When healing chronic pain, we must unravel the role that the powers of control and acceptance have on our experience. it is important to understand how control gets in the way. When I was in chronic pain, I, like so many others like me, 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. This is a classic move of people suffering with chronic pain. We find ourselves under the spell of the power of control, and acceptance is the last thing we consider.
We disconnect from the present moment.
As chronic pain sufferers, we judge our situation. We ruminate about what is happening with us and end up overthinking. We want to figure it out. We try to fix it. We catastrophize about what will happen in the future. We become exceptional story tellers about our experience instead of merely experiencing it. We get all wrapped up in the story about what we are experiencing. By switching over to our story, we disconnect ourselves from the present moment and what is happening with us – the sensation of the pain – and by our very avoidance, we miss the path to healing altogether.
Trying to control just leads to more stress.
We identify with our story of chronic pain so much that we shut the door on being able to imagine living any other way. Part of that, again, is about our control. Perhaps we fear if our life changes, it will get worse. Yet we fear staying in chronic pain. We feel frustration about not being able to ‘do something about’ our pain, and that leads to more stress. We fall deeper into the downward spiral of chronic pain. The problem with all of this ‘control’ is that we put the pain on lockdown and stay held in the pain. When we judge the pain, declaring it ‘bad’, or ‘too much’, we go beyond feeling pain. We move into suffering.
Suffering and the path out of it
To avoid suffering, we must give up our penchant for control. Pain is a part of life. Suffering is an option. It is critical for us to learn the difference between what we can change and what we cannot change. We must stop trying to control the things we cannot. Suffering arises from worrying and trying to fix something over which we have no control.
We have control over our attention, and herein lies the path to finding a life out of suffering.
The difference between experiencing pain and suffering is in how we handle the sensations we call ‘pain’. The key to healing from chronic pain is in how we respond to it. Our reaction to our pain is where the power lies to heal it. Do you want to resist it, fight with it, or find peace? A key to healing chronic pain is in using the power of acceptance. We accept what we are feeling. We put our attention on accepting what we are experiencing. We put the brakes on before we fall into judgment, rumination, and all the rest of our mental analytics. We accept the sensations we feel.
Do not judge your healing journey – accept what it is.
Healing is an organic process. It is not linear, as much as we might want to be able to predict it from one moment to the next. The path of healing in chronic pain cannot be specified other than to predict the general direction towards healing. Thus, when we have an expectation of how it is going to appear or what it will look like, we limit the very thing we are trying to encourage: our healing. We cannot tell our body how to heal any more than a doctor can. Doctors can set a bone. Doctors can set the body on a course for healing, but a doctor cannot tell the body how to heal. Only the body knows how to do this. Doctors also cannot tell the body when the healing is going to happen or how long it will take. Understand that the body holds the wisdom to heal, and it is our best interest to get out of its way and allow the healing to happen.
We must do the work to open ourselves to allow the healing process. This includes keeping our attention away from the old habits we had as chronic pain sufferers of judging the pain and getting wrapped up in its story. We become more the neutral observer of our experience. When we release our desire to control the pain, we find the path to healing it. It’s not the road that gets us there – it’s going down the road. We must walk the path to our healing by allowing the path to reveal itself to us along the way as we continue to step. In addition, we would do well not to judge how fast we are traveling down the road. This is another part of acceptance. Our healing happens simply because we are traveling down the path – the path of acceptance.
Here are a few action steps for you to help guide your experience of trading the power of control for the healing power of acceptance:
1) You are holding your pain and you cannot get rid of it (you tried unsuccessfully to do this already). Consider releasing your belief that you must hold it.
2) Practice mindfulness by releasing your need to control your situation. Do not judge or analyze your experience. Just allow yourself to be in your experience.
3) Do not compare your healing to anyone else’s experience or your perception of it.
4) Allow yourself to be exactly who you are, as you are, in the moment, without judgment.
5) Practice this every day.
For more on healing from chronic pain, visit https://Elizabeth-Kipp.com/category/elizabeths-blog
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