How visualization can help you manage pain.
The sensation of pain according to neuroscience is the result of the brain concluding that there is a threat. When the brain believes that there is more credible evidence for danger than there is credible evidence for safety, pain will be produced to protected us. This is the problem.
What if the brain does not need to be protecting us with pain? What if it is possible to change how the brain views things so that it starts to conclude that there is no real threat? That would change everything!
One of the basic exercises I walk people through is learning to how to be non-reactive to the sensations they are experiencing. Rather than treating every sensation of discomfort as a terrible thing, I teach people how to look at them in a particular way that includes noticing the sensations without adding any judgment, evaluation, without trying change what they are noticing.
When we experience pain, it is natural for our mind to wrestle with our discomfort and try and eliminate it. We wish for our pain to go away and fear it becoming worse. We try to distract ourselves from our pain or focus on relaxing the area of our body that hurts. If that does not work, we simply give in to the anger and frustration.
Our brains are designed to think, plan, and problem solve. It is only natural for us to take our thoughts seriously. However, at times this can get us into trouble when it comes to how the brain views pain. We do not realize that is possible to view mental activity from a distance. We can learn to stand back and look at our thoughts, feelings, and sensations rather than be controlled by them. We change how the brain processes information by developing the skills of seeing pain and discomfort as one small part of who you are.
One exercise to develop the skill of looking at pain differently is called the physicalizing pain visualization. This exercise develops the skill and attitude of acceptance which can help your brain learn that you are not treating your pain as a threat. With practice, this may help you reduce the intensity of your pain. Give it a try by listening to the podcast on “Visualizing Pain”.