When we have problems, we automatically try to work them out. But have you ever tried to solve a problem that didn’t have a solution? Have you found yourself refusing to give up on a problem even though you weren’t succeeding in fixing it?
At the other extreme, we sometimes feel confused or scared when we have problems, and we do nothing or withdraw.
Knowing your own reactions to pain and to the other feelings that pain brings about can help you deal with long-term pain more successfully.
Whatever methods you use, you may feel the need to defend it as correct and necessary. As you look at your pain-management methods, see if you notice yourself doing this and get to the heart of how the methods are working for you.
Ask yourself the following:
- Do you feel that the ways you’re trying to solve, manage or fix pain are successful?
- Do they improve your life?
- Do you ever feel like you’re struggling and getting nowhere?
- Does trying to control pain actually stop you from doing what you want to do?
This exercise isn’t designed to find the right answer, although it might show you things you didn’t realise before. It’s mostly an exercise to practise letting your experience be your guide and using the quality of your life as a measure for the success of pain management methods.
What if the treatment isn't working?
If you think some methods aren’t working, perhaps you can stop them? This may give you more time to try other methods.
Seeking treatment for pain is useful when it works, but it can hold you back when it doesn’t and can create a life focused on pain instead of goals or activities.
If you find yourself stuck in this trap, noticing that you’re in it is the first step. Once you’re aware of this then you’re moving in the right direction. After that, letting go of trying to ‘win’ against pain can be helpful.
Sometimes it’s only by letting go of this battle that you can achieve your goals. In a sense, you win as soon as you refuse to do battle.
Hopefully this information has encouraged you to be practical and determine what to do with your pain based on your own experience. We’re not suggesting you should quit all treatments, but once your health is being managed successfully, and you’re clear in following your healthcare professional’s advice, then you have choices.
One way to make these choices is to be guided by your own experience. There will be times when you can wrestle with your pain or pursue your other goals, not both. It’s up to you to choose.
A change of focus with your pain management?
A way to get out of the habit of stubbornly refusing to give up or passively withdrawing from a problem is to focus on your goals. If you want to reach your goals it’s important to focus on the circumstances that will get you there. Pain, fatigue or other symptoms can distract you, especially if they’re always taking your attention.
Do the following exercise to remind yourself that you can determine your own focus:
- Put your index finger in front of your face and stare at it.
- What looks clear and what looks blurry?
- Shift your focus beyond your finger. What looks clear and what looks blurry?
- Which view shows you more of what is around you, gives you a more complete picture and is a better way to see where you’re going?
Sometimes we focus on one issue that feels close in our experience, like the finger. These issues don’t affect us the same way if we look at a wider view. A ‘finger in front of your face’ is one thing you can focus on, and you can always change your focus.
As you do this exercise, don’t think about it too much or try too hard to figure it out. It’s enough to simply notice what the experience is like of switching focus and seeing what’s in front of you in a different way.
Consider this question: who's in charge of what you focus on?