Just say ouch.
This is a simplified description of the role of mindfulness in reducing the pain experience.
The secret is not to focus on the painful feeling itself. No, the power is to recognize our tendency to say much more than just Ouch.
Here is the basic mathematics: suffering = pain + resistance.
Can mindfulness reduce the feeling of pain?
Not quite, but it can significantly reduce all the suffering we experience by illuminating – and even eliminating – our resistance.
Pain is a warning. It informs and motivates us. When you place your hand on a hot stove, it is important to feel this pain to quickly remove your hand and avoid burns. We need the pain sensation to protect our body from further injuries.
Pain also teaches us new ways to move. If you constantly hurt your back on the weekend, your pain will let you know that
- You need to rest and
- You need to learn a healthier way to work or play.
Chronic pain is more difficult. It is difficult to find a relieving value for long-term pain.
We’ve already learned our lessons, but they persist, and there’s not much that can be done about it, it’s time to explore more energetic education work – but that’s for another article.
Mindfulness is extremely valuable to alleviate the experience of all kinds of pain, but it is especially effective for those who can ache daily.
We feel pain. We say ouch – mental or verbal. What happens then? We are wrapped so that we can resist the pain. We start a mental dialogue about how we will deal with it (medication, ice, heat, rest, acupuncture, massage, magnetotherapy, etc.). Then we will be captured by thoughts and emotions:
- Disappointment (“Now I can’t go hiking.”)
- Concern (“I hope it’s nothing serious.”)
- Fear (“What if it gets worse?”)
- Anger (“Why does it hurt now? I already had an operation!”)
- Depression (“What if I have to stop playing tennis?”)
- Excitement (“I’m going into labor!”)
Our resistance creates a much greater tension, which leads to a much more pronounced experience of pain. Worrying about pain really makes it worse.
This is where mindfulness comes in. By paying attention to the thoughts and emotions that accompany the pain, you can learn to separate them from the sensation. Once you have done that, you can actually remove the tension and see the pain for what it is – and no longer.
When you see the internal dialogue that comes with pain, you can learn to deal with it skillfully and alleviate your suffering.
The next time you feel pain, take a moment to focus on it. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions as they emerge. Breathe. And go back to Ouch.
Simple pain has never felt so good.
Leave me a comment below if you enjoyed this article about mindfulness and pain or have any questions!