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Drawing the wrong conclusions

11 min. reading time

How come pain is so hard to predict? Why do you have more pain one day than the next? Why does one effort cause pain and another does not?

Pain is hard to predict. Sometimes you have no pain after exercising, other times you can barely get out of bed. Some strenuous days cause you to rest for a few days, while another strenuous day seems to cause no significant problems.

All of this is because pain is "emergent." Emergent means that many different influences determine the outcome. Whereby by far not all influences are unique. 

An example: colors. When you see a color, it is often a mixture of different colors that you can no longer see at that moment. In fact, the substances that make up the color do not have a color of their own, but they do have a color as a whole! 

Now back to the pain. There are many influences that determine pain: Effort, stress, thoughts, feelings, where your attention is, sleep (lack of sleep), the quality of social contacts and so on. While acute pain is still somewhat (but also not well) predictable, with chronic pain there are many more influences that make the pain unpredictable. 

It is impossible, so to speak, with your "pain color" to figure out what mixture of colors together caused the pain.

Drawing the wrong conclusions

Jumping to conclusions too fast

So it's impossible to be completely sure what the cause of your pain is.  One tendency of our brain that doesn't help us in this case is to draw quick conclusions. Because we want to avoid the pain as much as possible, our brain starts looking for reasons for the pain - and then (often wrongly!) avoids these things. 

An example: Petra decides to go for a walk more often. The first three times it goes well, but after the third time she gets severe pain. She has to rest the rest of the day and misses work because she really can't do it. She decides that running is not for her. 

In this example, it seems logical to blame the pain on walking, but is that really the case? Petra has walked hundreds of times in her life without pain. The last two times it went well, and now she has pain once. The conclusion seems to be drawn too quickly. It could well be that a stressful day and poor sleep were the cause! Maybe she would have been in more pain if she hadn't been walking.... 

But, if constantly drawing conclusions from pain doesn't help, how can you change it? The answer is simple, but hard to implement, which is to make as many areas of your life better as possible! Since pain is always a cooperation between all possible parts of your life, it helps the most if you feel good in as many areas as possible!

Improve your life (a lifelong exercise...)

Check yourself how satisfied you are with the next areas of your life by giving the following areas a score (0 - 10):

Sleep

Stress

Relationship

Social contacts

(Volunteer) Work

Food

Weight

Exercise

Vote

Choose the item with the lowest number. Write down what is currently going less well. Then, how you could make progress. What habits would you like to develop that would improve your life in this area? 

Take your time and make a plan. Set achievable goals and don't do too much at once. Taking a small step forward each day will eventually do more for you than making a spontaneous change in your entire life.

 Example: I often go to bed too late because I want to get a lot done in the evening. Then I'm active until late, which makes it hard for me to get to bed at all. The first step could be to read a book in the last half hour of the evening so that I can fall asleep well. Without paying attention to the time of day. If that goes well, I can see if I can manage to start reading in bed at 10:00 pm. And so on and so forth until you are satisfied with that area in your life.

 Improving parts of your life is a life task in itself and will never be "done". At least not with me. 

Drawing the wrong conclusions

More guidance on how to decrease your pain