I think we can all say that at some point in our life we have come across a person that the sheer mention of their name makes us roll our eyes upwards, the person who when you walk into the room and you spot them you silently inward sigh, be it someone at school whose team you hoped you didn’t end up on for P.E, a colleague whose mere presence in your email inbox would cause you to mutter under your breath or even a distant relative at a wedding, where you glance round frantically to see where you can hide!
This is how I pictured chronic pain when we were first introduced to each other, I did not like it, I did not want to get to know it and I wished it would just go away, I would be constantly on edge they were going to turn up and worrying about what I was going to do if they did. The constant metaphorical looking over my shoulder to see if they were about left my body in an ever-ready fight, flight or freeze state ready for the first sign of them appearing. It became an exhausting process in itself; beyond time consuming it was mind consuming!
“Why me?” became my mantra, why on earth did it pick me? I was quite happy minding my own business and carrying on my merry way before they decided they needed to tag along. I lost count of how many times I rolled my eyes at them, swore at them, cried because of them, stopped doing things I loved because of them, stopped going places that I enjoyed because of them ….. stopped living because of them.
Then came the begrudged acceptance, I resigned myself to the fact that there was no escape and nowhere to hide, this was my life, trapped with this hanger on called Pain who had made it their one and only mission to be my companion and I had no clue what to do with them. I sat at the bottom of my black hole for three years, my life completely governed by waiting for my unwanted friend to show up. Even when they were not there they were still at the forefront of my thoughts, rather than enjoying the respite I would be focused on what it would be like the next time they did.
Something had to change. Just as fear is a natural, emotional, and instinctive response to a perceived or imaginary threat, pain can be as well. Fear is often expressed or experienced as an emotional reaction towards something such as a person, an animal, an object, activity, or a situation. Just like the fight or flight response fear and or pain serve a useful purpose. Fear can motivate you to rise to new heights and pain can make you stop and pay attention to something that you need to address. Both pain and fear can help you push beyond your barriers and rise to a challenge.
The secret lies in learning how to turn your pain and fears into something incredibly powerful and life changing. Facing them with ease can completely change your life and your perspective.
It was once I realised this, I knew that the answer was obvious, I needed to make friends with Pain, surely if I got to know them and utterly understand them, I would know how to deal with them.
I stumbled across an ancient methodology used by Tibetan monks called the Chad Technique, they had used it for centuries to help gain control of their mind and body by simply visualising their fears, giving them shape and life, literally breathing a personality into them, well if it was good enough for the Tibetan monks what did I have to lose?
Here is how you can make friends with your pain too.
Imagine you are in a dark cave, somewhere quiet and dark, sitting right at the back of the cave in the darkened shadows is your pain. Go and sit with them, what do they look like? Shape, colour, texture, size. Do they resemble an animal? If so what type? Is it ferocious? Easily tamed?
Think about how your pain feeds itself, what does it like the most to be able to manifest itself?
It is at this point you need to allow yourself to recognise without you, pain would not exist, you are more important to the survival of pain than the other way round. This allows you to look at it in a different light, now approach your pain as if it is a tame gentle animal that is hurt and needs your help, put your arms around it and show it some love and compassion and visualise it changing into a completely different shape, colour, texture; one that you know you will be able to control.
My pain reminds me of Sulley from Monsters Inc. Good-natured, hardworking, and confident, who loved his job as a Scarer and while he basked in the limelight of being Top Scarer and was indeed going for the All-Time Scare Record, he had a humble side in that he was more interested in being a good employee for the company.
Getting to know my friend Pain has taught me so much about my condition, my mindset, and my approach to life. Taking the fear factor away and knowing how to deal with them when they show up has been life changing. I am no longer afraid of them and with my M.C.C products to hand I know I can keep them under control. I acknowledge them when they turn up, do what I can to help them but also make sure that I do not feed it with what it needs to thrive.
Have a go at making friends with your pain, you may be surprised with what they want to share with you!