Invest in ME Conference 12: First Class in Every Way
OverTheHills wraps up our series of articles on this year's 12th Invest in ME International Conference (IIMEC12) in London with some reflections on her experience as a patient attending the conference for the first time.
Discuss the article on the Forums.

Pain: Seek freedom first

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by cmt12, Jan 19, 2016.

  1. cmt12

    cmt12

    Messages:
    146
    Likes:
    123
    Sometimes our initial reaction to something isn't always the most effective response. When it comes to pain, we have an innate, compulsive reaction to immediately seek relief. Pain is to be avoided.

    But if we look past this impulse, we may be able to observe another characteristic of pain: it is like an alarm going off, signaling for our attention. Two opposing forces; an impulsive avoidance signal and a more subtle inviting signal.

    Chronic pain is like walking around wearing layers of stinky shirts - everywhere we go, the foul smell (pain) follows us. Pain relief is like spraying air freshener throughout the room. No matter how much air freshener we spray, we are still wearing the stinky shirts.

    Another approach is to take off the shirt, but to do that we have to bring our awareness to it, which at first causes us to notice the bad smell even more. Nevertheless, we can't do anything to get rid of the shirt until we remove it and separate it from our body. That is the first step.

    Likewise, with our chronic pain, the first step is to bring our awareness to it. At first, it is going to seem like it is expanding as we focus on it, but this is temporary. Soon after, we can observe a separation similar to the separation of removing the shirt. The pain is still present, but as long as we are observing it, there is a certain amount of freedom. When we stop observing it, we lose that separation - the shirt is back on our body. Can you notice this?

    Spirituality is about persistently removing the shirts. Whenever there is pain present, it is an invitation to remove another stinky shirt. Again, when we first focus on the shirt, the smell will increase then when we remove it, the smell will slowly decrease. When the smell is completely gone, then we no longer have to wear that shirt and can move on to the next one. The next shirt will very likely smell worse than the last one. Faith is the idea that if we continue to remove stinky shirts, eventually there will be no more left and the bad smell will be gone for good.
     
  2. Valentijn

    Valentijn The Diabolic Logic

    Messages:
    14,090
    Likes:
    43,917
    Yeah, let me know how that works out for you next time you have a migraine or a broken limb. Mindfulness does not alleviate pain.
     
    Sea, Mel9, hellytheelephant and 7 others like this.
  3. Gingergrrl

    Gingergrrl Senior Member

    Messages:
    8,943
    Likes:
    22,142
    USA
    Or period cramps so severe you would die to make them stop. If there was a mindfulness technique for this, I think I would have found it in the past 30 years.
     
  4. roller

    roller wiggle jiggle

    Messages:
    451
    Likes:
    212
    i ignored pain. and thought it doesnt bother me too much. other things do more. until the pain was gone. only then i realized how handicapping and hindering and annoying and stalling me it was.
    it made me angry that i was tolerating it for so long.

    but... humans apparently have a nuke weapon. our opioid system.

    we know it can be adjusted by meds. but obviously it can be also by mind. self-hypnosis.
    milton erickson, probably a genius of our time, had polio or post polio or something and effectively managed to control symptoms.
     
  5. mango

    mango Senior Member

    Messages:
    895
    Likes:
    4,858
    i totally agree with @Valentijn and @Gingergrrl. sadly, physical pain usually doesn't go away by using techniques like this.

    it's far far more complicated than simply realizing the difference between "i am what I feel" and "there is pain but i'm not it"...

    this is my experience and understanding of it (simplified for the purpose of this discussion):

    the total of our suffering -- in this context -- is a combination of pain (physical and/or psychological and/or emotional, etc) and our resistance to that pain.

    what mindfulness is excellent for is reducing our resistance to what is. less resistance = less suffering.

    some kinds of emotional suffering, for example, consist almost entirely of resistance (we don't want to feel what we are feeling, we want to change something in the past, we are angry and sad about having lost something, we are afraid of something that might happen in the future etc). letting go of that resistance quite possibly makes the suffering disappear too.

    but that doesn't mean that the underlying sadness, for example, has to go away. it can totally still be there. acceptance doesn't necessarily mean that you have to like or enjoy something. you simply stop resisting it. sadness in itself doesn't necessarily mean suffering.

    some kinds of physical pain can also sometimes consist almost entirely of resistance, for example certain kinds of tension headaches. in those cases, it's quite possible that mindfulness techniques and suchlike will be helpful.

    however, to say that mindfulness will make physical pain go away is a gross exaggeration at best... sure, it may lessen our resistance to the pain, thereby possibly reducing our suffering. however, that totally depends on the nature of the pain and to what degree, if at all, the person was resisting it to begin with.

    in my experience, it never changes the physical pain itself -- it simply changes the way i'm experiencing the pain.
    no acceptance or complete acceptance -- it simply doesn't matter: the physical pain is still there, and it still bloody hurts...

    even truly enlightened people can be experiencing so much intense physical pain that they find themselves curled up on the floor unable to move, barely able to breathe. that's totally natural. that's simply a natural part of our human experience, of being a human being

    it's not helpful to try and make people believe that they can "think away" physical pain. it usually only makes them feel bad and guilty for not succeeding, when in fact not even a buddha would be able to do it...
     
    PeterPositive, Woolie, Sea and 2 others like this.
  6. brenda

    brenda Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,924
    Likes:
    1,430
    UK
    The OP is talking about chronic pain. I am sure they will agree that acute pain needs investigation or sometimes medication if a natural method cannot be found and there are various ways to relieve it even pain from injuries such as ultrasound.

    I have been unable to take painkillers for over 15 years and am in constant pain from late stage Lyme but l have learned how to switch off from it as well as avoiding all foods which make it worse like dairy.

    I had a frozen shoulder for two years and anyone who has had one knows the pain it causes but l never took anything and was able to ignore the pain.

    The opioids the body can produces need to be given a chance and if you take pain relief too soon you will not get the benefit.
     
    roller likes this.
  7. Valentijn

    Valentijn The Diabolic Logic

    Messages:
    14,090
    Likes:
    43,917
    We're talking about chronic pain too. Mindfulness doesn't make it go away.
     
    hellytheelephant likes this.
  8. roller

    roller wiggle jiggle

    Messages:
    451
    Likes:
    212
    nobody said it does.
     
    leela and brenda like this.
  9. Crux

    Crux Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,101
    Likes:
    766
    USA
    Some of our opioids are made in the pituitary, The hormone , POMC, produces endorphins and enkephalins.

    Many of us seem to have a dysfunction in the pituitary, hypothalamus,etc.

    Of course, there's our overwhelming inflammation that trumps the body's ability to ease it, pain.
     
    Sea and roller like this.
  10. brenda

    brenda Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,924
    Likes:
    1,430
    UK
    I'm not talking about making it go away but learning to live with it and switching off from it. I am sure my pituitary is malfunctioning and l have a lot of inflammation which causes interstitial cystitis. It is entirely possible in these circumstances to live without painkillers. I think my brain functioning has been protected by lack of medications. 65 years old and on nothing.
     
  11. cmt12

    cmt12

    Messages:
    146
    Likes:
    123
    In my view, the way mindfulness is taught in the mainstream as a treatment option is in opposition to what I mean. It belongs in the pain avoidance category because the priority is pain relief.

    I talked about technique, but the main idea I wanted to get across is a change in approach. Approach is everything. If our highest priority is pain relief, then we cannot persist in the technique described - it's impossible.

    The approach I'm proposing doesn't recognize pain relief. Because of this, it allows us to look past the dominant pain-avoidance impulse and instead see the pain requesting our focus and awareness, and we answer the call. This is not something we try for awhile, then evaluate our current pain level to measure progress, and then make a judgment on its overall effectiveness. We notice the pain, reject the pain avoidance impulse, and bring our focus to the appropriate location. Then repeat. It's machine-like in execution.

    This is not necessarily a "sane" practice; it is an act of rebellion. But it isn't supposed to be viewed as completely reckless because we are meant to be able to, at some level, if we're willing to look, hear the call, or the invitation that out pain is sending for our attention.

    This practice will never be a popular treatment option. Whoever tries it, shortly soon after will dismiss it as a failure and go back to prioritizing pain relief. But if we are suffering, and willing to sacrifice whatever it takes for progress -- more specifically willing to sacrifice our desire for pain relief -- this approach will present itself to us, testing our faith. This is what spirituality is about.
     
    PatJ likes this.
  12. hellytheelephant

    hellytheelephant Senior Member

    Messages:
    837
    Likes:
    4,116
    S W England
    @brenda I think we have to recognise that different people have different tolerance for pain, and what helps one person, will not be at all helpful for another.
    I agree with previous replies, that when you are in a lot of pain, being told, or reading that,if only you could think about it in a different way, can result in feeling like a failure on top of everything else! As far as not ever taking meds- that ship sailed for me about 50 years ago!

    I could not have lived the last two years without pain killers, it was not a choice- I would NOT have been able to cope. At times I have felt like I was losing my mind- all the meditation and prayer in the world would not have changed that.( and those things are very important to me). Human beings are designed not to tolerate pain but to do something about it.

    In the 21st century no one should be expected that it is up to them to switch off from seriously bad pain, and people should not feel guilty if they have to take meds.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2016
    Woolie, Sea, Maria1 and 3 others like this.
  13. brenda

    brenda Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,924
    Likes:
    1,430
    UK
    There was no intention of instilling guilt. The aim is to show that there is another way but like everything it does not suit all. My testimony was merely to prove it is possible and yes l have suffered extreme levels of pain with frozen shoulder.

    It works because of my body as it produces its own morphine. But attitude is enormously important and anyone with a negative frame of mind may find it unsuitable and will in all likelihood rebuff the idea of it.

    Of course we are to find out the source of the pain and combat infection if that is the cause. But if it cannot be fixed unless we take damaging medications, then our natural resources kick in for which our bodies were given the means.
     
    roller likes this.
  14. chipmunk1

    chipmunk1 Senior Member

    Messages:
    761
    Likes:
    2,791
    A certain amount. Not unlimited freedom or absence of pain. So if i have horrific pain and i reduce that pain by 30% it is still horrific and I would have to use painkillers (or remove the cause of the pain) to eliminate it.

    Mankind has tried to use spirituality to cure disease for millenia. I don't know of one single effective cure that came out of these attempts. Perhaps this does tell us something.
     
    hellytheelephant and mango like this.
  15. PatJ

    PatJ far and free I gaze

    Messages:
    1,733
    Likes:
    4,732
    Canada
    Using meditation to learn detachment from pain takes time and effort. This isn't something that can be done very well when in the midst of intense pain. It is possible to learn detachment from even severe pain but, like any skill, it must be practiced and developed. Some people develop the ability quickly, others take much longer, while most give it a try for a short period and then give up when it doesn't deliver quick results.

    Here is a talk by a Buddhist monk (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) about using meditation to cope with pain.

     
    cmt12 and roller like this.
  16. brenda

    brenda Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,924
    Likes:
    1,430
    UK
    I never did any of that. It just naturally happened. My mind was never focused on the pain though because l have lived with pain for so long it is no big deal. I don't have any anger or feelings of injustice about it. I think that those attitudes can make pain unbearable.
     
    roller likes this.
  17. PatJ

    PatJ far and free I gaze

    Messages:
    1,733
    Likes:
    4,732
    Canada
    Some people have a knack for adapting to pain. You're very fortunate to have found a natural way of dealing with it on your own.

    That's the problem many people face--identifying with the pain, then fighting it. "Why is this pain happening to me?" "I hate this pain! I want it gone!"

    Detaching from pain requires seeing it as "just pain", not something that is part of a person, or owned by a person. "There is pain in the leg" not "there is pain in my leg." This might sound simple minded but it's an important part of not identifying with pain. It's partly what Thanissaro Bhikkhu is talking about when he says "try to see that the body, the pain and your awareness are all three separate things".

    Deep meditation can actually make pain go away for a time due to blissful feelings, but that is temporary avoidance of pain. Detachment is better because it allows the pain to remain without becoming something the mind wants to resist or eliminate.
     
    cmt12 likes this.
  18. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,769
    Likes:
    13,132
    These are good suggestions, @PatJ. What seemed to work for me during labour was actually relaxing and letting the pain fully wash over me, rather than fighting to resist it. Yelling, screaming and generally objecting seemed to make it worse.

    Although I don't know how well that approach would work if the pain were chronic and unrelenting.

    I also worry that some of these ideas can become ugly in the hands of certain psychologists, who then claim that those in severe pain simply don't have the right psychological attitude. An absence of exceptional pain management skills somehow gets turned into a deficiency. People shouldn't be made to feel they are deficient in some way if these techniques don't work for them.

    I know you're not saying anything of the sort, just thought I'd put that out there.
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
    Cheshire, Valentijn and PatJ like this.
  19. PatJ

    PatJ far and free I gaze

    Messages:
    1,733
    Likes:
    4,732
    Canada
    In a book by Michael Crichton (called Travels) he provides some stories of his days as a doctor. In one hospital there was a general ward for low-income women who were giving birth. They were used to being resilient and adaptive, and didn't expect much help. They were calm and relaxed and rarely complained about the pain when giving birth. They experienced less pain because they didn't resist it and didn't expect any help in dealing with it.

    The women of the upper-class, private room pregnancies would usually expect (or demand) a lot of attention. As soon as the birthing pains started they would panic, resist like crazy, and scream for a spinal nerve block to prevent any more pain.

    I think Mr. Crichton commented that he learned how much expectation and reaction can change the perception of pain. This is the same reason why people who are afraid of pain will experience more of it. Resistance focuses the mind on the pain and amplifies it.

    That's a good point. No one technique will work for everyone. Some people take twenty years before their minds are calm enough to deeply meditate, others do well in a few days. It's the few days, weeks, or months crowd that will often do well with meditation, mindfulness, and detachment from pain.
     
    brenda and Woolie like this.
  20. Woolie

    Woolie Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,769
    Likes:
    13,132
    Or maybe for some types of temperaments or some kinds of pain, these sorts of techniques just simply don't ever work, no matter how hard the person tries or how long they persist. We just don't know enough to say.

    What we have here is a bag of tricks for coping with pain, which are certainly worth dipping into, to see what works and helps. But in the end, there may be no one "right" way to manage pain, its likely to be a very personal thing. I'm pretty sure that's what you're saying too, just wanted to make the point out loud.
     
    PeterPositive, PatJ, Cheshire and 2 others like this.

See more popular forum discussions.

Share This Page