I’ve been working recently with people who suffer with chronic pain. Working together over several sessions we have experienced success in reducing the perception of pain and alleviating the suffering, as well as formulating new habits such as pacing so that the problem never reaches the point of overwhelm and is manageable.
What struck me about working with these people are the stories they tell about themselves and their pain experiences. They seem to have one thing in common – a person in authority in the medical profession has told them that the pain will always be there, it is something they have to live with and it will probably never go away. They can take medication but this in itself has unpleasant side effects, particularly when the dose needs increasing over months or years as they become tolerant to it. Again, they have been told that this is inevitable.
As a hypnotherapist I am very aware of the power of words. Let’s step back and think about the effect of these negative, disempowering messages. Set them in the medical context, delivered by an expert – who has the patient’s full focussed attention, and it’s not difficult to see how these words have mesmerised them and affected the beliefs they now have about the pain. Negative hypnosis in action!
Did you realise that pain is not just about physical sensations? There are many psychological aspects to pain. What you think about pain, and how you think about it, has a huge effect on your experience. Catastrophising is common and is a consistent predictor of the level of pain and suffering experienced. When someone thinks that they cannot learn to manage pain themselves and are stuck with it, and then is constantly focussed on that pain and ruminates on that negative experience, it is no surprise that they experience higher levels of pain, possibly depression, anxiety, distress and even disability.
When people learn to use adaptive coping strategies rather than only relying on the doctor, hospital specialist or science itself to make them feel better, huge improvements can be experienced in terms of the intensity of pain, physiological functioning and activity levels. This can be done with the right professional help.
I am Susan Tibbett, a Chartered Psychologist, Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapy practitioner based in York. You can find out more about my work and how I can help you at: http://www.mindmakeoveruk.com