14 Mar Believe in Pain
I think a lot about point of view, and about how deeply our point of view affects us. For the most part our present thoughts sit upon a network of assumed truths, and those pre-conscious ideas serve as the foundation for all that we are consciously aware of. We thrive on stability and certainty and therefore often quickly (an unconsciously) reject ideas that challenge those beliefs. When we have a point of view that runs counter to prevailing cultural ideas it leads to a great deal of conflict.
One idea that many people have come to believe without question is that herniated discs cause us back pain. However, there have been over a myriad of studies that show that they do not. This false belief has led to an explosion of back problems. However, when I point this out to people they often look at me like I’m crazy.
One idea that was recently codified by the national institute of health is that pain is to be thought of as a disease in and of itself. That is, rather than seeing pain as a symptom of some other disease or process, chronic pain is viewed as a disease on its own. This means that now there is no cognitive dissonance when treating pain without discerning the cause for that pain. This stance was needed because doctors are drowning under a sea of chronic pain patients that they can’t seem to help. In fact the treatment of pain is one of the fastest growing industries in America. When we are in pain we are desperate, and desperate people don’t think about costs.
As someone who believes, as Dr. John Sarno does, that the genesis of the pain is often repressed emotions or ideas I was immediately struck by the idea that the 16 year old girl that Dr. Krane discusses first hurt her wrist while dancing. She is clearly a very serious dancer as she studies dance in college. This simple sprain did not heal and instead got weaker and subject to excruciating pain. I immediately wondered if perhaps the dancer had a deep level of repressed anger about the pressure she felt about dance. This is not to say that anyone put overt pressure on her to dance, or to say that she did not love dancing. However, the unconscious child-like part of herself may have a deep resentment of the way dance keeps her from her friends or other teenage pursuits. The various treatments that Dr. Krane employed got her nerves to stop causing the pain. However, there’s a good chance that if it was repressed emotions that caused the pain in the first place, treating the symptom won’t affect a cure of the underlying problem. In Dr. Sarno’s practice he often finds that patients quickly get a new pain elsewhere. Yesterday at my daughter’s school I talked to the guidance counseler whose arm was in a sling. Last spring she had back surgery for a herniated disc. She had a pain in her shoulder a few months ago. She was told she had a torn rotator cuff. Dr. Sarno calls this the symptom imperative. If the pain is healed in one location it often manifests itself elsewhere.
Again, as someone who believes that the mind body connection is very powerful, the designation of pain as a disease further disconnects us from the connection between mind and body. When we call pain a distance ourselves from the idea that its genesis is often in the emotions. By clouding this fact we lock ourselves in a prison of pain and throw away the key.