The Chronic Pain Experience – Stage 1 – Denial
“If I ignore it, it will go away”
I’m not sure who came up with this familiar saying, or under what circumstances.
I have come to the conclusion that it does not apply to dogs, dirty dishes, or chronic pain.
First, I would like to commend you for putting on a brave face and staying optimistic. Chronic pain often makes us feel frail. The reality that we cannot depend on our bodies the way we used to is a difficult reality to face.
So, before we come to that conclusion, we want to make sure every possible avenue of healing has been exhausted. Including all possibilities of, and not limited to, future medical discoveries, new surgical procedures, and miraculous healings.
In the Bible, Job states it quite plainly –
“When I speak up, I feel no better; if I say nothing, that doesn’t help either. I feel worn down” ~ Job 16:6 -The Message.
The Bible is very clear on the fragility of our lives. “As for man his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourished.” ~ Psalms 103:15 – NASB
These verses may not bring you comfort, but they may help you face the truth.
Choosing to stay in denial of your painful situation may bring consequences that will only complicate your situation even more. If you are not willing to face the fact that you have chronic pain, how are you able to manage it?
Living in denial will only make matters worse for you.
“The attempt to escape from pain is what creates more pain.” ― Gabor Maté
The consequences of denial
Your pain may get worse without proper treatment
You will continue to do activities that aggravate your condition
You may end up with subsequent injuries as you move improperly to avoid pain
Pain pills and self-medication can cause addiction
These points may be masking symptoms that could cause further complications if not properly managed.
The main reason you stay trapped in denial is that you don’t feel equipped to face negative emotions.
Looking at the options of anger, fear, and depression, you may think that you are better off just staying where you are.
May I gently remind you that your unpleasant emotions are not your enemy?
Dealing with the emotions
It is not easy to move through the emotions of anger, fear, and depression. You may enter a dark valley, but hold firm to the process and trust the Lord. The Bible clearly states. “Love your neighbor as yourself” ~ Matt: 22:39
And you may emphatically shout “YES! YES! I understand”; but do you really model loving yourself?
Carl Jung states the Christian dilemma well when he wrote.
“The acceptance of oneself is the essence of the whole moral problem and the epitome of a whole outlook on life.
That I feed the hungry, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ — all these are undoubtedly great virtues.
What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all the beggars, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself — that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of the alms of my own kindness — that I myself am the enemy who must be loved — what then?
As a rule, the Christian’s attitude is then reversed; there is no longer any question of love or long-suffering; we say to the brother within us ‘Raca,’ (worthless or empty) and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide it from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves.” ~ C.G. Jung – Memories, Dreams, Reflections
If this is true, then how do we then begin to accept our own fragility?
Understand that your emotions may be strong and you may feel completely overwhelmed by even the thought of them. Let me assure you that you will get through it.
Listed are some of the excuses people use to stay in denial
If I cry I will never stop. – If that were true you would see people crying as they drive in their cars and shop at the stores. To my knowledge, no one has ever died from crying to death. Give yourself permission to cry.
You may be surprised how good it feels to have a good cry. After all, if you don’t let yourself cry about what is really bothering you, you will be inclined to cry about something else completely unrelated; like a TV commercial or a sappy movie.
As we can clearly see in the words of the boy who refused to grow up “I wasn’t crying about mothers,” he said rather indignantly. “I was crying because I can’t get my shadow to stick on. Besides, I wasn’t crying.”
~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
You are going to find yourself crying about something, you may as well cry about what is really bothering you.
I have learned that anger and sadness are bad things. These emotions are signs of weakness or lack of faith on my part. Says who??
Since when is showing emotions a sign of weakness of mind or will?
Often we are raised by parents who cannot manage their own emotions, so they don’t teach their children how to manage emotions in a healthy way.
The result is that we feel that our natural emotional responses to life are to be ignored. Those of us who are raised in Christian families are often given an additional layer of guilt on top of this, making our emotions even more difficult to manage.
We are taught that emotions of anger, fear, and sadness are produced by our lack of faith and that the emotions themselves are sinful. Let’s take a moment and clarify why this perception isn’t entirely correct. (You will read more about this in the next stage – anger.)
God Created man in his image
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Gen: 1:26a
God has emotions of anger and sadness. These emotions are expressed throughout scripture. Therefore, we have been created with emotions too.
If you revisit your favorite Bible heroes you will be reminded of all of the emotions that they had to process, from Adam’s denial, and David’s anger, to Abraham’s bargaining, and Elijah’s depression.
If you notice, God didn’t condemn these people for their emotions, He showed them grace and mercy.
It is summed up so wonderfully in Hebrews 4: 15 -16 – NIV
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
We have help in our time of need. You have help in facing the uncomfortable emotions that come with facing chronic pain. Emotions are part of your human experience.
“To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”
~ Oscar Wilde, De Profundis (from the depths)
God doesn’t expect you to be perfect. He expects you to be human.
As a human, weak and frail, we have an ever-steady Hand that holds us even when we are not aware of His Presence.
As you step onto your path of grieving, you will realize that you are not alone and that you will indeed make it through the process.
What you can do right now!
Wherever you are in your process of grief, pause a moment and assess your attitude toward yourself.
Are you stuck in a pattern of self-criticism regarding your emotions?
How can you show grace and compassion for yourself?
Give yourself permission to be human. It’s okay, being human is the one trait that we all have in common.
“The human mind isn’t a terribly logical or consistent place. Most people, given the choice to face a hideous or terrifying truth or to conveniently avoid it, choose the convenience and peace of normality. That doesn’t make them strong or weak people, or good or bad people. It just makes them people.” ~ Jim Butcher, Turn Coat
If you would like to learn more about clinical hypnosis to gain the skills to manage chronic pain, contact me here and we will strategize together to help you plan your path of pain management.