Want to know how to make pain (either emotional or physical) worse? Wish it away. Fight with it. Tell yourself you don't deserve it, it's not fair, and let the frustration grow. Get mad because you have other, more important things to do and this was not on your list and life is just so damned unfair. Worry about what that other person did or said, try to figure them out, try to argue with them in your mind.
Feel your muscles tense, your heart pound. Let the adrenaline rush around your bloodstream, leaving you feeling weak and somewhat shaky.
There are alternatives.
From Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson's Disease: "My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. That's the key for me. If I can accept the truth of 'This is what I'm facing -- not what I expect but what I am experiencing now' -- then I have all this freedom to do other things." (from the April/May 2013 issue of AARP Magazine.)
From Diane Mariechild, Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful: "Can we accept [what is] without wanting it to be better, or be different from what it is?"
From Sylvia Boorstein: "So, in the first five minutes [of paying attention] you get a big lesson about suffering; wanting things to be other than they are."
From me: What Remains is Love.
If you have never worked with the present moment and its reality in this way, all this sounds counter-intuitive, I know. You think, "What, are you crazy? Accept this terrible headache?" or "No, there is no way I can accept this break-up. Accept failure? Mistakes? All the hurt?"
Accept that this is the reality of the moment -- the headache is worse; my heart is broken. But this kind of acceptance is very simple, uncomplicated -- now I am in pain as a statement of fact -- not now my heart is broken as a doorway to guilt, fear, shame and blame.
A simple statement of fact. An acceptance of the present moment with no judgment or shading into nuance and emotion.
I am really hurting today.
Once I have accepted that fact, I am freed to practice the many tools I have learned for pain management -- all of which work for emotional pain as well, in my experience.
Chanting or repeating mantras on the breath.
Healing imagery and meditation.
Listening to calm, beautiful music. I especially like Deuter for this.
One last tip: The more I practice -- meaning daily -- these tools, the more handy they are when I am in pain and the less thinking I have to do to bring their process to mind.
I would love to hear from you. Please click on Comment, below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.
Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.