The stories we create when something happens to us can create chronic pain. In recovering from chronic pain and addiction, reframing our stories is paramount to our healing.
The stories we tell ourselves
We experience some event in the world. Something happens to us and we make a meaning of it. Often, this meaning is couched in negative terms. For instance, I trip and fall down. The meaning I might make of this as a chronic pain sufferer, and the internal dialogue is, “I am so stupid that I tripped over my own feet!” Dr. Peter Przekop in his book Conquer Chronic Pain: An Innovative Mind-Body Approach terms this inner dialogue an “autobiographical narrative.” We can create our own pain through the internal dialogue we make. Another example: “My partner broke up with me. I am a bad person, and I am unlovable. So, now I am going to relapse and break my sobriety.” The breakup happened. The negative meaning made has dire consequences because it ends up putting the person’s health at risk by returning to active addiction.
The autobiographical narrative is the story about who you tell yourself you are. The issue is whether that story is true. In chronic pain, because of the negative bias it creates in the mind, that story is often false.
In the first example above, my comment to myself, my autobiographical narrative, is one in which I disempower myself. I called myself ‘stupid.’ I could have simply acknowledged that I made a mistake and leave it at that. I could take note of where I tripped and be more careful the next time I walk in this area. By calling myself a derogatory name, I have invalidated my intelligence, which is inaccurate.
In the second example, the person who relapsed and became lost in victimhood. They ceded their power to their partner that left them and to their addictive behavior, alcoholism. And so, they have disempowered themselves.
The interpretation the mind creates of an experience is termed ‘framing.’ It is helpful to become aware of the way we frame the meaning of our experiences. This way we can begin to understand whether the frame is stressful or not. Through the process of ‘reframing,’ we shift the meaning we made of the experience from one of victimhood to empowerment. We create an alternative story that lifts us up rather than one that self-sabotages us.
For example, my friend got into debt. When that happened, she framed it as “I am a loser because I am in debt,” and so disempowered herself to her experience. When she reframed as “my debt is an opportunity for me to learn to manage my resources more effectively.” In this new meaning she has taken back her power and responsibility around this issue. We use reframing as a tool to heal chronic pain.
Your reframe must be real
When we reframe, the new meaning we make of our experience must feel true to us. Note when you create your reframe how it feels in the body. Does it feel constrictive and tight, or does it feel relieving and expansive? If you feel the latter, you have created a reframe that will serve you. Once you adopt this new reframe, you will no longer feel the stress around your memory of the original event. In this way, you heal some of the root cause of chronic pain.
Where are you sourcing your power
“Power is constant in the Universe. Be careful how you are accessing it.” These are the wise words of Guru Prem Singh Khalsa. In recovering from chronic pain and addiction, it is important that we learn to recognize our power. Where are we needlessly giving the power we have to act away to someone or something else? When we self-sabotage with an autobiographical narrative, then we cede our power, and therefore our responsibility to act, away from ourselves. We accumulate more stress and chronic pain. We feed our addictive behavior.
Of course, where we truly have no power to act, it is paramount to recognize this and release any stress we have because of our powerlessness.
In recovering from chronic pain and addiction, we manage our stress effectively by knowing the difference between when we have the power to act and when we do not. We learn how to reframe our stories to help heal chronic pain and addiction. The stories we tell ourselves, the meaning we make, about our experience can make the difference between healing and slipping right back into what Tommy Rosen terms “the frequency of addiction.”
Avoiding self-sabotage – where are you sourcing your power, losing your power, surrendering to where you have no power — and knowing the difference between these is central in chronic pain and addiction recovery.