Wednesday, August 7, 2013

F.E.A.R. and H.O.P.E. - The Dynamic Duo of Chronic Pain


By
Chris Newcomb, M.Div.


Fear is a word that can insight the very thing it defines, namely, fear.  Fear is a natural human response to a real or perceived threat.  For example, if we are swimming in the ocean and a large fin surfaces out of the water, we should all have a 'fear response' and head for the shore.  However, if we're having a nice, quiet dinner at a restaurant where there is no possibility of a shark attack yet we have the same strong fear response, our system is clearly out of whack. 

This is often what happens with chronic pain.  To be sure, there is real legitimate physical pain.  There is also psychological pain.  However, a patient can often vascillate between fear and hope.  When they are on the fear side of things, the pain can be much worse.  On the rare occasions that they are on the hope side of things, pain is somewhat experienced with less intensity.  Is it just all in their heads? 

Yes.  And no.  The brain is the pain center of the body.  Whenever you injure your body, a chemical signal is sent to the brain and then the brain responds with words like 'ouch', 'that hurt' and '#@$% shoelace stop trying to trip me'!  When a person experiences pain, it is normal for them to experience a fear response the next time a situation arises that is similar to the painful one in the past.  If we make fear an acronym (F.E.A.R.) it stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.  That is, we can psych ourselves into believing we're in more pain than we are. 

Conversely, hope is a word that is charged for people suffering with chronic pain.  They want to believe that it will get better.  They want to believe that there is a cure.  They hope that they won't suffer with this or that for the rest of their lives.  If we make hope an acronym (H.O.P.E.), it stands for Hold On Pain Ends.  Do you see the difference?  One creates a notion of pain that is exaggerated or even doesn't exist.  The other gives a sense of a better life coming down the future pike.  Which would you rather focus on? 

Let me be clear here:  I am NOT saying that all chronic pain patients have mental problems and that their pain is just in their heads.  That is not true and it is completely insensitive.  Rather, what I am saying is that chronic pain patients still have a choice as to how they focus on their pain and manage their pain from a psychological perspective.  That is, they can focus on F.E.A.R. or they can focus on H.O.P.E. but either way they have to make that choice. 

In fact, many chronic pain patients who are addicted to prescription pills vascillate between F.E.A.R. and H.O.P.E. when it comes to getting detoxed and getting into recovery.  They hang out with F.E.A.R. because society tells them that they are just 'junkies' like people who shoot up this or drink that or snort this over there.  Reality is that they are physically addicted and have a mental obsession about the drugs they are prescribed.  It is not their fault.  It is not their intent.  But, it is their reality.

If you are reading this and have chronic pain, I feel for you but I don't pity you.  I believe that you can improve your pain cycles and your quality of life wherever you are on the chronic pain scale.  I know that you are scared to face you're addiction and all that could mean for you and your family and friends.  Words like 'failure', 'addict', 'junkie', and 'loser' may plague your thoughts.  F.E.A.R. has run H.O.P.E. out of town and it looks like it will never come back. 

That's not the truth.  I'm here to tell you that there is a better way.  At The Coleman Institute, we believe that a 100% sober lifestyle is the best way to live life and that is completely and totally possible for anyone who is willing to do the work.  The hardest part is letting go of F.E.A.R. and embracing H.O.P.E.  If that's where you are as you read this or you know someone who is in that space, I encourage you to run into the arms of H.O.P.E.  You won't regret it. 

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of prescription pills such as opiates or benzos, we have a solution.  Perhaps alcohol, Methadone or Suboxone is what you're addicted to.  We can help you with that too.  Please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius and Amy Stewart at 1-877-773-3869. 

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