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Tips for Being with Pain

By Melanie Smithson, MA, ADTR, LPC

When we are in pain, we are emotionally fragile for many reasons. The first reason is that most of our energy is going to fix the pain and there’s often not enough left for dealing with life. Also, when we are in pain our belief in our own invincibility is threatened. On top of this, we may have many negative beliefs about pain from childhood; such as “anyone with pain is a whiner, crybaby, etc”, “you should be able to handle this” or “something’s wrong with you”. Here are some suggestions for being with pain.

Awareness and Attention – with real pain, ignoring it will not make it go away. Oftentimes, pain is a call for attention and an indicator that something is amiss. Get curious about your pain; is it warning you about a serious imbalance in your system? Is it letting you know something about someone or something in your environment? Keep in mind that when we ignore our pain, it often escalates; much like a child wanting to be noticed.

Breath – breath works hand-in-hand with attention. When we breathe into a sensation we are giving it attention, but we are also validating it, saying it is worthy of our energy. Also, breathing expands the area around the pain by providing oxygen and space. Letting the pain get bigger is a Vipassana meditation technique that works with breath to expand the area the pain takes. While this may be a frightening thought, think about liquid on a surface, the larger the surface, the thinner the consistency of the fluid. When pain is spread out over a larger area, it becomes less intense.

Loving Kindness- often we judge ourselves for our pain and/or illness. When we are blamed by our self or other, we will contract in reaction. Contraction closes in on pain and makes it worse. Remember that you are a human being, having a human experience and doing the best you can with what you have available in the moment.


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