One last post about Kubler-Ross' Five Stages of Grief before I return to my current series on Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now. My previous post discussed how I relate the theme of accepting and bearing reality to the Five Stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. But theory and discussion can be nothing short of maddening when we are in pain. So, today I want to get to some practicalities of pain management in the context of the Five Stages, or the grief model.
FIRST: There is no shame in bobbing around in the lake of emotions that accompany chronic pain. We do not have to become worried and upset when currents of depression overtake us just as we were sure we were ready to quietly tread the calm water of acceptance. But that is enough of the water metaphor.
Without shame and without worrying about what is wrong with me?, we understand and accept that the Five Stages are not fixed, but are fluid (hence the overwrought water image of the preceding paragraph). I discussed this in an earlier post.
SECOND: Shame, worry and low self-esteem being cast aside -- if only for the moment -- we are able to simply admit where we are Now. We have studied and understood and felt some relief about the Five Stages; now they are helping us to listen to our emotions and thoughts without judgment:
"Ugh...so depressed today I don't want to get out of bed." ** "#^&% this pain." ** "Well, if I just skip my exercises/medications/diet this once, I should be okay. I deserve some fun." ** "Here is the pain, today. Breathe deeply and relax."
THIRD: Having accepted our reality, we can turn to the pain management tools we have learned, and about which I have posted before (use the Labels list in the right-hand column, click on breathing, methods, meditation, relaxation and tools and you will be directed to these posts). I have always found that pain management practices are more effective when I have accepted where I am in the moment. Emotions like anger or depression, mental gymnastics like bargaining with life only distract me from the task at hand: to deal directly and honestly with both my emotional and physical pain.
To summarize: I find the Five Stages useful as a preparation for settling into pain management practices like deep breathing, meditation, deep muscle relaxation, and others. Seeing our all-too-human tendencies to pop between stages as inevitable, understanding what each stage means for our pain, and thus being able to go beyond it gets us closer to accepting and bearing our reality.
Next post, back to the Eckhart Tolle Power of Now series.
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