Tuesday, November 18, 2014

5 Facts About Mindfulness and Pain


Throughout the years, psychotherapy theorists have attempted to explain the interactions between the mind and the body.  Today we face an epidemic of painful musculoskeletal disorders.  The pain that people with
these conditions face is real, physical pain.

How we experience this pain, however, and the role it takes on in our lives, is as much about the medical condition as it is about our feelings about ourselves and about the strength of our social support networks.  We do have to take care of our physical bodies. Just as important is taking care of ourselves emotionally -- especially when we are recovering from an illness or injury.

Read on for 5 facts to consider about the mind-body relationship:

1. Your brain wants to protect you from difficult feelings.
John Sarno, M.D. writes that physical pain in disorders such as tension myositis syndrome often serves as a "protective maneuver" by the mind to keep us from experiencing subconscious emotions such as rage. This serves a purpose in keeping intolerable feelings out of consciousness. It shifts your focus from emotional pain to a different (physical) sensation.

2. The pain-fear cycle will keep you from doing things you enjoy -- until you break the cycle.
Sarno proposes the idea that people suffering with tension-related disorders stop avoiding activities that they feel will aggravate their pain. He has seen patients get better, not worse, from resuming feared activities.  Seek a consultation from a doctor who specializes in TMS and see if you may be able to go back to doing things you enjoy.

3. Emotions and thoughts drive the mind, which drives the body.
You have the power to change your brain chemistry, create new neural pathways, and establish positive changes in your life that impact your mind and body.

4. Emotions love themselves.
Marsha Linehan, Ph. D., the developer of dialectical behavior therapy, teaches that every emotion has an action urge -- a behavior that the emotion makes you want to do.  Acting based on that urge will cause the emotion to re-create itself.  Emotions are temporary, but they are replicated through actions.  Act opposite to the emotion and you can change the emotion you experience.

5. Trauma memories are expressed in the physical body.
Psychological effects of trauma lead to changes in how we biologically respond to stress.  Bessel van der Kol writes in The Body Keeps the Score that trauma impacts the sensory and self-awareness systems in an individual.  Constantly receiving messages of danger and distress from the brain, we become desensitized and numb.  Recovery thus requires that the physical senses become re-awakened.  People can and do recover from trauma, and can experience post-traumatic growth and a new sense of aliveness.


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