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How your mind affects the pain that you are feeling and what you can do to change it permanently…(part 1)

This is the first time I have written about how the mind affects our perception of pain and how that directly affects your experience of pain. I wanted to share this deep in depth knowledge with you because I know that once you understand how it all works you will have a fighting chance of taking control of your pain, for what may be, the very first time for you.

The mind is an incredibly powerful and beautiful thing. The mind controls our physical actions, our thoughts, feelings, experiences, and emotions. Your mind creates all that you see and all that you understand.

The potential of your mind is limitless. There is nothing that the mind cannot comprehend. You have the ability to experience, comprehend and interpret all of the living and non living in this world. Yet more often than not, the majority of life’s experiences pass us by because we choose not to see them. You control your mind. You decide what you will experience and what you will ignore. This is known as the conscious mind and it is what allows us to make decisions in our lives. The conscious mind sorts, interprets, rationalises and processes all the information it receives and the end result of this processing is the opinion that you form about your life experiences and this includes your perception of pain.

Your pain is unique to you and you alone

Every single human being perceives pain in a different way. There are no 2 experiences of pain that are alike. Your mind’s ideas, understanding and perception of your pain directly affects how you feel pain physically. Other people’s experiences of pain can also influence your perception about pain. By far the biggest influencing factor in your awareness of pain is fear. These are just a few examples of how your mind effects how your body feels and responds to pain, or more importantly the ‘idea’ of pain:

  1. A person who witnesses a lot of pain in others may well grow to fear it and therefore their fear leads them to feel more pain than others without fear.

  2. A person at the opposite end of the scale may see pain as a normal event in life, something to become accustomed to and thus has no fear towards pain. This person is most likely to have a high pain threshold.

  3. Men who have been raised to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ are told from very early in life that pain is a weakness and not something that they should show that they are feeling. This creates a fighting mentality towards the pain where the man must win at all costs. Men who have this type of upbringing have been seen to have higher pain thresholds than those without.

  4. In some cultures experiencing pain is encouraged. If you feel pain you vocalise the pain loudly. With this vocalisation of pain comes a greater experience of the pain process, it focuses the mind on the pain and as a result the person feels more pain.

  5. Once bitten twice shy, when you feel pain for the 1st time your mind processes that feeling and keeps it ‘on file’ for future reference. Your perception of the severity of the pain recedes over time but the knowledge that it hurt and it was unpleasant remains. So the next time you are faced with a painful situation your mind instantaneously reminds you of how much pain hurts and how unpleasant it is and in that moment you believe that you will feel pain again and as a direct result of your minds suggestion hay presto it is painful.

How do you know if what you are feeling is really painful

So if each individual has a totally unique experience of pain, how then do you and your doctors, therapist etc measure your pain? Who decides what is a high or low pain threshold?

There are a vast array of pain measurement systems used by the medical profession in order for them to gauge a person’s level of pain. Some of them are very simplistic and simply ask you to give your pain a score from 0 to 10, 0 being no pain at all and 10 being the worst pain imaginable. This simple test is probably the most widely used pain scoring measurement. But, you cry, if 10 is the worst pain imaginable and everyone experiences a different feeling of pain then how will the person measuring my pain know just how extreme my worst imaginable pain is?  Well that’s just it, they can’t. Even the most complex of pain measurement systems which take environmental, social, and physical factors into consideration will still not be able to measure how painful your pain is to you. Nothing can measure that, apart from one thing. YOU. You are the only measurement of your pain. If it feels painful to you then it is painful. Your most extreme pain may only seem mild to someone else if they were able to feel your experience but they can’t so what feels extreme to you is extreme and no one can truthfully, scientifically or medically tell you different.

In the medical world it is known as;

“Pain is what the patient says it is.”

This statement shows you very clearly that no one else can tell you if you have a high or low pain threshold. But this doesn’t stop healthcare professionals from trying to ‘pigeon hole’ you into a category of pain based on their  experience of people with similar complaints.

Here is a typical scenario that occurs when a healthcare professional assesses someone’s pain levels;

  1. They will look at the medical condition that you have and then search their mind for all the different patients that they have seen with the same condition.

  2. They will ask you how ‘bad’ your pain is, most likely by using a pain scoring tool. They will compare your score with the scores of the other patients that they have seen with the same condition.

  3. If your pain score is considerably higher than that of the other patients they assess you as having a low pain threshold because others with the same ailment have reported feeling less pain. Similarly, if your pain score was less than the rest you would be considered to have a high pain threshold for exactly the same reasoning.

  4. The healthcare professional has created a judgement in their mind about what is the average or acceptable level of pain for that specific condition and if you fall out of that ‘average’ you are labelled as a high or low pain threshold.

This is by no means an accurate representation of you or your tolerance to pain. You are simply being judged by another person’s perception of what pain is and should be, as determined by their mind.

Once you are given a ‘label’ by your doctor it directly effects how you see yourself in your mind

Labelling and healthcare professional’s opinions of your pain will directly influence your minds perception of your pain and can in many circumstances, alter your mind’s perception of your pain.

Let me explain;

If you are told by your GP that you are feeling more pain than normal for your condition and therefore you must have a low pain threshold, your mind will process this information and change the way in which it interprets your pain. As a direct consequence of this your mind can actually manifest more pain than you felt before.

You will by now have gathered that your mind is the one defining influence of how you feel pain.

You, through your consciousness, control your mind so it stands to reason that you have an element of control over the pain you are feeling. I’m sure that if you have pain it won’t feel like you have any influence at all over the pain you are living with, but let me give you just a few examples of how people can directly and ‘consciously’ influence their mind to either reduce or enhance their pain;

  1. There are several religious sects in India who practice mind control (the conscious control of their mind) as part of their religion. They are trained to be able to make their mind perceive things in a way it wouldn’t normally see. One of these ways is how they experience pain. They commonly display this mind control ability by walking on red hot coals. You may have seen this type of thing on TV documentaries and it is often described as a magic trick or an illusion, but I can assure you these people are actually walking with bare feet on red hot coals. Your first reaction to witnessing this will be most likely the same as mine. “How is this possible?”

    It is possible and only possible because the person has told their mind that there is no pain and in fact they have gone one step further to say there is no such ‘thing’ as pain. Now that may seem ridiculous or quite simply impossible to you or I, as we have had 1st hand experience of pain, but it is entirely possible with the right training to convince the mind that pain does not exist.

  2. Another extreme demonstration of this unique ability to train the mind can often be seen on magical entertainment programmes or TV shows that show bizarre talents. During one of these types of programme I witnessed a man taking a large spike and piercing his cheek with it and then placing it through his face like a large safety pin. This was an event that was heavily scrutinized for any type of optical illusion and verified that in fact this man did manage this feat.

  3. Probably the most common and ‘down to earth’ example of how we can consciously switch our mind off to pain is in people with needle phobias. A person with a needle phobia would rather do almost anything else but endure an injection. However injections are necessary in some circumstances such as dental treatment. Most people with needle phobias would rather endure the pain of having a dentist’s drill boring through their tooth, hitting every single nerve as it goes down to the root, rather than have a local anaesthetic injection. Nerve pain is excruciating and when a raw nerve is touched the body jumps in an involuntary reaction. You can imagine that it is not very clever to be sitting in a dentist’s chair with a drill in your mouth whilst continually jumping. How then does the needle phobic get over this? Quite simply they ‘tell’ their mind that the pain will not be as bad as the injection. That enduring the injection will be worse than any pain they may feel. They absolutely convince their mind of this fact over and over “the pain won’t be that bad” and so the mind alters it’s perception of this painful experience so that when they get in the dentist’s chair they actually do feel very little pain.

I’m not suggesting that you run and join a religious cult or anything like that

It may sound like I’m suggesting that all you have to do to get rid of your pain is tell yourself (your mind) that you can’t feel any pain, but of course it is far from being that simple.

You can affirm “there is no pain, there is no pain, and there is no pain……” till you are blue in the face and it won’t do you any good. Why?  Because all you’ve got to do is concentrate on the pain in your knee or back or wherever and you realise you are in pain. You don’t even have to focus on your knee, back etc, you know you have pain, and this is where the problem lies.

In order for the conscious mind ‘control’ to work you have to totally and utterly, without even one tiny doubt, believe that this actually is the case. In other words, when you say to yourself “there is no pain” you have to believe those words and have the utmost conviction that they are true, even whilst you are in pain at the time of saying them. This is a gargantuan task in itself and for the vast majority of people it is unattainable and impossible.

The religious sects who practice the walking on red hot coals have been trained from birth to not believe what the eye sees but to only believe in the truth that the mind is told, this enables them to look at the world and its environment in a totally alien way to you or I. In fact for these people nothing is impossible; if they can conceive that it is possible in their ‘minds eye’. And that is how so many unexplainable phenomena occur in the world.

If at this point you are losing hope then don’t, the answer to your pain is just around the corner

Now does this mean that all the time you have been reading I have been “leading you up the garden path” and raising your hopes of a pain free existence only to cruelly dash those hopes away by saying “sorry there is no help or hope for you”? No it doesn’t mean that and as an ex chronic pain sufferer myself there really would be no reason to, or way, that I would ever do that.

 What I am saying is that the mind is so full of absolute potential and is so powerful that it is capable of incredibly, amazing, wondrous, unimaginable things. And if you harness just a little bit of it in the right way it can make a ‘whole lot of difference’ to the way in which your pain controls your life.

It is a widely known fact that human beings only use 10% of their brain. What is less known is that you have on average 60,000 thoughts a day, everyday? 90% of those thoughts are negative. That means that 90% of the 10% of your brain that you do use is devoted to thinking about ‘bad’ or ‘not nice’ things.

Let me explain this a little bit more….

The media is full of negative images and stories. Each day we pick up our newspaper or turn on the TV or Radio news and listen to the atrocities that occur each day, the USA hurricane, terrorist attacks, a family dying in a house fire, another famine crisis in Africa. How can you not be affected by all this ‘bad news?’ It gets you down and is interpreted in your mind as a negative thought. You can’t be blamed for this, it is not easy to look at the world we live in today and not be disheartened by the events we hear about and witness.

Human nature is to always look for a negative before a positive. For example when you buy something and get it home, you unwrap it and the first thing that comes to mind about it is that it isn’t quite what you expected it to be. Maybe it’s smaller than you thought or the colour isn’t quite right. Automatically you are conditioned, through history and social upbringing to see the ‘faults’ before you recognize the positive attributes of the item. Of course there must be many positives to whatever it was you bought or you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place, but for a short period of time you can’t see them because all you see are the negatives.

Now the negative aspects will diminish as you start to use the item and remember all the things you liked about it when you saw it in the shop, OR you might find that it doesn’t live up to expectations because the negative aspects prey too heavily on your mind until you return it to the shop as unsuitable.

There is nothing wrong with this behaviour. It is perfectly natural. It quite clearly demonstrates how focused we are on the negatives in life. We are so easily swayed away from seeing the good in almost everything around us and that most certainly is our ‘human nature.’

If I equate this ‘90% negative thoughts’ into the context of pain, you will see how it is possible for you to exert some control over your pain.

click here for part 2>>


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