Chronic pain and self-compassion

I have talked about our need for self-compassion from time to time and how I had basically none for years. You can’t have compassion when you have no self-worth and feel utterly and fundamentally worthless. Which is why I needed to cultivate it.

Chronic pain and self-compassion

According to a new paper in the Journal of Clinical Psychology one particularly promising way that psychologists can help with this is by encouraging self-compassion: a practice of recognising one’s own suffering, accepting this is part of a shared human experience, and not over-identifying with the suffering.Research digest

My psychologist always tried to get me to show some compassion for myself. For the chronic pain have but still working, part-time, which was burden my co-workers didn’t have. That I was going really well when you factor that in there. And he told me the things I do like my writing and blogging are important whereas I undervalued every accomplishment I had… just not worthy enough for society so, therefore, I just felt useless. But what I do does have value.

And we know all humans suffer and some of us that have chronic pain have to understand we have to be gentle with ourselves because we can only do so much. We are also human with limitations and are not superhuman, but we have more limits. There shouldn’t be any guilt for that which we cannot do and a lot of pride in what we can do.

Sérgio Carvalho from the University of Coimbra and his colleagues surveyed women living with chronic pain, to better understand which psychological states seem to coincide with, and potentially support, pain acceptance – an important outcome given that past research has demonstrated a causal link between greater pain acceptance and lower depression (pain acceptance is about recognising that the pain experience is part of your life and may continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It also means being willing to put up with that pain, and, crucially, to pursue valued goals and act in their pursuit, despite pain). Research digest

When you talk to a good pain psychologist they do help you gain a level of acceptance for the pain you have and will always have and this does help make you feel more in control of your existence. And it helped with my hopelessness and depression. It helped me realize I will be in pain anyway, so why not do some careful socialization in an environment I can handle for short periods of time? I’d be in pain if I didn’t. I would be in pain if I did, but I would get a lot out of getting out of the house and socializing. But always be prepared when socializing. And know when you have to leave which is never a problem with friends.

It’s plausible then that self-compassion lifts mood because it encourages people to accept their pain and act. Engaging in activity starts to strengthen the body, send hormones flowing that increase mood and themselves can reduce pain, and puts back sources of pleasure and satisfaction into one’s life.

This study suggests mindfulness (which was not linked with greater activity) may also be useful in decreasing depression, but by other means, possibly through creating distance from unhelpful thoughts that may arise around pain or the experience of disability.Research digest

I know we have to work on how we view ourselves and illness for sure. And my pain psychologist also did recommend meditation which I do find helps relax my body and decrease stress. It makes you just relax and in that state, there is no fear, blame, or guilt. I do it every day before bed and exercises during the day as well.

I am not saying we need to be guided by a psychologist to create some self-compassion in our lives though. It greatly helped me but in a lot of little ways, we can encourage self-compassion. Like my post on usable hours in the day. When we understand we have very little usable hours we can have some compassion that we are just not able to do as much and our productivity we do have is impressive indeed.

And it is hard to have self-compassion when we feel we should be doing things we simply cannot do. We feel it is us that is actually the problem. And we can feel immense guilt. It is hard to shut that down and say ‘You know it is sad I couldn’t attend that gathering but my body needs rest today and there is nothing wrong with that.”

Other related posts:

Chronic illness- that isn’t me

Guilty of being chronically ill

Denial and chronic illness

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4 comments

  1. It is very important to be kind to ourselves. Psychologists and counselors are always saying that we need to show self compassion. But it can be hard when we are not happy with what we are able to achieve and start comparing ourselves to others.

    Liked by 1 person

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