Chronic pain and suffering go hand in hand in a dynamic that looks like a negative spiral. The four main elements of judgment, attachment, control, and resentment feed on this downward spiral and feed on themselves. We know that chronic pain changes the brain. When we use the definition for chronic pain as “any sensation with a negative context in the mind that is holding one from being able to heal”, we find that any type of pain, whether it is physical, emotional, or spiritual, is processed by the same neural connections in the brain. These connections are strengthened by repeated use and sets up a negative spiral for the person experiencing chronic pain.


The negative cycle of suffering begins with judgment. When we feel pain, we are raised in a culture that has and is judging the experience as ‘bad’. What is actually happening is we feel a sensation, intense as it might be, and decide that it is unwanted, bad, and something that we want to get rid of – as soon as possible. In our current culture of instant gratification, the quick fix of taking a pill, while it appears at first glance as expedient, is only further feeding the bias of judgment about our experience. We take a pill to ‘get rid of’ the pain that we have determined is something to avoid.


The next step in the cycle of suffering is our attachment to the pain we feel. When I suffered with chronic pain, I was in a relationship with the pain. It sent me its message. I rebelled against it. I reacted. Every time the pain knocked on my door, I answered by trying unsuccessfully to slam the door shut on it. The problem was that there wasn’t a door to shut. I tried my best to find more and more ways to escape the pain, only to find more pain waiting for me. I had a codependent relationship with my pain. Whenever asserted itself, I responded in kind. My pain persisted so long as I remained attached to it and focused on it. My experience with other chronic pain sufferers is that I am not alone in this relationship. We all do this.


Our attempt to control our experience is the third factor in the cycle of suffering. We have a belief that the more we control a situation, the safer we will be. Control becomes a kind of armor to protect us, but its armor turns in on itself and instead of protecting its wearer, creates more pain for the wearer.

When I was in chronic pain, I, felt that I had lost control of my body. I felt that I had no control over my healing because the pain persisted. I tried to control as much of my environment as possible. The longer I was in pain, the more controlling my behavior became. My pain grew, looming ever larger and more menacing. The more I tried grip the reins of control to my world, the faster they slipped through my fingers. This is a classic move of people suffering with chronic pain. We find ourselves under the spell of the power of control.


The final piece in the cycle of suffering is resentment. We have judged the sensation we feel as ‘bad’. We want to get rid of it but we cannot, so we end up getting attached to it in a relationship. We then try to control this relationship only to find out that this is a losing proposition. The only winner is the pain. We realize we are losing our battle with pain, so we get develop a resentment. We are angry at the pain. We are angry at our body for feeling the pain. We are angry at ourselves for not being able to conquer the pain. We become angry people and the outcome of all this anger is more pain.

The cycle of suffering is complete. It feeds on itself and the downward spiral into more negativity continues. Once we get to the resentment part, we start judging all over again. Then we become more attached to our situation and try even more desperately to assert control. Once again, we fail to control our circumstance and dive more deeply into resentment.

This is a critical dynamic for the chronic pain sufferer to understand. By seeing the behaviors we develop when we experience chronic pain, we can then begin to do the work to heal and release ourselves from suffering.

– Excerpt from the book The Way Through Chronic Pain: Tools to Reclaim Your Healing Power.




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2 Responses

    1. Yes, Ande. Chronic pain can be defined as any sensation that is perceived in a negative context by the mind and is thwarting one from being able to heal. Hence our behaviors influence our experience. Thank you for commenting and for your encouragement.

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