This is a sequel to my earlier blog about thoughts. How we think about pain and ourselves, has great influence on how we feel. So great, in fact, that thoughts literally affect us pain!
By developing positive, helping thoughts about pain, you can literally reduce the influence of your pain. The first step was also described in the previous blog: write down the negative thoughts, ideas and opinions you have about your pain. If you haven't done so yet, you can now take the time to do so. Write down about 5 negative thoughts about your pain. Usually it's not the nicest, or most real, thoughts that come to mind. Thoughts that you probably have at times when things are going less well, or when you are in a lot of pain.
A few examples:
- My pain never passes
- I can't stand this anymore.
- No one can help me
Although these kinds of thoughts seem pretty 'dark', they are more common than we think. Actually, every person has these kinds of thoughts that flash through their heads. The problem is that we are usually not so aware of it. Many of these thoughts come to us 'automatically', and we also take them 'automatically' seriously! In any case, don't blame yourself if such thoughts occur to you a lot.
Distortions in our thinking
Now we are going to make the first step towards 'converting' these thoughts. To do this, it is a good idea to examine the thoughts for 'distortions'. Distortions are common ways in which our brains draw conclusions, or make predictions that are not correct. These are the following distortions:
- Catastrophic Thinking: Thinking that everything will get worse and/or go wrong. Example: I'm never going to find a nice job.
- Fill in for someone else: Thinking I know what someone else thinks. Example: She will find me an appointee.
- Black and white thinking: Thinking in terms of everything or nothing. Example: Everyone is against me.
- Negative predictions: Predictions about the future that don't have to come true at all. Example: My pain will only get worse.
- Blaming yourself: Thoughts in which you blame yourself. Example: I have earned this pain.
- Blaming others: Blaming people, circumstances and/or objects for problems. Example: Because of my poor upbringing, I have never been able to find a relationship.
Research has shown that 'catastrophic thinking' in particular has a major impact on pain symptoms. Some pain treatments help 30% of the people who suffer a lot from doom and gloom, while 80% of the people who do not regularly do do doom and gloom, benefit from the same treatment!
The next step is to indicate which biases are present in your thoughts. If we take the example thoughts back in, we can write them down:
- My pain never passes: catstrophic thinking, negative predictions, black and white
- I no longer tolerate this: catastrophic thinking.
- No one can help me: catastrophic, fill in for someone else, black and white
This is the second step in working towards helping thoughts. The last step will follow soon! Make no mistake, it is really difficult to learn to recognize thoughts and to detect distortions. It is also possible that this method does not suit you as well as any other way or exercise. As always: regular practice will make things go better and better.