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How Do I Get to the Root of 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


Living with chronic pain means living with chronic worry. But it's actually this fear, frustration, and despair around the pain that keeps your pain signals activated. Even once you know how destructive these thought patterns are, it’s so hard to keep your mind from going there.

In this episode, Alan and Alon explain why your brain keeps pulling you to pain, and how you can break this habit. Alan talks to Chris, a chronic pain sufferer with so much fear and frustration around his pain, he can think of little else. Alan teaches him a new technique to calm these thoughts, cutting off the fuel source for his pain. Then Alan and Alon describe how you can use this same technique to overcome your own pain.

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Alan talks to Chris, a long-time chronic pain sufferer, whose negative thought patterns are contributing to his pain.

Alan: I thought we could start off by having you tell me a little bit about your pain and what's going on.

Chris: I just feel berated a lot of time by the pain or my mind. I'm not saying it’s so excruciating where I can't move, but when I get up out of bed or when I get up from a chair, I get extreme tightness in my hip and my back. Or when I'm walking I feel something. It’s frustrating that it never just goes away. A lot of times I will test myself on if it’s going to happen. And I feel like I zone out of life because I just keep going back to those sensations that are uncomfortable. I’m a fixer, a doer, so I think, “What can I do to make this better?” I'm not used to doing nothing and relaxing, so that's how it is usually on a daily basis for me.

Alan: It seems like your mind has a tendency to go toward thoughts like, “What can I do? How can I fix this? How can I make it better?” Does it also go towards fear thoughts like, “Is it ever going to go away? Am I doing the right things?”

Chris: Yeah absolutely. I have a lot of thoughts like, “I haven't seen improvement in x amount of time. Is it going to go away? m I doing the right emotional work? Is what I'm doing now making anything worse? Physically if I do something is that going to make it worse?”

But I think the biggest tortures for me are thoughts like, “Am I ever really going to get better? Am I going to jump past this hurdle of unlearning my pain and rewiring it?” Sometimes it just feels inevitable.

Alan: Chris just hearing you lay all of that out, not just the constant problem solving but the thoughts around seeing improvement and doing the right stuff, it honestly sounds really exhausting. It's not even just the pain that you need to deal with, but it's this constant fear and frustration and preoccupation around the pain that is another level of suffering.

Chris: I function, I’m fine. I do everything okay in my life but mentally that’s where I'm at.

Alan: It seems like you can’t even go 15 or 20 seconds without another feat thought or another preoccupation thought. It’s like rinse and repeat, it’s all you do.

The reason why your brain has a tendency to gravitate toward preoccupation, toward fear thoughts, toward problem-solving incessantly is pretty simple. It's because the feeling that you get in your body when you're in a state of fight-or-flight has become so familiar that your brain gravitates toward it over and over and over, even though it doesn't make you feel good. It's become home.

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

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