Posts tagged ‘chronic pain’

February 3, 2013

Path to the present: Find meaning in life

by Dave P.

Do you suffer from existential nausea? What you may need is some Existential Alka-Seltzer — a pill the size of an automobile hubcap that, when dissolved in water, takes away the queasy feeling induced by too much awareness of life. You may also find it helpful after eating Mexican food.
~ Adapted from Woody Allen’s The Condemned

How much time do you waste ruminating about your past or worrying about your future? Do you spend a lot of time daydreaming?

People are happiest when they’re absorbed in what they’re doing, but events from the past can interrupt or prevent a state of ‘flow.’ You may have been abused as a child, which damaged your self-esteem. You may have been bullied at school or work, which damaged your sense of confidence. You may have a learning disability, which affected your self-efficacy. Any of those things can give you social anxiety, which affects your ability to form close relationships.

One of the keys to living in the present is finding meaning in life. Meaning can come from a variety of sources, but most comes from a desire to improve the world in some way, whether it’s helping people overcome their problems, teaching, political activism, environmental causes, or even self-improvement.

When you have strong meaning in life, the small, negative things don’t bother you. You don’t spend a lot of time ruminating or worrying because you’re content in the present working towards a goal. Meaning pulls you toward a specific destination. When we’re not living in the present, we need to be pushed. We need to be pushed out of bed, pushed to clean up the house, pushed to go to work, pushed to do most everything. When you have a strong pull towards something positive, you have strong, natural motivation.

Pull is sometimes negative. When you’re in pain, you seek out pain relief, so you might be pulled towards alcohol, drugs, pornography, promiscuous sex, cutting, or other sources of pain relief. Those types of activities might relieve the pain for a little while, but afterwards, they leave you feeling even worse. They’re like the Sirens’s song, luring you in with a promise of ecstasy, but then leaving you shipwrecked on the rocky cost of life.

May 19, 2011

Living with pain

by Dave P.

I’ve been having a pretty severe pain in my knee for the past week or so. I don’t remember banging it on anything or straining it, but it hurts like hell — especially after I’ve been sitting for a while and then get up and walk. I played a tennis match a few days ago and played with the pain. It was the only break in the rainy weather we had for a while and I wanted to take advantage of it.

A few minutes ago, our dog came into my office looking like she wanted to go outside. As I got up, I grimaced a bit from my knee pain. But then I decided to just accept the pain as an interesting sensation. As I walked down the stairs, I observed the pain without judging. It was just there. And as soon as I did that, my suffering diminished. I was still stiff and it didn’t stop me from limping (we can’t control our autonomic reflexes), but it was no longer excruciatingly painful.

When we’re in pain, much of the suffering comes from rejecting the pain. If we accept it, we eliminate the fear and anger. We relax. The muscle tension that causes much of the pain subsides and we suffer less.

Jon Kabat-Zinn introduced the practice of mindfulness for treatment of chronic pain back in 1979. He calls it Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction or MBSR, and it has been effective in treating chronic pain and anxiety. Today, there are mindfulness treatment and learning centers around the world.