The "If.........then" Dilemma
How many times have you told yourself, "If I could get rid of this pain, then I could plan that vacation, do more things with my children. Or, if I didn't have this anxiety, then I could enjoy going out with my friends. Or, if I could stop these thoughts from coming, I would be happy again.
It seems that a significant amount of our effort and energy is devoted to "keeping things at bay." This often leads to exhaustion and more frustration. Our life becomes about the struggle to eradicate or avoid painful sensations, thoughts and feelings. When we are unsuccessful in these impossible endeavors we begin to see ourselves as a failure, or less than whole. The implication is there's something wrong with me, otherwise I could control these things.
What if we could create a space for these uncomfortable sensations, thoughts, and feelings? Instead of attempting to plug all the holes, what if we made room within ourselves to embrace our experience and learn something from it. Williams, Teasdale, Segal, and Kabat-Zinn (2007) have observed "When we stop trying to force pleasant feelings, they are freer to emerge on their own. When we stop trying to resist unpleasant feelings or sensations we may find that they drift away by themselves. When we stop trying to make something happen....fresh and unanticipated experiences become accessible to us."
The following is a brief experiential exercise that can assist you in this approach. You decide on the time frame. You can do it in as little as 3 minutes or 10 minutes.
Sit for a few minutes in a comfortable posture and notice the rhythm of your breathing, the flow of air in and out as well as the rise and fall of the chest and abdomen. Let your body do the work for you and enjoy the movement. Then widen your awareness to your body as a whole.
When you are ready, see if you can bring to mind a difficulty that is going on in your life at this moment. It does not have to be critical, but somewhat unpleasant or unresolved. Once you are focusing on this troubling thought or situation, see if you can notice any physical sensations in the body that the difficulty evokes. Approach these feelings and sensations out of curiosity, as an investigator would and embrace them without trying to change or get rid of them. One way to embrace them is to direct your breath into that part of the body exploring the sensations. Notice the edges of that space, allowing your breath to fill that area and make room for those feelings and sensations. On the out-breath notice how the intensity of these sensations shift up and down one moment to the next. Remember that you're doing the observing, and you're the container for everything your experience. When you've finished reflect on your experience and notice if your relationship to those sensations, feelings and thoughts have changed.
News & Updates
discussing the importance of focusing on valued living while in pain and one of our graduate successes (from the WGVU Morning Show with Shelly Irwin).
More than the programs ...
At The Pain Center, all of our doctor's and therapists see patients outside of the programs. If you have a new injury, significant stressor, severe pain flare-up or need to adjust your home exercise program - come back to the team that you trust. We're happy to help.
Have a question about a flare up?
You are still a part of The Pain Center family. If you ever have a question, please give us a call at 616.233.3480 and we'd be happy to answer it.