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How Can I Use Positive Sensations to Heal My Pain?

This excerpt is taken from an episode of the "Tell Me About Your Pain" podcast. You can listen to the full episode below, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts


Alan and Alon introduce the concept of leaning into positive sensations, a technique that rewires your brain and deactivates pain. Alan talks to Emily, a back pain sufferer with a lot of fear and preoccupation around her symptoms. By embracing this new technique, Emily does something she thought was impossible: she sits without pain. Then Alan and Alon demonstrate how to use this technique to heal your own pain.

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A lot of chronic pain patients have the tendency not just to pay attention to physical sensations through a lens of danger, but everything through a lens of danger. So one of our goals is to really help shift that balance; to gravitate from paying attention to things through a lens of danger to paying attention to things through a lens of safety. And that's actually what we're going to be doing with Emily. I'm trying to help Emily lean into positive sensations to help shift that balance from danger to safety.

Alan: Is there a position that you could get into where you feel more physically comfortable?

Emily: Yeah I could probably do that. Sometimes moving around helps.

Alan: I want you to do that. I want you to give yourself a little bit of a break. Are there any other physical sensations that you could bring your attention to in your body that feel nice or feel okay?

Emily: In the past I’ve focused on the left side, giving more concentration to the left side of my back which has zero pain.

Alan: What about your breath? Are you able to focus on the physical sensation of the breath coming in and out and have it feel nice or feel good?

Emily: Yeah.

Alan: I want you to breathe in and out and really focus on the physical sensation of the breath as it comes in and out of your stomach. Are you able to actually enjoy that sensation?

Emily: Yes.

Alan: I want you to breathe into that nice sensation, because ultimately what we want to do is help to give your brain the experience of paying attention to any sensation through a lens of safety. It doesn't even necessarily need to be a sensation in your back, but we want to give your brain practice at tending to sensations through a lens of safety. So as you bring your attention to the physical sensation of your breath in your stomach, does it feel nice? Are you able to feel okay and safe right now?

Emily: Yes.

Alan: If you were to going to check in with your back for a split second, what do you notice?

Emily: The pain’s actually not there.

[this is an excerpt only - for the full episode, listen to the podcast above]

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