PART 2: HEALING PHYSICAL PAINS

In my last post, I introduced the root psychological cause of many physical ailments, and shared how equally physical interventions don’t help. So, what does?

An important first step is asking a medical doctor, “do you have any evidence that the pain I feel in my back/neck/etc. is the result of physical activity?” Once physical issues are ruled out, educating oneself about the mind/body relationship can supply the tools to cure the pain. Acknowledging that the pain is not actually rooted in the physical is the entrée to overcoming it.

To use Carol as an example: In handling her daily responsibilities without complaint, she may be repressing an enormous amount of rage and resentment at caring for everyone else’s needs instead of her own.  By denying those negative emotions, she is condemning them to overflow.  If Carol doesn’t express these feelings through words or tears, she may develop physical symptoms (Clarke 2011).

Seeing the influence of the mind over the body can be a powerful realization, but if finding the etiology of the pain doesn’t get rid of it, the patient is urged to first look at any imbalance in their lives.  A tool to identify this is the Eco-map, which diagrams people or activities that create or sap energy from the patient. Visualizing the input and output can clarify a possible imbalance: is the patient giving more than they are receiving?  The answer is usually, “yes.”

The next step would be using problem-solving to break things down so they are more manageable: Can Carole delegate some of her duties to other family members, or reconsider her role in creating the problem? Asking herself, “why am I valuing the needs of others over my own?” can help her gain a different perspective.  Learning that it’s ok to say “no,” and setting other boundaries and limits, will enable her to feel more in control and less stressed.

Identifying cognitive distortions (irrational thoughts) and reframing them will also help Carol be more accepting of prioritizing her own needs.  Challenging cognitive distortions like “I must be perfect or no one will like me” or “If I don’t take care of everyone, I am a bad person” will help her see that taking care of herself is not being selfish.  Utilizing “want to/could” instead of “have to/should” and telling herself “this is disappointing” instead of “this is terrible,” can help moderate her response to daily stressors.

Knowing that stress, tension and/or repressed emotions are causing the pain, and accepting this both consciously and unconsciously, may bring an end to it. Once the charade is exposed, the brain will no longer be able to use the pain as a distraction from emotional issues, and it will disappear.  The patient is taught to think psychologically instead of solely physically, and to be aware of what is happening below the surface (Sarno, 1991).

Tools like the Eco-map, problem-solving and interrupting cognitive distortions may not be enough to get rid of the pain. In this case, the patient may need psychotherapy to help identify deeper repressed negative emotions that are at the root of their discomfort. If chronic pain sufferers don’t think they can accommodate one more thing in their life, video counseling is a great way to get help.

Next time, I’ll be sharing a real-life example of a client I work with via video.

Barbara KlineBarbara Kline is a licensed, certified, clinical social worker (LCSW-C) in the state of Maryland. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Shepherd University and a master’s of social work degree from University of Maryland, Baltimore. Barbara has participated in several national training seminars on mind/body therapies, and utilize an eclectic approach including cognitive-behavioral therapy, as well as relational, behavioral, psychodynamic, and insight-oriented therapies. She has a strong interest in mind/body medicine and specialize in working with clients suffering from chronic (non-cancerous) pain syndromes including back, neck, & shoulder pain; fibromyalgia, and other musculoskeletal disorders. In addition to chronic pain, she also treats anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.

Schedule a video session with Barbara today!

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