Mindfulness and pain – HH Dailai Lama once stated, “Lean into pain“. In this simple phrase, he underscored the importance of mindfully embracing pain, whether mental or physical. So in the spirit of understanding pain and mindfulness, once again, being the sadist that I am, I lead people right into their pain experience so as to maximize emotional exposure. And of course, as people focus on their pain, a host of emotions become manifest. They invariably experience anger, sadness, loss, guilt, helplessness, frustration, fear and so on. In turn the cues that are associated with each are presented in amplified manner so as to provoke the maximized response. In so doing, one insures a maximization of the effects of extinction and habituation for the very fact that the brain comes to learn that these perceived dangers in fact either don’t exist or at do not enhance adaptive coping. They are simply conditioned cues that evoke conditioned responses. It is important to recognize that as with all mindfulness approaches, the goal here is not to eradicate pain. Rather, the overarching goal is to decrease the suffering associated with pain. In the overwhelming number of cases, it can be assumed that the pain is quite real, meaning that there is some biological point of origin to the pain. By learning to directly face the emotion of pain whether through processes of mindfulness and extinction/habituation, it is often possible to decrease suffering and increase function and life quality.
The following is extracted from the book. It is a home worksheet to help guide Mindful Pain Exposure.
It involves a hybrid of Emotional Surfing and Implosion imagery (see earlier blog posts).
Please Indicate the primary site of pain in your body______________________________________
On a 0-10 scale (10 being the highest) rate the level of pain ______________
On a 0-10 scale, rate the level of suffering associated with the pain. _____________
Now close your eyes and place your attention directly into your primary pain site.
Indicate the physical qualities of the pain (burning, stabbing, shooting, crunching, aching etc.)
If you were to draw a picture of the pain, what would it look like? For example “a rusty knife in my neck” or “ a twisted rope in my back” ___________________________________________________________
How do you feel about the pain? _________________________________________________________
What are the dominant emotions arising out of the pain? ________________________________________
What thoughts, images, memories arise out of the pain?
Now, intently focus on the most dominant emotions arising from the pain.
Imagine your worst fears regarding the pain coming true. What are those fears? _____________________
Repeat this exercise at least one more time before terminating the session.
Rate the intensity of pain (0-10) ________
Rate the severity of suffering (0-10) __________
Please note changes in the quality and image of pain or how you feel about the pain ____________________________________________________________________________
So, you are invited to provide comments, insights, personal experiences, to help make this a more interactive and dynamic experience for all.