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  • The Chronic Pain Experience – Stage 3 – Bargaining

    “Holding onto Hope”


    This is Just Too Much …

    Either by consequences of your own actions or through circumstances beyond your control, you are in pain!.. and at times it seems as if it is just too much.

    When we come to the realization that being in this much pain is a very high price in life, we might find ourselves in the position of bargaining. 

    If we look at the Bible, we see that bargaining comes very early in human history. 

    In Gen 4:13, Cain focuses on the consequences God gave him for his actions earlier in the chapter by saying to Him, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear.’

    When our focus is on the burden of our pain, it can throw us into a bargaining cycle. 

    What Goes Around Comes Around


    When we think about pain in the context of punishment for or consequence of our behavior, we begin to think about what we did that caused it. This type of thinking doesn’t lead us to the most reasonable conclusions.

    Take Sarah’s experience…


    Sarah was in high school. Her grades were good, and she had a decent relationship with her parents. That is why they trusted her to go to the football game with her friends that Friday night. 

    As the game was ending and Sarah was walking out with her friends, her life changed. She doesn’t know if she heard the gunshots first or felt the sting in her back. All she remembers is falling to the ground. Months later, and after many medical and health interventions, Sarah is still plagued by nerve pain. 

    Sarah does remember when she realized that there was nothing more to be done; the pain was here to stay

    She felt that the pain was just too much.   If she could change that one thing about herself, maybe it would change the pain. She started thinking about the things she may have done that caused this punishment. 

    After much reflection, Sarah was ready to make changes in her life. She came to the conclusion that if she would have just been nicer to people and volunteered her time more, then maybe this injury would not have happened.

    The conclusion she drew put Sarah in the bargaining stage of grief. She made a promise to God that she would be a better person if the pain would stop.

    Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

    As humans, we are given free will. God does not force us to do good and be kind to everyone.  Some live a life doing good and being kind because they want to be like Christ, however, others have not chosen this path, therefore what comes from them is evil and unfortunately can affect others around them. 

    Jason is one of those people that was very unfortunate to suffer the effects of someone’s actions that came from living for themself. 


    Jason took his responsibility for providing for his family very seriously. He was a good worker, he always had time for his wife and young children. He was liked by his coworkers and managed the work/life balance. Jason was a good guy. He struggled to understand why months after his accident he was still in so much pain and knew his life as he knew it – was gone forever. 

    Jason had been hit by a drunk driver; an irresponsible person who didn’t carry enough car insurance to cover Jason’s medical bills. And of course, the drunk driver didn’t own anything that could be sold to recover the expenses of the accident he caused!


    Jason did go to work, but he could barely make it through the day, leaving no extra energy for social interactions around the office. When he was at home, he was short-tempered. He would snap at his wife and physically could not play with his kids the way he used to. He spent what little free time he had lying down and ruminating on the pain.

    Jason could not make any sense of why this happened to him. When he looked back at his life he could not see what he could have done to deserve this. He came to the conclusion that he might be able to lessen the consequences of pain if he added something to his life. That is when Jason decided that he needed faith. If he just had enough “Faith”, he would receive a miraculous healing.

    What Jason didn’t realize was that as much faith as he could muster up, if it wasn’t part of God’s plan, things wouldn’t change with his pain. 


    The Role of Bargaining in Grief

    “Holding onto Hope”


    When you look at the stories of Sarah and Jason, you see that one similarity stands out. They both are holding on to hope. Sarah is hoping that if she proves that she is worthy of “God’s favor” by promising to change her attitudes and behaviors, she will receive a lesser punishment. Jason hopes that if he “believes” and has enough “faith”, God will be moved to change the outcome of the accident.


    The role of bargaining in the grieving process is to let us hold onto hope. At this point, you may be saying “holding on to hope is a good thing!” 

    Before we judge whether holding on to hope is good or bad, let’s take a closer look at hope and see where Sarah and Jason are placing their hope. 

    They are hoping that their ability to change their circumstances. They both feel that they can control the outcome of their conditions by changing their beliefs about themselves. 

    The Bible mentions hope about 300 times and stresses its importance in our lives. When we take a close look at these passages, we see exactly who we are to place our hope in:


    We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~ 1 Thess:1:3 – NIV

    “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people” ~ Eph 1:18 – NIV


    May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in You.

    ~ Psalm 33:22 – NIV 

    The intention of these verses is to be aware of where we place our hope. Our hope is not in our hope, our faith is not in our faith. Our hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Our faith is in Jesus not in our ability to believe.


    6 Things you Can do in the Bargaining Stage


    1. Realize that bargaining is a normal phase of grieving

    Understand that bargaining is a natural response to your pain and loss. When we feel the pain is too much, that we might break under the pressure, we will want to lessen the consequences and try to bargain with God. This is a natural response.

    2. Allow yourself time

    This is an opportunity to show some self-compassion and allow yourself time to move through this phase of grief. As time passes you will become more aware that you don’t have as much control over your pain as you want. In time you will gain the skills to move through the bargaining stage of grief.

    3. Try not to ruminate on your thoughts

    As you progress through pain management, you will learn to shift your focus away from the thoughts that make your pain worse. Through exercising self-love, relying on friends, and talking to professionals –
    you will learn to replace irrational thoughts with more reasonable thoughts and attitudes.

    4. Understand your thoughts and feelings

    People who are suffering from chronic pain find it useful to write down their thoughts and feelings. This is the time to question your beliefs about your pain and see where and how they developed. You can separate your thoughts from your feelings to weed out the ones that are not healthy or helpful.

    5. Reorient your gaze

    When you remove your focus from the things you cannot control and shift your gaze to what brings you joy, it will help you move through the bargaining phase of grief. Remember… 

    Philippians 4:8 –  Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    6. Reach out for help

    There is no room for shame in chronic pain. If you find yourself caught in the bargaining cycle, reach out to a mental health professional. The sooner you step onto your path of healing, the sooner you can be free from the burden of bargaining. As you learn to show compassion to yourself, you will also begin to recognize the compassion that you are receiving from those around you.


    If you would like to try 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.