Getting Off the Cycle of Pain

by Sherry Scheideman, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor.

Want to get off the cycle of pain?

When we’re in physical pain, we often feel angry, desperate, frustrated, and afraid. This emotional pain makes the physical pain worse. We’re already dealing with cramps or aches or whatever it is, and then we add the extra suffering of anger or sadness or fear on top of it — putting us in a cycle of increasing pain.

The Pain Cycle

The physical and emotional pain cycle goes like this:
1. We feel the physical symptom.
2. We wish the physical symptom weren’t happening.
3. We react with anger, desperation, sadness, fear, etc.
4. These emotions create tension in the body.
5. The physical symptom gets stronger in order to overpower the tension.
6. The strengthened physical symptom, plus its battle with the tension, produces PAIN.
7. The cycle loops back to step one and starts again – and the physical and emotional pain increase with each loop through the cycle.

Getting Off the Pain Cycle

Fortunately, we have the power to interrupt this cycle at Step Two. Instead of wishing the physical symptom weren’t happening, we can simply accept it. Then, the cycle looks like this:
1. We feel the physical symptom.
2. We accept that our body is like that right now (instead of resisting it).
3. We respond with curiosity and openness (instead of anger, desperation, and fear).
4. We relax (instead of tensing).
5. The physical symptom does what it does (without needing to get stronger in order to fight tension).
6. We experience the physical symptom as SENSATIONS (rather than pain).
7. The cycle may loop back to step one and start again – and our acceptance and compassion for ourselves and others increases with each loop through the cycle. Or, if the physical symptom has finished its work and faded away, we may step off the cycle until a symptom shows up again in the future.

The Key

The key to transforming the pain cycle is to think of the symptoms as SENSATIONS instead of as PAIN. This takes away the judging.
When the sensations are strong, it is hard to experience them without tensing up and hating them. But the more you do it, the more skilled you get — and the less pain is in your life.
Pain gives us great practice at this. Then, when we meet other difficulties in life, we have the skills to respond with less judgment and more openness. We become nicer people!
Thank you, Pain!

by Sherry Scheideman, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Victoria BC.


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