May 2013 
The Pain Center |  Live More Comfortably  |  eNewsletter Header

We hope this note finds you continuing to do well and living your valued life. The article below by Howard Hillman, one of the Pain Center's psychologists, can help you maximize your ability to function.

Making Room for Sadness

Can you recall a specific time when sadness entered your life?  Maybe it occurred during a time of disappointment, when things did not work out as planned, or witnessing your child struggle at school over a failed friendship, or walking with a loved one or close friend through an illness.  Sadness is certainly a normal and expected response to unfortunate events.  Sadness can evolve into persistent depression depending upon our response.


Can you recall how you responded to your sadness?  Our societal message portrays sadness as an enemy or outside normal human experience.  We often judge our sadness as abnormal or "something must be wrong with me otherwise I could shake it off."  Have you noticed that the more we struggle with sadness it fills a greater portion of our experience?  In fact, our life becomes about the struggle to erase it   and less about living.  As we focus on how our life "should be" we judge ourselves as "broken."  This often leads to despair about our "condition" and now we are trapped within ourselves. 


What if we were willing to open up to this sadness?  Instead of seeing it as some "thing" to get rid of, suppose we give it permission to be there and acknowledge that it's here for a reason!   The following is an experiential exercise that will assist you in changing your relationship to the feeling of sadness.  It is simply respecting and being mindful of our emotional experience and can be completed in 5-7 minutes.


  • First, sit upright in a comfortable chair, feet on the floor and hands resting on your thighs.


  • Second, close your eyes or lower your gaze, whichever is more comfortable for you.


  • Third, notice your breath, the flow of air in and out, particularly the coolness of the air on the in-breath and warmth on the out-breath.  Notice the movement of your abdomen and chest with each breath.  Become your breath for a few moments.


  • Fourth, Notice how your ears immediately open as you begin this exercise.


  • Fifth, notice what it feels like to sit in your chair, sensations of your feet against the floor and where your body presses against the chair.


  • Sixth, after approximately 3-5 minutes follow the movement of your breath throughout your body, allowing it to settle or enter the area where you physically experience your sadness.  Allow the breath to expand this area, essentially creating more space for it to be there.  Allow it to" just be" without attempting to alter or change this experience.   Remind yourself that you are the person behind your feelings, thoughts and sensations, a willing container if you will.   Finally, observe how your relationship changes with your feelings as you step out of the struggle with them, realizing that they do not define you as a person.     


News & Updates
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.

Nicole DeHaan, PT
Physical Therapist 
The Pain Center at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital
In This Issue
Making Room for Sadness
News & Upates
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