The Pain Habit
Today is going to be a great day. You’ve picked up a book that has the ability to change your life, so don’t put it back on the shelf until it has. You and millions like you have pain. Persistent pain that has eluded all the conventional treatments that you have tried and, by this point, probably a pain you believe you must learn to live with. That is a perfectly reasonable belief to hold, and you can no doubt support it with lots of well-educated professional opinions and medical tests offered as proof. The belief you have formed as the reason you have to live for the rest of your life in pain is simply not true. If that’s too much for you to swallow, you may want to put the book down now. However, before you do, just consider that keeping your belief could prevent you from ever recovering from pain. If there is the tiniest possibility that you could be open to seeing a different way to take control of your pain and change your life, then hang onto your hat and keep hold of this book.
Your pain may be one that never lets up; a pain that follows a pattern that comes and goes predictably at certain times in your life. One that takes you by surprise so severely that it sometimes stops you in your tracks completely. You will have a story about that pain and your route into it that may have been a traumatic event. Many others end up in persistent pain without that level of trauma or any event. Your pain may have come on gradually and initially been mild but now has grown slowly into its current level of discomfort. You may have a diagnosis or several for your pain. You may even have several areas of your body with pains that you’re now living with. However you arrived at this point, the pain you are now experiencing dominates your life. It limits your activities or stops them, or it is present and more severe as you try to carry on with your life despite it.
The strange thing about your story and diagnosis is that, although it seems reasonable to form the basis for persistent pain, it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Many people have had the same type of physical or emotional trauma as you and are not left with ongoing pain. If you didn’t suffer trauma, and that gradual pain which became the monster it is today was attributed to a certain diagnosis, why do others with exactly the same diagnosis have no pain at all? There is someone in the world now a similar height, weight, age, and shape as you, with similar findings on X-rays or other medical investigations and the same diagnosis, but they have no pain. How is that possible?
If they are living without persistent pain and you are similar in so many other ways, how could you get the same result as that person? What did they do that you didn’t, or what did they not do that you did? It’s a riddle that confounds the person in pain and all the medical practitioners they turn to looking for an answer. What would your life look like without the pain you are now experiencing? Is that something that you genuinely would like to move towards? Not everyone does, and that is absolutely fine, as we all have control over our own lives. For some, staying in pain is easier than facing some things in their life without it. If you are prepared to face any fear related to your pain, you can make that transformation, and a life free of persistent pain is possible. No matter what the diagnosis or what the condition is you are living with.
You’re going to learn that pain is a blessing that offers guidance, not only when our hand is on something hot to warn us we could burn ourselves. You will see that pain is one of our greatest protectors and our greatest teacher. It gives lessons that we have to fully understand so the lesson can end and we can apply the learning from it in our lives. It’s not meant to be repeated in the classroom over and over again when the child is desperate to get out into the world and play. But if the child doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do, they’re often made to stay back in class when everyone else is outside having a great time. Once you understand the meaning of your pain and the lesson it is teaching you, which you can learn through this book, then the teacher stops shouting the message at you and lets you go out to play. You’re going to understand your role in this whole process and the roles other people and situations in your life that have played a part in bringing you to this point. This isn’t a blame game as that neither helps you or anyone else in the story. The understanding you’ll reach will bring responsibility, and that is yours to keep as you take the steps towards your recovery.
After over 20 years as a physiotherapist, university lecturer, researcher, and clinical educator, working with patients every day, I was always amazed at the variability of patient recoveries. Similar injuries, with no difference or complications, could be seen in patients who responded so differently throughout their rehabilitation. For the early part of my career, I thought some of this was based on what I had done with them or what I had said. I quickly recognised that this was pretty unfair and an uncomfortable feeling to hold, especially as it wasn’t necessarily true. Their recovery or otherwise was not my fault as long as I did my best with what knowledge I had. For a period after this, if there was a tendency to blame treatment failure on anyone, it may have been the patient for not doing what they were told or not doing it correctly. Fortunately, I recognised the futility of any such judgement on myself and accepted that no one is at fault and we’re all on our own journey. Everyone is doing the best with the information they have at hand. This is based on the judgements they make according to the deep-seated beliefs they hold, which provide the filter for whatever they choose to do.
My journey from the blame game to acceptance and responsibility has allowed me to understand the experience of a person in persistent pain much more compassionately. Rather than viewing the problem of pain as dominantly based on mechanical explanations, I now see it as a bigger indicator of how that person is attending to themselves and how their pain is illustrating to them that it’s time to do something different. Understanding their story means I’ve been able to show a mirror to them of their own lives when a cloud of pain and emotion had stopped them from seeing it. This has allowed them the ability to discover their own path to recovery that becomes clearer to them with every step. It is humbling to witness life-changing transformations and amazing to see patients take back the reins of their lives and accept the responsibility to maintain it. Whether that change happens in one session or over several months is not important; neither is the specific technique creating that change. It can come in many different ways, but, however change arrives, it comes from truly understanding yourself and the principles that I’m sharing with you in this book.
The Pain Habit provides an enlightening perspective of a problem that affects so many people across the globe. All with different entry points to the same world of persistent pain and adversely affecting the quality of their daily life. Gaining an awareness of the mechanisms underlying the development of persistent pain provides clues to reverse that process and find a route out of it. This knowledge is presented as information only, and it is not medical advice for you to follow. Any new pain you experience must be assessed by a relevant medical professional in your locality. Once that has been done — and with persistent pain, it’s often been done many times, and you’ve been told that nothing further medically can be done for you other than for you to live with and manage your pain — you may find the information in this book more than helpful.
Intellectually knowing anything is never enough in any subject, and to harness its power you have to take action. You have to take the steps in your own life to find the most suitable way for you to walk the walk and talk the talk. Enjoying the journey, however fast or slow that is, comes when you know that you’re heading in the right direction. Expect to be surprised as you access abilities within yourself that always existed but that you’ve simply lost touch with. Take your time and go at your own pace. It’s your path to recovery, and every step you take is worth it. Your pain is not and never has been caused by the reason you’ve always thought it was. As you adjust your beliefs to that, natural innate adjustments to your physical and emotional resilience follow, and a return to a balanced, happier and healthier life begins. If you’re ready to move towards a new understanding, new beliefs, new behaviours, and new rewards that a pain-free life will bring, then turn the page and read on.