Psychology of Pain

Psychology of Pain

Hi, my name is Jake Evans. What follows below is my story. It’s a personal story of Chronic Pain, Pelvic Pain, Femoral-Acetabular Impingement, Labral tears, Mindfulness, and the complete, 100% psychological shift that follows mysterious, unrelenting, debilitating pain. I’m writing this in the hopes that it’ll help just one single person going through anything similar, as well as to share some life-long coping techniques I’ve learned to not only deal with exceptional physical and psychological pain, but, in the words of Dan Harris, to become 10% happier.

This post also ties in quite nicely with the concept of Arete; the pursuit of well-rounded self-improvement and character development sometimes discussed here at Health and Performance.

Continue on to read my full story, or skip to the Lessons Learned or Additional Resources.

My Story

The Physical Pain

It was March 2012 when I arrived in Charlottesville, Virginia. I moved from Wichita, Kansas for a new job, as well as to be closer to family and to enjoy the East-Coast type of lifestyle and atmosphere (so yeah, the Virginia wineries. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the women out here really like their sun dresses).

I quickly got more than just a handle on the new job, becoming the “go-to-guy” in a short amount of time, something I took immense pride in. I made it a point to be purposefully more outgoing and sociable by starting a couple social groups. I took classes that I never really thought I could tackle (basically anything with the word math in it). I was learning what it was like to connect with family members as an adult instead of a child (I hadn’t significantly interacted with many of them since I was much younger). I even started what I called ‘seriously dating’, which really just meant that I got over the whole, “oh look, a hot girl!” kinda thing and began to consider what I’d like in a potential life-long partner. I turned up the gym intensity and began distance running. I bought a motorcycle.

This was all in the span of about 3 months. In short, I felt absolutely on top of the world. I was thrilled with myself, and rightly so, if I do say so myself.

Then the pain began.

It began so subtly, so insidiously, and so… pathetically? Essentially, it hurt to sit. That’s right, every time I sat down, regardless of type of chair, type of cushion, the ambiance, the humidity level, the alignment of the starts, whatever, any time I sat, I hurt. More specifically, my pelvic floor hurt. Think ‘groin’ if that makes you more comfortable, but just know that this was not what a pulled groin feels like. It felt like sitting on a knife, in the worst possible spot imaginable.

It was so subtle at first that I absolutely didn’t notice it. I did notice however that the duration of my focus and concentration when trying to write or code (I’m a software engineer) or read or simply browse the Internet grew shorter and shorter. Coding issues that normally wouldn’t have been a big deal began to give me trouble. I started making mistakes at work, just overlooking simple little things. My attention to detail was shot.

Eventually, a co-worker asked why I seemed so squirrely lately. I gave him one of those ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ looks, and he told me I was constantly shifting my weight and moving around at my desk. He told me I couldn’t sit still. I had absolutely no idea I was doing that.

I promptly forgot about that conversation mere minutes after it occurred, but several weeks later, I finally noticed that something was physically wrong.

I found a doctor and scheduled an appointment. By this point, I wasn’t plagued by pain alone; my condition had deteriorated enough that there wasn’t anything below the waist that worked correctly. Everything was impacted… yup, that’s right, everything. Significantly. I was 27 at this point.

This began what I now call my ‘drug period’. After about 30 minutes or so with a throughly confused doctor, I could almost feel the heat from the lightbulb that appeared above this guy’s head. I had Prostatitis, an infection of the prostate. That must be it. That’s the only thing that fits these symptoms. Oh, and a quick little ‘examination’ confirmed it. Except I didn’t have Prostatitis, it turns out. Of course, this was only determined after months of different high-powered antibiotics that did nothing for me but kill off all bacteria in my gut and probably make me more vulnerable to future sicknesses.

Eventually, he referred me across the street to a Urologist, who also ‘confirmed’ the diagnosis of Prostatitis. Guess what? More antibiotics. The result? No change.

I took matters into my own hands at this point, deciding to visit a few Urologists at the University of Virginia Hospital this time around. They poked and prodded and ran more tests, all of which I passed with flying colors, not that anyone expected anything less of a physically fit guy in his 20s.

At this point I had lived with this pain for about a year. I stopped dating, stopped going out with friends, stopped going to movies… It was absolutely all I could do to go sit through an 8-hour day of work (and standing didn’t really relieve the pain anymore either). I’d leave work and spend all night laying on the couch. Basically, if it involved sitting, I didn’t do it. Think about that for a minute – how much of your day do you sit? You sit in the car on the way to work. Chances are, you probably sit all day at work. You drive home. You sit on the couch and watch TV. You head to dinner with some friends. Then you hit up a movie, or maybe head to the coffee shop, where you drink coffee. And sit. All of that for me involved unbearable pain. To make matters just oh-so-much better, I began having some serious gastrointestinal symptoms. I went through the entire battery of GI tests, too many of which ended in ‘scopy’. They found nothing wrong.

To be completely blunt, I was 100% terrified that not only was there not going to be an end to this pain, but that maybe, just maybe, this was all in my head.

Maybe I was doing this to myself.

The Psychological Pain

When every doctor you see eventually looks at you as if you’re that ‘crazy person’ seeking attention and validation for physical symptoms that appear to not really be there, you yourself begin to believe that’s actually the truth. After a long enough amount of time, you lose all objectivity and begin to doubt yourself. And then, if you’re me, you begin to blame yourself.

Much like the onset of the pain itself, this shift in psychological perspective was subtle and insidious. For me, the real descent into this dark mental hole was when the reaction to “Jake’s pain” transitioned from, “Wow, that must really suck! Well, just keep it up with those doctors and try to stay positive, I’m sure you’ll feel better soon!”, to more of a, “Yeah, yeah, we get it, you’re in pain, you’ve been in pain, it hurts to sit, blah blah blah”. To be fair, I’m sure people didn’t actually respond this way, or at least, not quite to that extent, but I sure felt like they did.

To me, this was more external confirmation that this condition was indeed all in my head and, by extension, my fault.

This condition of mine was beginning to uncover every little neurosis I had swimming just under the surface. All insecurities from adolescence reared their ugly, judgmental heads. New insecurities I wasn’t even aware of, bred from the old insecurities, decided to introduce themselves. It was at this point I realized I had built my life upon a pretty shaky foundation, a house of cards so to speak. Essentially, it went like this:

In the beginning, there were the Adolescent insecurities. 95% of these were the typical insecurities that all kids experience, so nothing earth-shattering or caused by deep-seated trauma or out-of-the-ordinary experiences. I was just a typical nerdy kid definitely on the shy-side of the social spectrum.

This shyness however left it’s mark on my psyche. Over time, I developed a slightly unhealthy preoccupation with leaving that shy, awkward kid behind, and instead becoming a generally popular, attractive, funny, outgoing, successful individual, one with lots of friends, an attractive girlfriend, a flashy car… essentially, I developed the ‘keeping-up-with-the-joneses’ mentality without realizing it, which was intricately tied into my sense of self-worth and wellbeing.

Eventually, after High School I achieved some measure of success. I didn’t take the traditional high-school-to-college route, but I did learn pretty quick that I excelled in pretty much everything I tried post-high-school. I was promoted over others in all the jobs I held. I realized that, at least out of my circle of friends, I was the one women seemed to gravitate towards. I even discovered, after realizing I did in fact need a traditional College degree and began taking classes, that I was fairly smart.

It sounds like life was really starting to come together, right? Well, in one way it was, but in another way that I was wholly unaware of, I was simultaneously setting myself up for failure.

After each promotion, after each smile flashed my way from a pretty girl, after each A+ on a college paper, I felt on top of the world – for about 30 seconds. Then it faded, and like an addict coming down from a high, I felt worse about myself than I had before.

I was aware of this psychological roller-coaster, but I was oddly grateful for it. I felt that, if I didn’t have this ‘withdrawal’ period, I wouldn’t be motivated to grow, to become more successful.

I continued down this path for a while, joining the Air Force in 2007. I excelled there too, winning a few leadership awards, receiving promotions over others who had seniority on me, and absolutely killing all of the Physical Fitness tests. It was at this point that my fitness obsession began.

I became the typical gym rat, with my protein shaker, chicken and brown rice dinners, my complex workout routines and the hundreds of dollars a month spent on supplements. I was absolutely addicted to the afterglow of a personal-record-smashing workout (you know what I’m taking about; that feeling of breaking 300 on a bench-press for the first time, or adding another 40 pounds on your deadlift out of nowhere). Conversely, I felt equally crappy about myself when I had an off day in the gym.

To sum up; at this point in my life, I felt pretty good, as long as I could continue to reach for, and obtain the next ‘thing’. Otherwise, I felt like shit. I had built a hell of a Taj Mahal out of flimsy cardboard playing cards.

Now, imagine suddenly becoming crippled by pain. Imagine the Taj Mahal reduced to a pile of rubble. At first, you refuse to believe it. You refuse to believe anything is wrong. You convince yourself you just need to ‘try harder’, or that you’re just having a bad day. Then acceptance comes – there is indeed an issue. You seek the answers through all the typical routes… you speak to doctors, you take the medicine, you convince yourself this is something you’ll ‘get over’ soon; you’ll eventually be able to wake up from this nightmare and suddenly be back to normal. But the nightmare drags on and on and on. Then the nightmare gets worse – with all the typical routes exhausted, with all the doctors sneering at you like a crazy person wasting their time, you’re left with nothing but a feeling of utter helplessness and hopelessness. The nightmare has become reality, and your old life has become the dream barely half-remembered.

Mindfulness

My psychological state lead me to move. Yes, I moved right in the middle of this ordeal, to Washington D.C. no less. Whether or not I was conscience of this at the time, I was operating under the assumption that this pain was in my head, and that maybe I needed a ‘change of pace’ to get over this thing. It didn’t help that, despite my pain, I had maxed out my job opportunities at my current place of employment, and that I wanted to move in a slightly different direction career-wise anyway. So, I found a new job in DC and moved. Despite a decent bump in pay, I knew I’d better keep things as cheap as possible, considering how expensive DC is, so I answered an ad on Craigslist advertising a cheap room for rent in a house with one other tenant. Really, my main reason for finding the cheapest living situation possible was that I had no idea what kind of medical bills I may be paying in the future.

This was the most miserable time of my life. I was suddenly living in basically a closet with a single 50-some-year-old guy for a roommate who drove me absolutely crazy, all the while trying to get spun up on a new job and desperately trying to find a solution to my pain. Oh, and this new job wasn’t quite what I had in mind. In fact, I ended up doing something 100% completely different than what I was hired on to do. Luckily, I ended up liking the work anyway. There was a hook however, something that roped me in and wouldn’t let go; I got to telework. Suddenly I didn’t have to sit for 40 hours a week in pain. Instead, I could sit in pain at work for 32 hours a week, and finish up the last 8 in bed with my laptop.

Looking back now though, this was the very beginning of a period of time when my perspective on pain and life in general began to significantly shift. It all started with a book titled A Headache in the Pelvis: A New Understanding and Treatment for Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndromes.

I was pretty skeptical of basically everything this book espoused, but I was desperate and had no idea what else to do. Since moving I had been to chiropractors and pain specialists, receiving all kinds of adjustments, MRIs, and injections that had just enough credibility to rope me in, convincing me to give ’em a shot. Nothing helped.

As I began to read this book, some of the personal stories shared within sounded eerily familiar; several of them were almost my exact story. Despite being some 568-pages long however, it did little in the way of providing actionable advice, except for one little concept called ‘Paradoxical Relaxation’. Essentially, with paradoxical relaxation, one learns to ‘be with their pain’. Now I know, it sounds all kinds of new-agey and whatnot, but really all it meant was that one was supposed to lay down on the floor, close their eyes, feel their pain (or whatever bodily sensations happen to arise), and simply do nothing about it. Just notice the pain, that’s all. Pretty simple. Honestly, this didn’t help all that much, but it did get me thinking about how we react to pain. Naturally, we all have that instinct to flinch away from pain, to do whatever is necessary to make the pain stop. We hardly ever think about this reaction it’s so automatic, so buried deep down within our programming. Somehow, I knew there was something at least interesting here. That being said, I read the book and forgot about it pretty quickly afterwards.

More months passed, full of pain and despair. I decided I’d try seeing a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Virginia, mostly because of the advice I had found in A Headache in the Pelvis. I immediately felt more vindicated about my pain than I ever had before; after all, this was a health provider that was specifically trained to look at issues in this area of the body. Granted, 90% of her clients were women (which is why I’m sure no doctor I had seen up to this point never once suggested this), but I was at my rope’s end.

I also began reading another book about chronic pain, Teach us to Sit Still: A Skeptic’s Search for Health and Healing. This was the author’s personal story of his experience with Pelvic Pain, and how he was cured. He wrote about how he too had read A Headache in the Pelvis, and had picked up on the whole Paradoxical Relaxation thing. Much like I did, he moved on from that book and continued down his own path, searching for answers to the pain. He eventually arrived at something else that resonated with me, something that, were I to call it by it’s traditional name, would make most Health and Performance readers roll their eyes. Let me instead just describe it.

This technique begins similarly to Paradoxical Relaxation. One lays on the floor, or sits in a chair, or some otherwise comfortable position. The eyes close, and the one and only task that is asked of you is to pay attention to your breathing. Notice how it feels as you breath in, and as you breath out. Then notice how quickly your mind wanders, as you begin to think about any one of the million things always rattling around inside your skull. When this happens, simply notice that your attention has wandered away from your breathing, and re-focus. That’s it. It sounds simple. I even used the word ‘simply’ just a few sentences ago. There’s actually nothing simple about this. This is hard. It’s exercise for your mind like you’ve never experienced before. But the benefits stand to be immense.

I began doing this daily for a couple months. Just short 10 to 20-minute sessions here and there. I immediately noticed that I was in no way in control of what was going on inside my own head (not that the point was to gain control). It was like a playground of out-of-control thoughts, memories, scenarios, and other mental activity. I was just paying attention to it all for the first time ever. I began to realize that when I had certain thoughts, and noticed them, they usually spawned other thoughts, which spawned other thoughts, and before I knew it, there were avalanches of thoughts inside my head that usually had grown so irrational and completely unrelated to the original thought that it became absurdly humorous. For example, I would sit on the floor cross-legged, and when a particularly uncomfortable stab of pain assaulted my nether-regions, I would be sometimes become completely aware of a train of thought that went something like this:

“Dammit, there’s that pain again” > “Is this ever going to go away???” > “For all I know, I’ll be halfway through my 30’s before I get this fixed!” > “That’d be almost a decade lost to pain instead of spent working on a career or dating or having fun with friends!” > “What woman is going to want some mid-thirties guy way behind on life?” > “I’m gonna die poor and alone!!!”

You laugh (hopefully), but I challenge you to really examine your entire thought process the next time something unpleasant happens to you. Really take a second to see how far down the rabbit-hole your mind goes, I bet you’ll be surprised.

The point is, that entire thought process affects your behavior, whether you realize it or not. Remember a time when you snapped at a family member or cut someone off in traffic, all because you were in a bad mood, but couldn’t really point to a specific reason for the bad mood? It’s times like that when it’s worth examining your thoughts. Additionally, the next time someone cuts you off in traffic, really examine how you react… how you feel physically, and the thoughts that flow through your mind in the couple seconds that follow.

The benefit to being aware of your thinking is that you can then choose how you react to those thoughts. Chances are you won’t be able to stop these thoughts anytime soon, but you can notice them for what they are; thoughts. That’s all they are. Simply notice them, and don’t ascribe any meaning, any importance to them. Realize that you don’t have to react to them. Your behavior doesn’t have to change just because you’ve had unpleasant thoughts. When I find myself on one of these little ‘thought-trips’, I find it especially helpful to focus on looking and touching what’s physically in front of me, to help ground myself back in reality.

I’m not saying I’m good at any of this. I’m really not. The beauty of this is that you don’t have to be good at it to get some of the benefits. Before I started doing this, I would let those thought avalanches completely take over my mood, for hours at a time. I’m not saying that this still doesn’t happen, as I’m still struggling with this pain, but it happens much less often, and it’s usually much less intense and destructive when it does.

Being aware of your thoughts will help anyone in any walk of life in any location of the world, whether you’re a typical soccer mom in Kansas or a high-powered CEO in Beijing. In fact, had it not been for this ‘mindfulness’, I would have never been able to realize that much of my behavior and motivations stem from some deep-seated insecurities, and in turn would never have been able to begin the work of making peace with those insecurities, thus making me a better, happier, more compassionate and complete person. Not to mention simply having a pretty good tool to help me deal with my pain.

A Possible Cure?

I saw the Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist for a few months (which consisted of some really uncomfortable, and honestly, somewhat funny ‘therapies’), and one day on a whim mentioned something about my hip. I told her that one night, while laying in bed on my back, I placed my feet together and let me knees drop out to the side. I instantly felt some discomfort in my left hip. Not a shooting pain or anything that that made me jump out of bed, but more of a feeling that my hip just wasn’t supposed to bend that way.

She immediately examined my hip, testing my range of motion and strength. She decided I needed to go down the hall to see a hip specialist. Now, had this been 6 months prior, I would have been excited, but I’d since learned to not get hopeful about anything. After all, I had seen about a million doctors who weren’t able to do anything for me, there’s no reason this would be anything different. Also, like any good hypochondriac, I had scoured the Internet for anything that could possibly be causing my symptoms, and I hadn’t once come across anything about the hip joint.

I saw the hip specialist for a time or two, and she suggested I get an X-ray and MRI of my hip, so I did. The x-ray showed nothing. The MRI was a different story. The report said that I had what was called Femoral-Acetabular Impingement. Basically, this meant that I had an bony growth on both the ball and the socket of my hip, thus limiting my range of motion. This limited range of motion also most likely caused a labral tear in my hip (the labrum is a tissue/cartilage that surrounds the hip joint and provides some support and stability). This is a relatively new thing in the world of medicine, and the outpatient surgery used to correct it has only existed for about 15-20 years, which apparently in the world of medicine is only a brief moment in time.

I researched the crap out of this. Hours and hours and hours were spent on the internet reading about the surgery, the associated symptoms, and communicating with others who had been through the procedure. I hadn’t spent so much time on the internet since puberty!

The only problem with all this research was that none of my symptoms matched what I was reading online. I didn’t have any pain in my hip. Even after I ran a marathon I didn’t have any pain. Sure, my knee always felt a little tender, but I thought I just had a ‘bad’ knee. Both of my Physical Therapists were adamant though that they’d had patients with pelvic pain who, after having hip surgery, were pain-free. The surgery was also pretty low-risk, and as far as surgeries go, not a huge deal.

The working theory for my pain ended up being that, because I was such an active individual, with all the running and time spent in the gym, my body had compensated for my limited range of motion and lack of strength in my hip to the point that my body wouldn’t allow the hip to move in a way that hurt, so I never noticed it. Instead, other muscles like my abs and pelvic floor had eventually picked up the slack, and gotten to a point where they could no longer function properly and began to cause me pain and other dysfunction.

This was the best answer for my plight I had had in a very long time. I decided to have the surgery, despite some reservations.

Post-Surgery Period

Surgery Day: This was it, this was the day of demarcation, the day that either began the long road to recovery and eventually a life free of the debilitating pain I’ve lived with for years, or just another useless medical procedure that did nothing but provide false hope. I arrived at the hospital at 4am. By 5am I was gowned-up and laying in the pre-op area, where I discovered I was having surgery in a teaching hospital. As a parade of interns came by, asking textbook questions associated with my diagnosis, I realized I felt less and less sure that this was the route to go. This probably had something to do with the questions the interns asked:

“So what did you do to your hip, was it a sports injury?”

“Oh, not a sports injury huh? A car accident? No? Well, you must have done something…” (apparently, they missed the part of the textbook that says this is something people can be born with)

“Okay, so what would you rate the pain in your hip right now?”

“Oh, you don’t have pain in your hip, but in your pelvic floor/abdomen? Huh…”

and my favorite one…

“We’re going to test your range of motion now. Okay, all done, looks like you have full range of motion in your left hip!”

I in fact did not have full range of motion in my left hip. I was feeling oh so confident about my decision to have pieces of bone shaved off and some mangled tissue stitched back together.

The surgery went just fine, and I was soon back in the car with my parents on the way home (after learning how to walk with crutches). The next couple of weeks were spent laying in bed, hobbling around my new studio apartment with crutches, and the occasional Physical Therapy outing. By the end of the second week I was still on crutches, but walking with both feet fully contacting the ground. By the end of the third week I had ditched them altogether.

At this point one would be tempted to ask if the surgery was worth it, if the pain was gone. The pain was definitely not gone. In addition to the original pain, I was also plagued with incredibly tight abdominal muscles, so much so that my abdomen was riddled with very painful trigger points. I thought I knew pain by this point; I didn’t. Not until my physical therapist began massaging these points did I know pain… I’m tellin’ ya, this little 5’4″ 90-pound girl made me grit my teeth and pour sweat by simply placing a few fingers on some tight muscles. And that was before she ever started stretching my hip.

Additionally, because of the tight abdomen and sore hip, I had trouble breathing fully. Usually, when one takes a deep breath, it’s a relaxing experience. It helps to clear the mind, activate the parasympathetic system, and generally calm a person down. Usually, this involves muscles throughout the body relaxing. For me, each time I took a deep breath, I could feel all the muscles in my abdomen and hip try to relax, for about half a second; then my body shot off warning signals that, if muscles continue to relax like they’re supposed to, there’s gonna be a gigantic party of pain in my hip. Thus, each time I took a breath, my muscles contracted, instead of relaxing. This also resulted in some awesome headaches. This was my first clue that there’s some sort of relationship between breathing, the hips, and the pelvic floor (Google it, there’s plenty of articles out there).

Oh, and those digestive issues I mentioned before? They got a little worse. It was as if all the muscles around my hip and abdomen were so tight, they weren’t gonna let anything flow through the body correctly…

For the next couple of months I lived for my Physical Therapy appointments (in fact, at the time of writing this, I still do). Each session (usually twice a week) would bring pain, but for the next day or two, things would be ever so slightly more relaxed than usual. The best way to describe it is the phrase ‘two steps forward, one step back’… although probably more accurately it felt like ‘one step forward, 9/10-ths of a step back’.

Current State of Affairs…

It’s been 3 months+ now. I’m about 10% away from having full range of motion in all planes of motion that the hip moves in. The holdouts are internal and external rotation. One of the cool things I’m trying to take away from this right now is the fact that my hip is currently moving further than it’s ever moved in my life, since it’s no longer impeded by protrusions of bone. For all I know, when all is said and done, I’ll breath better and have better digestion than I’ve ever had. I also know that, if I choose to get back in the gym, I’ll make gains unlike anything before; I know that, because of a lack of strength in my left hip, my left shoulder has been negatively effected, to the point that my bench-press stalled at around 300 for the last few months I routinely visited the gym.

Had you asked me only a month ago whether or not this surgery was the answer, I wouldn’t have been sure, but with each PT session, with each week that goes by, I’m more and more sure that this is indeed the answer for my pelvic floor pain and all associated symptoms. The question now is how many more months will it be until I can officially say I’m 100% pain-free.

I’ve definitely climbed out of the dark hole of hopelessness and helplessness, but the precipice is still within visual range. On bad days, I look back over my shoulder at that precipice, and it calls to me in a way, urging me to return. It’s almost a comforting thought; after all, it would be easier to turn around and fall back in rather than continue to walk away. But those days are thankfully fewer and further between, and eventually I know that the landscape will change altogether and that hole will be nothing but a memory. Even if time passes and it turns out I still don’t posses the answer to my pain, I know that there’s only one real choice, one real path; to continue forward, seeking the answer. I’ve already become a stronger person because of this ordeal, and it’s not even over yet.

I’ll be sure to post updates, on both the physical and psychological aspects. To all of those that are going through anything similar, I hope I’ve been able to help in some small way, if only to make you feel just a little less alone for a few minutes. Continue on below to check out a summary of what I’ve learned so far, and a collection of additional resources Thanks for reading Psychology of Pain.

Lessons Learned

Below is a summary of what this experience has taught me so far.

  • RELATIONSHIPS ARE IMPORTANT: I’ve always been an independent person, having just a handful of close friends at any given time, and being completely content with spending lots of time by myself. This behavior slowly morphed into a belief that I don’t “need” people, and that relationships with others can even be something of a waste of time, something that would detract from my goals or cause unnecessary stress and ‘drama’, so to speak. I now know this is a misguided way of viewing relationships. I now realize that relationships of any kind are in fact one of the most important things in life. I know this because when you’re struck by debilitating pain that prevents you from pursuing many of your goals and enjoying activities you once did, what you are left with is thrown into stark contrast. If you’re lucky enough to have many close friends and family nearby, that can be an incredible comfort; If you’re not, you realize that, at the end of the day, when in physical and emotional pain, you want nothing more than the comforting presence of someone close to you. And the best thing is, they don’t really have to do or say anything specific to make you feel better… they help by simply being there.

  • MINDFULNESS IS IMPORTANT: I define Mindfulness as simply becoming more and more aware of one’s thoughts and reactions. It’s simply amazing how much is going on just below the surface of our conscience minds that significantly influences our moods and behaviors. Even my very limited experience with developing mindfulness has helped me realize and work on some deep-seated insecurities and fears that, had I not come across this concept, would have continued to shape my life for years to come without my ever realizing it. The day-to-day benefits are immense as well, allowing me to become better at checking my instinctual reactions to life’s unpleasant situations, stopping the inevitable stress of those situations from ever arising.

  • COMPASSION IS IMPORTANT:This story of mine that you hopefully just read could have gone much differently. I could have held a physically demanding job that I would have been completely unable to perform over the past several years. I could have had an insurance company that wouldn’t cover my surgery (some insurance companies still consider Femoroplasty/Acetabuloplasty surgery w/ Labral Repair an experimental procedure, including Tricare). I could have had 0 family or friends to turn to and lean on throughout. Let’s just get to the point; I could have become one of those homeless welfare recipients that I almost borderline despised not too long ago. It’s not that big of a stretch really, had several factors been different. The point is, it’s a cliche, but it’s true; life can change in an instant. I’ve come to realize this, and now when I walk the streets of Washington DC and pass a homeless person, instead of immediately seeing a lazy, uneducated bum clearly begging for what will certainly become booze money, I instead see the possibility that that person may have been very similar to me once, and through an unfortunate series of events, has been reduced to the dirty, ignoble beggar that most simply ignore.

Additional Resources

12 responses to “Psychology of Pain

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      1. That’s great to hear! Anyway I could get in contact with him? I’m going throught the EXACT same thing that he wrote about. It’s as if I could have written it with the exception I haven’t had any surgery yet. Any help would be appreciated.

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