Contents (Being revised, but there is plenty here.)
Prelude concept: Where the power lies
Change This And Your Life Will Change Dramatically
Two Kinds Of Pain
The Failure To Distinguish One Pain From Another
And Then We Add Another Layer
And Finally We Use It To Manipulate
The Great Irony
The Simple Solution
One Big Fear: Future Physical Pain
In-Between: The Pain About Dementia/Helplessness/Old Age
But When I'm "In It"...
It's Been Handled Before Successfully
Future Pain Is Grossly Misestimated
Is Emotional Pain Actually Pain?
Excerpts From Actual Cases, How People Handled It
Comments About The Examples
More Readings On Pain
PRELUDE CONCEPT: WHERE THE POWER LIES
Passive viewpoint/wording: "It is painful for me...I am stuck with this pain."
Active responsibility viewpoint: "I created this pain...now what can I do about it."
The "victim" viewpoint: It just happens "to me". I am helpless. I am dependent on the forces, the power "out there".
The responsibility viewpoint: I am responsible for learning how my emotions work and for managing them. I create my own emotional pain. I have the power to stop creating my emotional pain.
At Option Institute in the workshops, anytime we said something like "it made me feel bad", the by-now trained participants would jump up and challenge that statement. The person quickly corrected it to "I made myself feel bad by thinking that..". This was all part of the process of moving from the passive-victim "it happens to me" to the active-responsible-me, where I am "at cause" over my life and where it is I who creates my life.
The viewpoint that works, because it is aligned with the real world, is that we are the ones with the power over our lives. The guaranteed life of suffering lies in the viewpoint, which does not align with reality, that I am powerless and dependent - that is the victim viewpoint, a left over from an uncorrected belief of a child.
Emotional pain is chemical discomfort caused by the body/mind trying to get back into a state of safe operation. It is a good system, as it has saved our lives. Beyond its "signal value" and paying attention to what is needed to correct being out of homeostasis, we are responsible for creating 97% of the pain.
Let's be absolutely clear about, other than 3%, where the cause of emotional pain is. It does not lie "out there", determined by the environment or people or outside forces. The cause is "us". We create it. I create my own emotional pain.
It's true that I create my emotional pain out of ignorance, but, then, I am responsible for my ignorance, for eliminating my lack of knowledge.
There is nothing implicitly painful about life.
And it is I who controls this. It is I who can create all the happiness I want.
CHANGE THIS AND YOUR LIFE WILL CHANGE DRAMATICALLY!
If you choose to distinguish what pain is and to understand it, then you'll be able to disappear much of what causes you pain now. You can disappear 97% or more of all of your pain. First, you screen the messages. Second, you stop the messages that don't work. Third, and as soon as possible, you substitute correct messages that work (and program them in, see Reminders Notebook.)
The third step requires learning the basics about what works and what doesn't work with regard to creating happiness and virtually eliminating pain.
TWO KINDS OF PAIN
This is about two kinds of pain: emotional pain and physical pain.
We need to handle both, so we will, as best we can. One can be handled totally. The other (physical) can be handled mostly, so that we still are "net" ahead - though you will at first find that hard to believe.
THE FAILURE TO DISTINGUISH ONE PAIN FROM ANOTHER
Sometimes as children we start to confuse pain with loss of survival (or the equivalent in our minds). We experience pain of hunger or some actual pain and we don't know what to make of it - we just get a big signal that something is wrong. Since we don't know what it means and we don't know what to do about it and/or whether we will die, the mind makes the maximum out of it - as the mind's goal is to make us survive and pay attention and do everything we can to survive.
We become so sensitive that we "can't stand pain" - and that gets broadened out from physical pain to anything that contains any believed threat. They all become the same, much of the time. Basically, our mind, until we've taught it otherwise, keeps telling us the same thing over and over - causing great harm. We need to "differentiate", so we need to employ the same process we do in all education - create understanding and then use repetition to get it through. Now remember that we are dealing with Dumb and Dumber here, so we've got to do a little work, but that work will have a huge payoff.
Note that putting out "effort" and doing work oft become associated as "pain" to the juvenile thinking mind. "Oh, my gosh, it's too much work, I won't be able to stand it, I need to go have some relief, I think I'll go eat and watch tv and maybe do some drugs..." Sounds silly, but note how many of us escape using some of those methods. Sure, it's fairly dramatic in a lazy teenager, but it's still highly discernible in most adults, too!
As we grow older, we begin to distinguish the different levels and grades of fear - and some of the pains become "so whats". But we often don't do this to the degree that would best serve us.
Most pains are "so whats" - they are just minor signals. We no longer wail at a small cut on our finger - at least some of us don't - sure, we don't do it literally about a small cut (though some catch themselves wishing they could, but we hide that, for sure!), but we do do it about rejection in even subtle forms or any failure and any unmet "need".
(See Needs, as much of what some think are "needs" are simply not true, but calling it a need makes it sound much more significant, and when it is not met, we are off and running on our dramatization and traumatization.)
THEN WE ADD ANOTHER COMPLICATION
Then we add another layer to the eventual problem - we notice that those who help us survive respond to us and take care of us when we express pain. In our little minds, that response equals "love". Love becomes equated with attention and caring - and survival, which is why we needed the love in the first place - we could not survive on our own as we were powerless and therefore totally dependent on others for survival. (Giving up being a child is essential to happiness. Read The Rational, Nurturing Adult, and see if you will choose that.)
Although subtle, we create pain as "good" in terms of something to focus on and then use to get attention. And the more we dramatize it, the more attention we get. (It doesn't work well in the long term, but to a child there is no idea of a long term.) Besides creating new understanding around this and substitute new thinking, it is very effective just to draw the line and to not permit yourself to dramatize anything, which means also one stops complaining, gossiping, and any negative conversations not designed for making progress.
AND, FINALLY, WE USE IT TO MANIPULATE
As a child, we learn that it works to dole out pain to our caregivers, as they cannot deal with having us in pain. They respond, we get what we want, then we continue to use what appears to work! Pouting, criticizing, withdrawal to punish and other means of doling out pain are used to try to manipulate others into getting what we want.
But we are no longer children, no longer dependent and powerless and no longer so narrowly focused, so we can take on the mantle of being self-sufficient and making requests without demand. If we do that, it stops the unworkable path of trying to control and manipulate what isn't controllable - and we save lots of time and effort and unhappiness (when we don't always get what we want). See Relationships.
THE GREAT IRONY
We spend so much of our lives trying to get relief from the pain of stress, etc., that we fail to recognize that we could just choose not to create it in the first place. What a great time savere - and a life saver, since it frees up much of life to fully play The Game Of Life.
THE SIMPLE SOLUTION
While I would not propose you do monkhood, I propose that you learn all you can about how the mind works, so that you can then manage it.
You could skip that learning if you'd simply buy into the idea that our thoughts cause our pain, so the solution is to change the thoughts. (It's kinda ignorant to spend our lives trying to cure the symptoms [pain] instead of the cause!!!!)
As a famous brain scientist said, when talking about severe obsessive compulsive disorder patients, the most effective thing was to have them realize and say: "These thoughts aren't real." Remember the academy awarding winning movie The Beautiful Mind? He got along fine once he realized the people he saw weren't real - then he was able to play with life and enjoy the illusions.
So, we simply choose to realize that there is no value in listening to those thoughts and we substitute (or replace) into that thinking space at the time an opposite thought. (Actually, we let our higher brain note which thoughts are primitive, untrue, and unuseful, often harmful.)
Going through what your old, unexamined, harmful, useless beliefs and substituting one's that are intelligent, true, and beneficial is the name of the game - since it is the "bad" thoughts that create the key, frequent problems in life - our actual "bad" "problems" are very few, especially if we change our view about them!
ONE BIG FEAR: FUTURE PHYSICAL PAIN
When you think about it, we fear prolonged pain at the end of our lives more than death itself.
So there are three parts to this:
1. The fear (or the emotional pain we give ourselve "in advance"!)
2. The physical pain itself
3. The emotional pain we give ourselves for having the pain
IN-BETWEEN: THE PAIN ABOUT DEMENTIA/HELPLESSNESS
There is a pain that is in-between emotional pain and acute physical pain. It is being in dementia or helpless in some way. That, for most people, is even bigger than physical pain, as they see that the physical pain could be relieved with drugs. (And then we fear being a zombie who can't enjoy life because of the numbing effects of the pain drugs.)
We really get caught up in this as a fear - a needless, useless one. And we really lose our perspective here. In perspective, life is at the most only 2-3% pain, including the dementia and the like, and is 97% non-pain - so it is not a bad deal overall. Acceptance is actually a practice and philosophical view to implement here, as there is needless, useless pain inflicted ahead of time and also at the time [yes, you can even use affirmations for people in dementia].
BUT WHEN I'M "IN IT"...
"But when I'm in pain or in dementia, I won't be so philosophical, as it'll look like 100% of what is going on at the time and therefore like my life is 100% this, with my past disappeared. How do I handle that?"
OK, we've got our work cut out for us! Let's give it a go!
IT'S BEEN HANDLED BEFORE...SUCCESSFULLY
As long as we have bodies, we will have physical pain. Buddhism promises no escape from that. What we can change is how we experience pain. (Link to discussion about pain and acceptance . See some key excerpts from that discussion, excerpts that back up what I am saying here, which I've included at the end of this piece.)
FUTURE PAIN IS GROSSLY MISESTIMATED
Humans misestimate what will make them happy in the future - and then they get there and voila! they are not happy. It pays to become knowledgeable about what makes one happy. This actually also shifts the effect of actual pain, putting it in its place, lower down on the scale, where we can still be happy.
Studies indicate that when we experience physical pain we are still just about as happy as other people. The problem is that we "experience" the thought of how terrible future pain will be such that we end up being unhappy right now. Bringing the experience into the now is not smart, of course. But also it is not smart to believe it will be far worse than what it is likely to be. We end up, needlessly and uselessly, bringing it into the now and then also making it really big and terrible. In truth, you'll be just fine overall. See Pain About Future Pain.
IS EMOTIONAL PAIN ACTUALLY PAIN?
As in the movie "What The Bleep Do We Know?" (see Physics Of The Mind), we constantly get signals motivating us to do something. One key motivation is "discomfort" - the body telling us to seek balance.
Once we get "the signal", if we have a negative belief about it, we will then generate a negative emotion - and in brain scans it shows that this generates activation of the pain sensing part of the brain, similar to feeling actual physical pain signals. The so-called pain reaction is a lesser version than physical pain.
The emotional pain reaction is a real thing, with no "space" between the thought and the emotion being caused, as it happens instantly.
But once we notice it, we can stop repeating the thought that caused it and/or immediately replace the thought with a factual one (or an opposite one). Unless there is a tiger about to get you (i.e. an actual physical threat), the fact that you feel bad indicates that you have a false belief - you can rely on that test!
While the emotion is always real, it is the belief and/or thought that causes the emotion that is not valid. Also, note that events do not cause emotions.
[The proper response from the wise person is: "Is there a real physical threat? No. Then this just a thought with no reality. I now breathe deeply and just let this pass."]
EXCERPTS FROM ACTUAL CASES
An excerpt from the discussion, from one who has experienced extreme pain for 4 decades:
"First of all, it is useful to recognize the distinction between physical pain and the mental reaction to it. Although body and mind are closely intertwined, the mind does not have to share the same fate as the body. When the body feels pain, the mind can stand back from it. Instead of allowing itself to be dragged down, the mind can simply observe the pain. Indeed, the mind can even turn the pain around and transform it into a means of inner growth." "This helps me see them as mere impersonal events, as processes that occur at gross and subtle levels..."
This tool, merely reciting this, he has found to be very powerful: “Whatever feelings there may be—past, present, or future—all feeling is not mine, not I, not my self.”
When this recitation "gains momentum, pain loses its sting..."
Another personal statement:
And from another with "seemingly unbearable pain":
"...discovered that wherever I looked, there were experiences other than pain waiting to be noticed: here is bending, here is breath, here is sun warming
When we have nothing left to hold on to, we must find comfort and support in the mundane details of our everyday lives, which are less than mundane when they’re the reason we’re willing to stay alive."
"Thirty years after first being devastated by pain, I never enter a room without noticing what sources of comfort and ease will sustain me: not only the recliner and the pillow but also the light streaming in from the window, the handmade vase on the table, even the muffled drone of the air-conditioner—all of it created for the pleasure of human beings. By bringing into my conscious life objects that offer their kind companionship—my toothbrush and my dishes, my spoon and my car—I feel their tangible support as well as their sometimes charming idiosyncrasies. Awareness of this support can be simultaneous with resistance to my pain and the search for ways to stop it. These tracks don’t hinder each other; they are both active, engaged encounters.
But now, as I live in the vibrancy of the sensual present, clearly seeing each moment as my most viable source of solace and delight, I prefer to stay right here. I have lost any sense that there is something special or tragic about my circumstances. Day in and day out, they are just my life."
COMMENTS ABOUT THE EXAMPLES
When pain is experienced completely, it is not experienced as suffering; it does not become a problem.
Does it hurt?
Does that eclipse the perfection of the moment? No.
Complete pain means pure pain, pain not mixed with resistance, either at the conscious or subconscious level of neural processing.
Resistance is inner friction that interferes with the natural flow of pain.
Not resisting pain is to have equanimity with the pain, radical self-permission to feel the pain. "Pure pain purifies."
Yes, this takes some doing to get to this place, but it is very doable. We need to set up the philosophy behind it (see Suffering And Struggle), as it will affect what we tell ourselves about pain. The total pain (and even the actual physical pain) worsens when we tell ourselves how awful it it. Amazingly, the physical pain lightens up as well as the emotional pain if all we do is repeat in rote fashion some mantra or coping statement. This could be from "this is only physical pain and there is plenty else in the world" to "I appreciate life and this is just part of it." (Or even playing a tape that talks about this in a soothing way is highly worth it.)
MORE ON PAIN
and what minimizes it - why do two people react so differently to the same thing?
Pain About Future Pain. We grossly exaggerate and misestimate the pain of future pain - and we waste alot of effort on it!