Emotions and thoughts are at the root of chronic pain for many people. To cope effectively with chronic pain, it is important to pay attention to both thoughts and emotions and learn to notice and eventually modify them. In essence, the way you think and feel affects your pain. Learning to work with thoughts and emotions gives you a handle on how to control your pain. Many people shun the idea of working with thoughts and emotions—suggesting that this means the pain “is all in my head.” My response to those folks is: “Where else do you think it is?” Perhaps not all, but the vast majority of the pain experience, and consequently your ability to affect and ultimately reduce pain, lies with your thoughts and emotions. If the only work you are doing is to attend to the sensation of the pain and you don’t address the rest of the experience—the suffering—you are missing the most important work you can do with the ways you think and feel about the pain. And the work allows you to make a significant impact on your experience of pain. It gives you more control of your experience of pain. There is a tremendous variability in the ways in which people cope with pain and its consequences. Your beliefs and attitudes are the most important components in your ability to change your perceptions of your pain and thus diminish your suffering.
Your beliefs and attitudes are the most important components in your ability to change your perceptions of your pain and thus diminish your suffering.
There are many therapeutic techniques that have been proven to help individuals with chronic pain. Here are three commonly used interventions:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Mindfulness meditative practices
All three methods are geared to enhancing the function of the parasympathetic nervous system and diminishing the high levels of sympathetic nervous system activation. There are many similarities among these therapies, and each builds on the others. This blog post is an excerpt from A Day Without Pain (Revised) by Mel Pohl, MD, FASAM; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).