A Follow-up on Dealing with Pain
Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: May 2012
I wrote on pain in the last newsletter, and in response, a reader sent me some information I liked very much, based on very recent research on pain management. One is a book, Explain Pain, by Dr. David S. Butler and Professor G. Lorimer Mosely. The other is a set of videos, Life is Now, Overcoming Pain, by Neil Pearson, a physical therapist. These are free online at http://www.lifeisnow.ca/ I have not read the book, but because of the videos I have been using more distraction and corrective self-talk myself to deal with pain, and it works quite well, at least up to a point.
Just be a little aware while you watch the video (and probably the same goes for the book) that Pearson speaks about learned pain and learned sensitivity, but sensitivity can also be innate. Both can be worked with in various ways to reduce pain, and it is very good to do that, but the trait itself is not undone. On the other hand, our sensitivity makes this information even more useful because as HSPs it is our nature as especially responsive people, with emotional reactivity to augment that, to learn lessons, including lessons about what has hurt us. Those are very important lessons. And we learn them very thoroughly, often in “one-trial learning.” Thus we do need some tricks for unlearning these too-well-learned lessons so that we do not overgeneralize.
Suppose you badly sprained your ankle and spent a few weeks in pain, so that at night you couldn’t sleep, feeling it and also worrying about how well it will heal, thinking about how it happened, and so forth. You heal, but then six months later your ankle hurts again, maybe you twisted it just slightly, and there you are wide awake again, full attention on the pain. If you tell yourself that whatever caused this pain, it is not like the serious injury before, so maybe just put some ice on it and ignore it, you may find yourself asleep before you even get up to get the ice!
Or maybe not. I think these methods of unlearning are great, but for a variety of reasons they do not work every single time, as their enthusiastic proponents make it seem. Do not blame yourself, as an HSP might, if you cannot unlearn as well as Pearson describes.