Pain (New Year 2019 Part 2)

Karina Schreurs
Karina Schreurs, Dec 29 2018, 4 minute readKarina has a cross cultural background working with families through her roles in health and education. Training in Occupational Therapy and post-graduate study in the Neuro-Sequential Model of Therapeutics, Cognition and Sensory Processing, position her to present neurological understanding in an easy, relevant and practical way.

It is inevitable; even if you dream, wish, command or demand a pain-free 2019 it is very unlikely that you will have a pain-free year.  In addition, chances are if you try, then you have probably just numbed your heart so it cannot feel anything.  Pain is part of our lives and no matter what we do; learning to respond and walk in pain is one of the most important skills in life to learn.

Researchers have found that although not fully the same, many of the same systems that are activated when we are in physical pain are active when we experience emotional pain.

In America they even tried to have pain as the 5th vital sign along with pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and respiration in the early 2000s.  Since then they have realised that this oversimplifies an experience that is so subjective and complex.  Showing this complexity, one experiment  found that religious faith helps people cope with pain.  They took a group of Catholics and a group of atheists all having the same baseline response to pain but when a picture of the Virgin Mary was shown those with faith reported their pain significantly lower than the atheists.  And brain scans backed this up by showing that a neural mechanism with analgesic benefits was active in the brains of the Catholics.

In the last post, I shared that what gives the cortex reward is things that matter to us.  Maybe it’s our faith, family, our work contribution.  When we see and engage in these things it modifies our responses lower down in the brain.  Just like the experiment found above.  I have heard crazy stories of impossible strength in parents to ignore their own pain and try save their child.  This is the complexity.  Because we are social, spiritual and physical trying to simplify pain doesn’t work.

Emotional pain is connected to our need for connection (affiliation), love, autonomy, and achievement and how we rate and are motivated by these will determine how we respond to pain within them.  If we rate a low value and motivation for achievement then the pain of when we fail will be less painful.  Sometimes the best thing we can do when we feel pain, is to stop, acknowledge it, name it, understand it and be compassionate to ourselves.  Understand that this pain is because of a gift within us that we give to others and determine again to get up and give who we are with all we have.

The old saying that time heals pain is not true. Pain truly heals as it is embraced, wrapped up.  Given the right about of attention but not fixating on it.  Seeing it as part of something bigger keeps us alive and experiencing pleasure and joy.

Distraction is helpful in that it reduces the perception of pain but sometime in the future that pain catches up with us.  It’s funny that within our bodies are two different responses to pain: the immediate intense pain and the long-term agony pain.   Just keeping busy is not the long term answer to pain, sometimes in the short term it helps to give time for us to grow and see differently but at some point facing pain is vital for a healthy life.

I have this underlying belief in my life, that the most beautiful position is in the getting up.  It’s funny really because I don’t know how many awkward attempts there have been in my life getting myself up (in the physical and emotional) but I have come to learn that the best way to get up is to reach my hand out and ask for help.  Getting up is way less awkward with the help of another.  Let’s over 2019 become a caring community where we truthfully ask for help and we help those around us, free of judgement, comparison and shame.

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