What fear of dogs can tell us about pain

7 min. reading time

What would you advise someone who is afraid of dogs and wants to get rid of this fear? 

Think about this for a while, before you read on.

Chances are, you would advise them to deal with dogs more. Maybe first from a distance, a bit closer. Practice with calm and sweet dogs, and slowly expand. Slowly overcome the fear piece by piece, until he or she is no longer afraid of dogs.

What would you advise someone who has chronic pain, and wants to get rid of his pain?

Think about this as well.

Fear and pain have a lot in common. They feel different, but both are 'protective mechanisms'. In fact, in both cases the brain shouts 'DANGER' too soon, for various reasons.  In the case of the dog, because the brain is convinced that (all) dogs will bite.

fear of dogs

In case of pain, the brain is convinced that the body must be protected against (imminent) damage.

The annoying thing is that, in both examples, the brain is not right. Most dogs do not bite and in most people with chronic pain, there is no question of (impending) damage at times of pain. So the brain shouts 'DANGER' too soon.

The only way in which the brain learns fear and pain is by doing things differently. Whereas someone who is afraid of dogs has to expose themselves to dogs, someone with chronic pain has to expose himself to the pain. 

This can be done in different ways

  1. Slowly expand activities that are difficult. Expand the activities in small steps to prove to your brain that the danger has passed and that it no longer needs to cause pain.
  2. Learn to consciously focus your attention on your sores. Find out how to think about your pain, explore it and maybe even accept it. If you can accept pain, this will be a sign to the brain that the danger has passed. 

If you want to deal with your own pain problem, then there is no other option than to (kindly) confront your own pain!

An exercise that can help you learn to focus your attention on your own body is the body scan, an exercise from the mindfulness. For all the exercises on this page, the more you exercise, the greater the effect will be. 


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