Our contemporary understanding of pain and the brain is allowing us to develop strategies and approaches to reducing and even eliminating pain.
For example, we understand more clearly the differences between acute pain (hours, days, or weeks of pain) and chronic pain (at least three, even six months or more of persistent pain). Chronic pain is different and is experienced in a part of the brain has been identified on functional MRI scans. This part of the brain is both primitive and more connected to emotions (amygdala, prefrontal cortex) than the region in which acute pain is experienced.
Furthermore, we know that social pain (social rejection and exclusion) is experienced in the brain similarly to physical pain. The brain, the mind, emotions, social context.. are being understood as intimately connected.
We learn by repetition. We practice skills and get better at them. Unfortunately, the repetitive and persistent experience of pain has some of these same elements– the learning to feel bad and the neural connections that form and more closely connect.
How do we change this? How do we influence these connections or pathways? How do we (as the Karuna slogan says…) rewire the brain and, in a sense, unlearn the pain?
Changing our faulty beliefs is one. Practice thinking of ourselves as whole is another. Eliminating our fear of never getting better. Breathing and meditating our way to a lower state of nervous system arousal. Visualizing and experiencing ourselves moving more freely and having fun, virtually (VR) and actually (exercise).
Take it a step at a time. Write about your feelings and disconnect the anger and frustrations from those neural connections. Move a little more today than you did yesterday. Think a bit more positively than you did last week. Breathe more slowly and visualize your favorite place to feel peaceful and calm.
Take control of your healing. And again –rewire your brain, unlearn your pain.
© David Schechter, M.D.
Author, Think Away Your Pain
Author, The MindBody Workbook
Pain Rewiring Doctor, Culver City, CA