The definitive step of your healing journey is giving back. Your attention is focused away from you and your troubles and you’ll move a long ways from your pain circuits. Empathy is an inherent part of the human experience. From an evolutionary perspective it was the group of humans who learned to cooperate that had the highest likelihood of survival. The reason that many people seem so self-centered and self-serving is that they have been disconnected from themselves by anxiety and anger. It’s impossible to reach out to others if you are trying to just survive emotionally.




I’ve watched this Harvard commencement address given by J.K. Rowling in 2008 many times. It is one of the most inspiring speeches I have heard. She was determined to follow her own passion while at the same time remembering and honoring her past. I would encourage you to take the time to listen to it. In addition to being a highly acclaimed author, she is also a remarkable speaker.

Healing doesn’t entail “seeking happiness” at every step of the way. Life isn’t that way and challenges will never stop coming at you. The key is connecting to what is and some days are much better than others. Overcoming adversity also becomes part of your core. As you learn to “be with your pain, you’ll be able to more easily pass through “The Ring of Fire”.


“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. 

They grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I modified this famous quote based on my experiences with and observations of anxiety:

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old. 

They grow old because their dreams are crushed by anxiety.”

— Gabriel Garcia Marquez

          (Modified by David Hanscom)


Compassion is the ability to see a situation through the other person’s eyes with an understanding of what it might be like to be in a similar circumstance. It is accompanied by a desire to help out.  Nurturing compassion has two parts: 1) engaging in practices that engender empathy, and 2) removal of any interference connecting you with your own compassion. Hoffman Process  As you quit fighting anxiety, it will lose its power over you and you’ll have the desire, energy, and ability to reach out to others.



Patients freed of pain want to give back—and in a big way. I have a patient who is paraplegic from an unfortunate series of events surrounding her spine surgery. Using the book, Forgive for Good made a tremendous impact on her outlook, mood, and pain. After she embraced true forgiveness, her overwhelming urge was to help others in wheelchairs who were suffering from chronic pain. She was happier in a wheelchair than she was walking, anxious, and angry. She then descended back into her Abyss of chronic pain for several years. I recently heard from her, and she has pulled herself back out. Once you’ve tasted true freedom and know how to return to it, your life will permanently change. Additionally, compassion for others will create more distance from your own suffering.

I have a few suggestions to consider, which might help you formulate your own ideas of how to give back.

  • Remain committed to your own journey.
  • Your highest priority is your immediate family. Even if you’re in pain, treat them well.
  • Make a random list of ideas of ways to give back that are interesting to you—write them down. They can be small actions.
    • Pick the top five
      • Prioritize them
      • Pick one
    • Develop a specific plan.
    • Do it!!
  • Create a vision of what you’d like your life to look like in one year and five years.
    • Be as specific as possible
    • Develop an action plan

It’s easy to feel that J.K. Rowling was lucky; how can she not enjoy her life with the success she’s experienced? Luck is winning the lottery. We are all aware of high-profile public figures who spent their lives fighting addictions with many not surviving. What didn’t they possess? Their stories of self-destruction are legendary. J.K. Rowling didn’t have an easy start, but she continued to stay connected to her passion in spite of many obstacles. Giving back is still a high priority for her. Staying connected to your vision with persistence is an important key to moving forward with or without your pain.

Listen to the 2012 Hoffman interview.

Listen to the Back in Control Radio podcast Giving Back.