One behavior that reinforces the pain circuits is discussing your pain experience with almost anyone who will listen. You are simply placing your attention on the pain and reinforcing these circuits. Not only are your pain circuits being strengthened, but you are spending less attention on enjoyable and creative experiences. Another way of reinforcing them is endlessly seeking a cure for your pain. This is completely understandable, and why wouldn’t you? Pain has consumed your life. However, your pain is running the show and your focus is on fixing the pain. It is critical to move forward and live your life on your terms regardless of the level of your pain. It is paradoxical.
Complaining also drives others away and social isolation is common. You now have more time to spend on your pain circuits. It has been demonstrated in several studies that the same part of the brain is active in people who are socially isolated as in chronic pain. Being alone is a painful experience. (1) Begin your healing journey at home
The other problem is that many people you do connect with is through the common bond of pain and suffering. Relating to people by complaining is not a great way to create rich and fulfilling relationships. Do you enjoy being around negativity? How do you think others feel about being around you when you are in a bad mood?
Several research papers have documented that belonging to a fibromyalgia support group or diligently keeping a pain diary is a predictor of a poor prognosis for healing. It is felt that the format might encourage interaction in a way that reinforces each other’s suffering. (2)
One metaphor to consider is that of diverting a river into a different channel. Although you can’t control your unconscious brain you can direct it in whatever direction you choose. Choose to move onward.
Listen to the Back in Control Radio podcast The Role of the Family in Solving Chronic Pain
- Eisenberger N, et al. “Does rejection hurt? An fMRI study of social exclusion.” Science (2003); 290.
- Ferrari R and Deon Louw. “Effect of a pain diary use on recovery from acute whiplash injury: a cohort study.” Biomed & Biotechnol (2013); 14: 1049-1053.