND it is within a lot of us! In chapter 2 of my new book, Beyond Pain and Suffering: Adapting to Adversity and Life Challenges, I talk a lot about this subject.

If we constantly fight against ourselves and against others and against difficult circumstances, what does this anger bring us? More often than not it brings us more suffering because we are trying to control things that are out of our control and we are trying, in a most futile way, to change the natural flow of life. The only real control we have is our response to things. Constantly fighting also increases stress hormones in the body which dramatically increase health problems and dramatically increase our chances for developing health problems if we don’t already have one.My suggestion is that you learn to better nurture yourself and your problems, be it health related or something else. Tap more into that love and care you more readily give to others than yourself. You deserve the same.

Think about this… if you see someone experiencing the exact problem you have right now, how would you treat them and care for them? Do you treat and care for yourself the same way? If not, that needs to change. You deserve that nurturing too!! Non-nurture equals non self-care, of which we need a plentiful amount. Give yourself a break rather than a kick in the ass.

Just like everyone, I also get angry which is fine if we remain angry only for a short period time or if anger is used to motivate us to make change. If anger becomes our habitual response to all undesirable life circumstances, just like that client I mentioned earlier, we will remain in a state of misery and suffering and pain and feel like the world is out to get us. Rather than let anger run my life, my working motto is, “how do I make the best of a difficult situation?” This keeps me in a proactive mindset. It is also a way for me to practice self-compassion.

Take some time and figure out what your nature is. Even if you have an angry nature, that’s okay if it used in an appropriate way. With all of your qualities, no matter what they are, how can you utilize them to turn your nature into nurture so it best serves your health?


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 NetworkThe Mighty, and Patient Worthy. To learn more about Tom, get a copy of his books (also on Amazon), or schedule a free life coaching consult, visit Follow him on Twitter @Dystoniabook1 and Instagram.







6 responses to “Nature versus nurture when it comes to chronic pain and illness”

  1. Laura Morgan says:

    I am actually a caregiver by profession. But I have to confess that although I do take care of myself, I tend to push myself harder than I would a client. Ex.: I hurt so bad this morning, my first thought was to stay home, but the need of my clients had me pushing past the pain and going into work. Thankfully God blessed me and gave me some relief from the pain.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Laura. Thank you very much for sharing that. I think the work of a caregiver is often overlooked and I just want to say thank you on behalf of so many of us. We respect and honor your commitment to us!

  2. Linda Tingle says:

    I sound a lot like that woman! I think so negatively all the time! I used to always be the victim, but am getting out of that, thankfully! I am a pretty healthy 71 year old woman but suffer from severe anxiety. I’m taking three blood pressure pills a day because of it. When I’m out in public, my bp goes up; the systolic number and that’s from my unfounded anxiety.

    • Tom Seaman says:

      Hi Linda- I understand what you mean about the anxiety of being in public. We have to remember that most people we see we will never see again, and those that we do know, what a great opportunity to educate them and share with them what is going on. People are much more caring that we think and want to help and pray for us and be supportive. We just have to give them a chance. Instead of defaulting to fear, I would shift your thinking to look forward to encounters with people. Doing this will change the intention you set for how you want to feel before it even happens.

  3. Babette Wight says:

    Thanks for the great reminder to nurture ourselves and not get trapped in anger.

  4. Babette Wight says:

    Thanks for the great reminder to nurture ourselves and to move away from self defeating

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