The Power of Pain, Perception, Emotion and Moving ForwardHeidi Hadley
In this week’s blog we are going to look into the area of pain and why some people feel pain to a greater degree than others. We will consider how the brain interprets pain and what we can do to reduce the symptoms.
According to The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP), pain is defined as
‘an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage. It is not just a physical sensation. It is influenced by attitudes, beliefs, personality and social factors. It can affect a person’s emotional and mental well being. Two people may have had the same level of pain, the way one deals with it can be significantly different to the other person.’
Let us consider for a moment the impact that our internal dialogue can have on our perception and tolerance to pain. Let’s consider this scenario, a soccer player injures their index finger. A professional pianist also encounters the same injury. The pain will feel greater to the pianist than the soccer player because the internal dialogue and story associated with the injury creates fear and anxiety, in turn amplifying the sensation of pain. This injury poses a greater threat to the pianist’s livelihood than the soccer player, creating a story associated to the pain and as a result amplifying the sensations. Surely you can see why many pain scientists say that fear of pain is more disabling than pain itself.
Pain creates a behaviour of avoidance based around fear. If a person is in chronic pain, they become anxious. They worry about moving, possibly intensifying their pain. They may see a number of medical health professionals who unintentionally use dis-empowering expressions which amplifies their perception of pain and feeling overwhelmed. Naturally if you feel or perceive that something will increase or re-ignite your pain, you will avoid it. As a result, you become stiffer and tighter, which affects your quality of life and emotional/mental health. As you spiral into greater pain and limited mobility, you may see more medical health practitioners. Once again, reiterating the information that “you aren’t getting any better” or “you’re as stiff as a board and need to take x,y and z to deal with the issues.” Obviously this creates another layer or fear and anxiety around pain and your future. So the cycle continues.
If we continue to live in this cycle, we are living with an authoritarian personality or mindset. This is where we have developed a mind or attitude characterised by absolute obedience or submission to someone’s authority. This can often be heard when a patient may ask a doctor, “How do I feel doctor?” This may be a legitimate question if a person is waiting for the results of various investigations to a potentially serious health condition. However, often a person who is not in this situation will follow up with another similar question, “How should I feel? What should I feel in order to know I am better?” Surely the best person to gauge if they feel well, vibrant, happy, resilient and ‘firing on all cylinders’ is the person them self! If they are unable to feel and sense this, there is clearly a disconnect between their mind and body.
Combining an authoritarian mindset with a disconnect between your mind and body will create an individual with very little awareness or insight in to their somatic health. Due to the disconnect with their mind and body working effectively together, these individuals find it challenging to sense and feel their body. They are unable to read their body well. The reason being, if they have lived in a ‘fight or flight’ stress response for many years, their system has stayed in a 'stress mode.' One of the actions to occur in a stress mode is for the brain to block feeling and sensation from the body. The design behind this mechanism is really clever. If we are in a stressful situation, for instance an attack, our body will pump out adrenaline to deal with the situation or flee. It is only after the event that a person notices the pain and possibly that an injury was sustained.
Likewise, if a person is in a constant cycle of fear, worry, anxiety, stress or helplessness, their nervous system will block their somatic or mind and body awareness. They lose the skills to decipher the difference between pain and other types of sensory awareness or sensation. The regular periods of disconnect between mind and body creates fear. Any sensation they feel is stressful for them. They are unable to identify if it is just a sensation or if it is pain. Their central nervous system is constantly on high alert and hyper sensitive to ANY sensory information or feedback from their body. The person is unable to read and self correct their body because their awareness has reduced significantly. This is by no means a judgement or to make a person feel inadequate. Rather, it is to provide education and insight that their perception of pain can be hyper sensitive. Becoming somatically aware of how you feel, is a very important step to reducing your perception of pain.
Education and Empowerment
We can break the cycle of pain and reduce the intensity by educating ourselves on the subject of our own health. When we become educated and learn skills, we move away from an authoritarian mindset and become empowered. We know that in the middle of the night, when our pain strikes or intensifies, we can use skills taught within The Total Somatics Approach to Health and Wellness Online Program (www.TotalSomatics.com) to help control how you perceive your pain levels. This helps to remove the old dis-empowering internal dialogue with a positive focus on Somatic movement, Mindset and Mindfulness techniques to quieten the brain.
‘The Brain?” you may ask! Yes!
Our brain PERCEIVES pain. When we understand that a large portion of our perception of pain comes from our brain, we can use skills to change this action. Changing our perception of pain by working with our brain map, can create positive changes (see brain map image below). Imagine a figurative magnifying glass hovering over various portions of your brain map and highlighting at a high magnification every ache and pain in different portions of your body. That is what is happening with people suffering with chronic pain (such as Fibromyalgia) or following a long standing musculo-skeletal issue, such as back pain.
Somatic movement ‘wakes up’ all areas of your brain map and re-educates the body in the area of movement. When a person is anxious and in pain, their entire body will freeze with fear. We access and re-train the brain map to work more efficiently and with less hyper sensitivity. When we learn to move our body gently, slowly and mindfully we help the brain notice it is safe to do so. Thereby reducing the actions of the Limbic system (stress response) and accessing higher learning or executive functioning, which is part of the Prefrontal Cortex. When we focus on using the prefrontal cortex, it automatically suppresses the actions of the Limbic system.
Our mind and body or soma are absolutely amazing and intricate. To truly master skills of somatic movement, mindset and mindfulness, I have created an online program. You will find I break down the subject of mindfulness, mindset and teach you somatic movements. As you continue in the self paced program , you will gain greater confidence, insight and awareness to your physical, emotional and mental health. This information can be accessed by watching my videos, listening to my podcasts, audios and with my downloadable/printable support material, plus much more. Periodically I upload new material to add to your skills and keep you up to date with Somatic health, wellness and neuroscience.
Notice how one of my online clients from the UK suffering with Fibromyalgia and ME has found Total Somatics….
“I knew Heidi before she left for her new life’s adventure in Australia and she has always been passionate about people’s health and wellness, which shows even more in her Total Somatics Website.
Since I signed up for the Total Somatics course I noticed a reduction in my pain from my M.E. and Fibromyalgia. I find the exercises very simple to do and not at all strenuous or hard on my body. From doing the movements in The Total Somatics program, I have a better range of movement in my back and shoulders.
Total Somatics would benefit everybody, I think mindfully as well as physically. It certainly has for me. Thank you Heidi for all the hard work you put into your website and your blogs each week. You truly are an angel xx”
Would you like to reduce your pain? Would you like to improve your mobility? Would you like to improve your posture? Would you like to breathe deeply? Would you like to learn how to develop mindfulness? Then allow me to guide you through The Total Somatics Approach to Health & Wellness Online program at www.TotalSomatics.com. Throughout your time on The Total Somatics program, I am available if you have any questions or queries.
I look forward to teaching you this amazing mind and body practise.
See you soon!
Heidi Hadley xx