Spiritual Tools to Help You Move Beyond Neck and Back Pain
Reframe spiritual thoughts, motivate to engage in life
Persistent pain robs you of the best part of your life by laying claim to your consciousness. All-consuming pain constricts your view of the world. It shrinks your ability to function and your outlook on life and limits your relationships until you feel broken, isolated, and alone. Religious and spiritual theologies frequently include the concept of transcendence, the ability to rise above physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. The idea that we can be more than our physical experience can be particularly appealing when that physical existence is unpleasant. Transcending pain is a process. Using a variety of spiritual tools, you can rise above your suffering so that you restore joy to your life and live an expanded existence even when your pain continues.
Reframing Spiritual Thoughts
Applying the reframing methods discussion in chapter 4 to spiritual concepts can change the way you think and help you to move beyond your pain. Start by becoming aware of the negative spiritual impact your pain seems to have on your thoughts; then replace the negative thoughts with spiritually affirming thoughts. Your pain will interfere less with your life when your thinking is more like “Even with pain there is much to be thankful for,” rather than “My life is ruined,” I’ll never get over this pain,” or “Why is God abandoning me?” Another way to gain power over your pain is to appreciate it (table 7.1). By reframing the negative spiritual worth you have assigned to your pain and focusing instead on the goodness your life holds and the good that you can still do, you limit pain’s influence in your life.
Motivation to Engage Life
Presented with a pain-treatment plan, people often ask what level of relief they can expect. Most understand that their pain will not be eliminated, even though they still hope that it will be. Managing your pain keeps it from running or ruining your life and gives you’re the best possible future. But to cooperate with the plan, you must give up the expectation that your life is never going to get better or, alternatively, that it will somehow get better on its own and miraculously return to the way it used to be.
Focus on where you can make a difference, rather than where you cannot. You have little command over the damage your body experiences, but you have considerable control over attitudes that influence your reaction to pain. Learn to let go of feelings of self-pity, victimization, and martyrdom. You may feel that your pain is a result of life treating you unfairly or that it is something you do not deserve. As self-help author Dennis Wholey said, “Chronic pain is not fair, but expecting life to always treat us fairly because we are good people is like expecting a bull not to gore us because we are vegetarians.” Replace your feelings of helplessness with positive feelings that enhance your spiritual strength. Your pain may keep you from some things in life—your desire to be a runner or to work at your chosen career, or your ability to frolic with your children (or grandchildren), but those limitations need not keep you from a full and meaningful life or separate you from happiness. Downgrade your pain from an impasse to a bump on the road.
This article is an excerpt from Confronting Chronic Pain, A Pain Doctor's Guide to Relief, by Steven H. Richeimer, MD with Kathy Steligo. Reprinted by permission of Johns Hopkins University Press. Dr. Richeimer is an associate professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Psychiatry and chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at the University of Southern California.
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