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How to Live Well with Chronic Pain in 3- Simple Steps

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

There are three core foundational steps that we can take to start living well with fibromylagia.

These are… 1. Practicing self-love 2. Surrendering to the present moment 3. Taking conscious action

We all believe that we deserve a good life, right?

Deep down, once we get past all the socially indoctrinated self-loathing and criticism, our higher selves know that we deserve a life full of peace, happiness, and wellbeing. So why are we all struggling to make it sustainable?

Why is it so hard to reach the goals we set and keep them? Are we simply programmed to self-destruct, or do we like the thrill of living a life in turmoil?

Even healthy human beings living without chronic pain, struggle to reach positive goals because making proactive choices goes against the grain of our prehistorical conditioning.

We are ALL socially programmed throughout our lifetime, to remember and focus on the negative things that have happened to us, which are a part of our innate and self-preserving reptilian brain. This evolutionary process aims to keep us safe, by creating high alert states and preparing our bodies to run from danger, but it also keeps us stuck in a loop of unhealthy habits and negative thinking.

Psychologists have labelled this the negativity bias.

These conditioned thoughts, beliefs and behaviours not only keep us stuck in loops of unhealthy living, but also carve out deeply ingrained neural pathways that get stronger each time we practice them. Therefore, the more challenging and traumatic experiences we have, the more we create deep pathways in our brains which make it easier to follow old negative habits.

In addition to these ingrained, evolutionary brain pathways, we also get an intoxicating hormonal rush of pleasure from the cortisol that is released when experiencing stress. This makes them more addictive and appealing to the prehistoric brain, hence the extreme sports movements making a killing. Therefore, it is true that we are both programmed to self-destruct, but we also get a thrill from living in turmoil.

Thankfully, we also have a more evolved, conscious part of our brain called the prefrontal cortex, which allows us to respond to situations with reason, logic and clarity and forge new neural pathways making it easier to create positive habits. However, this takes time and accessing these parts of the brain is more challenging for those with deeply carved out trauma responses.

With this in mind, when you add chronic illness into this already complex mix of limitations, we start to realise that creating these healthy habits is a lot harder for some.

Is it any wonder that trauma survivors or chronic illness sufferers fail to reach goals when the odds are stacked against them? It is here that we start to resonate with the Hunger Games and know that the odds aren’t EVER in our favour.

Despite these additional barriers, chronic pain sufferers are some of the strongest, most resilient human beings in the world and have overcome limitations that the average person couldn’t even imagine. The resilience built from a lifetime of hardship has created an iron clad, power through mentality that can both serve and fail us.

So how do we turn this around and use our limitations as our strengths?

If you suffer with any form of chronic illness, by now you are probably well versed in Spoon Theory, (which is where a person with chronic illness has a lesser number of spoons depending on the pain severity and the previous experiences). One example might be, each day a person with fibromyalgia has a certain number of spoons; each spoon represents a task, which is removed as the day progresses. The difference between a healthy person as opposed to a fibromyalgia sufferer is that they still have spoons at the end of the day.

(See here for more details)

My suggestion is to go one step further and to also look at where we practice self-love, or the opposite such as self-criticism, judgement or blame during these times of lost spoons.

It’s all well and good practicing external acceptance and resting when you need to, but if the subconscious mind is playing a loop of unworthiness, you might as well be running a marathon in a storm because rest is not occurring in the mind, body and soul in these moments.

Creating awareness from a position of self-love is therefore essential to override this conditioning.

The next step is learning how to surrender whilst also taking conscious action towards our goals.

Suzy Ashworth states ‘Faith plus action equal miracles’. She couldn't be more right!

It is only when we can use our resilience as an asset, live in a state of action oriented self-love and surrender to the present moment that we can finally get the life that we deserve.

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