What exactly did Rumi mean with: “The cure for pain is in the pain?” Whether it be physical, mental or emotional pain we all run away from it. We are geared towards everything pleasant in life and to steer away from anything unpleasant, it’s human instinct. Avoidance is hardwired into us as a route of survival.
If we are training animals or babies we tend to use a reward (unhealthy food), a treat, a loud noise, an object or a gift to settle and calm that animal or baby down. Once we hit adulthood, when we sense any sort of discomfort, guilt, shame or vulnerability, we have a habit of throwing ourselves into distraction. I see this time and time again with pain patients and distractions can be anything from doing more and more sport to just keeping themselves busy in order to numb the symptoms of facing up to the pain. This is why our studio are not a “work out” and a series of fitness exercises but a “work in”, encouraging us to be present in the moment, slowing down, exploring the method, being conscious and learning to feel.
Here are four techniques that we all do to avoid pain:
- Externalise: make it about something out there that is annoying, frustrating or stupid.
- Intellectualise and generalise: stay in the head and deal with it from there feels safe.
- Eat: usually something that feels like a treat. We replace the original feeling with the feeling generated by eating– so it is a break from the pain.
- Drugs, alcohol, work, TV watching, playing games.
We tend then to get treated for our pain through therapists, medical professionals, pharmaceutical drugs and gimmicks. And guess what the pain may disappear short term but return again and stay longer next time.“What we resist persists.” Avoidance strategies will work short term but they can become a problem in our daily functioning life. The avoidance tactic is also used when we have trauma, it’s a little like avoiding the thorn bush in the bed and sleeping in a different position.
When we actually learn to be present and alert with the pain, mindfulness then develops. Mindfulness teaches us to experience life in a different way. Its traits are being non-judgemental and allowing curiosity and kindness. We need these attitudes to nurture and soothe the body. I have learnt something from every single pain situation that I have been in my life. Sometimes the pain Doctor comes along to tell us to stop, slow down and listen and become aware of sensations and be conscious.
The key thing is to hold the experience in the attitude just mentioned (kindness, allowing, non-judging and curiosity) and for a body sensation or feeling we can give it the RAIN (Recognise, Allow, Investigate and Non-Identify) treatment.
The Mindfulness Clinic – Australia