In Western cultures, particularly, we appear to experience some confusion or ambivalence around the concept of pain. In one respect we seem to treat pain as something 'to be avoided at all costs', often culminating in the demand for a 'cut it off' or 'blot it out' treatment approach. Yet in another way, we see it as quite unavoidable. After all, pain is a part of life.
The meeting place of these views presents us with the dilemma of 'having' to experience something that we 'must get rid of' at all costs, whether that be through medication, surgery or some other form of external intervention. However, many a parent will be familiar with the immediate relief that a 'Band Aid' can bring to the pain and suffering of an injured child, whether the injury be a bruise or abrasion.
In a related way, many of the clients we assist in rehabilitating from a serious injury will report that the experience of pain came long after the actual occurrence of the injury. Additionally, when invited, these clients may also notice the experience of the pain or discomfort fluctuating throughout the day, where periods of the pain may be less bothersome at times, and perhaps even 'unnoticed' at other times (often reported as periods of 'distraction').
These discoveries can often surprise a client who can be 'caught in the thought' that their experience of pain is unalterable and ever-present. These noticings can also point to natural, recurring and often unconscious ways that we use to modify, alleviate, dissociate from, lessen, soften, distort and even accept the discomforts we are all dealt.
There is a great variety of natural ways that we all use to manage discomfort of various sorts. These techniques can be quite deliberate and designed from a logical, common sense approach. Indeed, it would make sense to most of us for example to avoid situations that might aggravate an injury or cause us unnecessary discomfort. Ways to manage pain might include:
Allocating, dividing and limiting our time to conduct certain activities
Learning new ways to perform tasks
Learning general relaxation techniques, including breathing techniques, meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis, Bio-feedback and Neuro-feedback
Learning to relax specific muscle groups
Experimenting with and designing different goals
Exploring different ways of achieving established goals.
These methods, and ones like them, are all learnable, designable and open to discovery and negotiation. They provide fertile ground for counselling interventions where much can be achieved with thoughtful exploration, experimentation and planning.
Alternatively, many techniques may be less noticable to us.
Let's ask an esoteric question, like 'Am I really suffering at the times that I may not notice the sensation I call pain?'
Most pain that we experience can really seem as though the experience of it is constant, especially for those injuries or conditions where the term 'chronic' or continual pain seems to apply. Yet, many of our clients report that a major strategy for managing their pain is to keep their mind busy - to distract themselves from their discomfort. In fact, most of us who have experienced pain of various sorts can recall periods when we really hadn't noticed it so much for a period of time.
We have noticed that our experience of pain can and does change in our daily lives. That's natural. But these potent and natural effects appear to be associated with a quality relative to attention, and point usefully to the relationship between one's noticing and experience of sensation.
Many clients find the use of hypnosis and self-hypnotic strategies invaluable in their repertoire of managing skills. Hypnosis has long served as an effective and powerful mechanism in the management of pain.
What if ... you discovered that your mind has the potential to offer you natural and powerful ways of managing pain? Imagine that.