- It is easy to become focused on problems to the point where you forget what you really want out of life.
- Most of us complain about problems – our own, other’s, society’s,, and the those of the world.
- But what do you want? What is the vision of your life? How do you want to achieve it? What is your time frame?
- Or are you so used to complaining, that you have lost sight of all of this?
- Unfortunately, this mind set fires up your immune system, sensitizes your nervous system, and physically increases your mental and physical pain.
One of the most important aspects of healing is our life outlook. Realistic and positive goal-setting is a core aspect of stimulating constructive neuroplasticity. Your brain will develop wherever you place your attention. It is up to you to decide what you want your life to look like, what you want in it, and then pursue those dreams. Otherwise, you are still focused on the problem, not the solution.
I asked each patient exactly why they were seeing me and what they wanted. Of course, the answer was usually, “I want to get rid of my pain.” It is an understandable request, but it doesn’t work. One of the paradoxes of healing is that you can’t fix yourself. The solution lies in moving away from neurological pain circuits and into the life you desire.
It is critical to connect with your personal life vision, regardless of the level of your pain and suffering. How else will you be able to move forward?
“It’s always something”
There are always significant obstacles to achieving what you would like. When you are young, it is lack of knowledge and resources. Then you are deeply enmeshed in your education and training. You may have started a new family. Finances frequently require “giving up your dreams” in order to just make ends meet. Life keeps coming at us and our hopes become ever more buried. The added burden of physical and mental pain further compounds the suffering.
If you think about the big picture, we all have a lot of dreams, but we seldom execute to attain even a fraction of them. What happened?
It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old.
They grow old because they stop pursuing their dreams.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I agree with this quote except I have a different take on it. People grow old because their dreams are crushed by anxiety.
We are so programmed to survive that we don’t understand the importance of creating a vision and then following through on it. And where would most of us have learned this skill? It would have been helpful to have been taught this early in our educational experience. Since we are not able to effectively process our stresses, we are trapped, anxious, and angry. It might even seem normal – except that we eventually may get crushed by it all. Positive thinking won’t break you out of this powerful cycle.
It is important to first free yourself from anxiety by developing a “working relationship” with it. It is necessary for survival and a gift. It is learned set of skills. Then you can move forward, and your creativity can emerge. But this is still not enough. What is your vision? What brings you joy? What do you really want out of your life?
Assume that your life is a “business” and that there are certain short and long-term goals you would like to achieve. As with any business start-up, the chances of success are low without a written plan – the more detailed the better. Outside input and discussions with involved parties adds important dimensions. Creating a personal business plan is a step that will help you achieve your goals.
Some starting questions
Where am I now?
Where do I want to go?
How am I going to get there?
Dare yourself to dream again and be realistic about what is possible. Then do it.
Where am I now?
Don’t pull any punches with this one. If you are engaged with this course, chances are that your quality of life has been crushed. Get every aspect of your misery out on paper, then organize it into categories, and don’t tear this up. Then redo it and get more focused. You have to understand the magnitude of the problem as well as the specifics before you can solve it. Also remember that the healing journey is rooted in connecting to you and your body’s capacity to heal. What is inside of you, being trapped in pain, is a lot of negativity. You must connect with it and stay connected with it. Hope comes from learning to tools to navigate out of this mess and not from positive thinking. Embracing your skepticism is the starting point.
People often respond with the idea that they can’t move forward because they are in pain. That is true, and why the early part of the healing journey is focused on ways to break loose to move forward with or without the pain. You cannot “fix” your pain. The solution lies in moving away from it and into more functional and pleasurable neurological circuits.
Break your misery into its components. There is the mental and physical pain. What are activities that you can no longer do? How is the medical system not meeting your needs? What is the effect of your pain on your relationships and work? How much are you enjoying sitting around the house and being at the mercy of disability system? Is this the way you want to live the rest of your life?
Where do I want to go?
This step is more difficult than the first one. You may be so consumed by your pain, that all possibilities seem to be gone. But go big! This is just an exercise that you’ll eventually bring to life. It isn’t possible to jump from chronic pain to the life that you want. But on the other hand, there is no chance of attaining the life you desire without having an idea what that looks like.
Take pain out of the picture. Getting rid of your pain cannot be one of the goals. Life is unpredictable. Pain comes at you in many unpredictable ways. You’ll develop skills to process adversity more effectively, but it will always be a part of your life. If you choose to remain upset by life’s challenges, your body will remain inflamed, and you’ll continue to suffer. Look at obstacles as opportunities to practice your skills and move forward. This is not positive thinking; it is a positive vision.
Be specific and apply your vision to all aspects of your life.
How am I going to get there?
No vision will be accomplished without a plan. Again, look at the various parts of your life and what would you like to achieve in each arena regardless of the pain? Every plan needs to be executed and there are always obstacles. Part of the “how” is surmounting them.
You now have to pull mental and physical pain back into the picture as one of the obstacles. It is there, your life is being adversely affected, and what steps are you going to take to break free from it? Each person is unique and will find their own way. Even though you must move forward in spite of your pain, maximizing your treatment is a necessary part of your plan.
This is the place where you look at pain and decide on your relationship to it? If you choose to remain a victim of it (and you are), you are stuck. If it just another obstacle to be dealt with, you are on a strong healing path.
As you stimulate your brain to change (neuroplasticity), you can direct your brain to create and move into enjoyable circuits. Similar to learning a new language, this just doesn’t happen by continually trying to fix your problems. You have to practice living a more enjoyable life in order to have a more enjoyable life.
We all know how to complain. Who doesn’t? Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle to healing is that many people do not want to give up the power of pain, in spite of their misery. It took me many years to see this, and it is sad.
What do you actually want? Do you want to hold on or move forward? You can’t do both. Once you attain clarity and create a plan, you have a high chance of achieving it and thriving. A suggested template to create your personal business plan is part of this leg of The DOC Journey.
Questions and considerations
- Have you considered that you have been suffering for so long that it seems normal to you? This is especially true if you were raised in an abusive home situation.
- Surviving and fixing is our default mode. It is instinctual and powerful. Why would we even consider other options?
- Anxiety and anger are powerful and dealing with these emotions dictates much of our behavior. It is why you must simultaneously learn tools to process and neutralize them in order to move into your vision.
- We all know what we don’t like and have no trouble sharing our complaints. But what do you want?