C - CHECK IN ON EMOTION 

 

When you are experiencing pain, you are probably also experiencing a range of emotions. The list is long – upset, frustration, fear, grief, sadness, guilt, and anxiety to name a few.
 
On the one hand, you need emotions to make sense of the world. They give you information about what’s happening and what you need to do to cope. For instance, let’s say your friend says something to you and you find yourself feeling upset and unsettled about it. This then drives you to talk to him about it, your feelings get resolved and the situation is over. The feelings are gone.

But then there are emotions that tend to stay with you because the problem isn’t going away. For instance, if you feel upset and frustrated any time you have pain, now not only are you suffering because of pain, you are also suffering because of upset and frustration. This often leads to feeling out of control of your life as it seems that the only way to get rid of the emotion is to get rid of the pain.

This step in the RECLAIM Program teaches you skills for working with your emotions to help you gain back a sense of personal control in your life on your road to recovery. You can start off with reading the FAQs below.

 

IF I FEEL REALLY UPSET AND FRUSTRATED BY PAIN, IS THAT A PROBLEM?

It can be, but let me start off by saying that these emotions are normal to feel with pain. In fact, you will probably experience every emotion in the book. That’s not right or wrong, good or bad.

The problem comes when strong negative emotions act like a big exclamation mark on your pain, making it feel bigger. So if it’s normal to feel emotion with pain, then the difference will be in how you cope.

Imagine getting really afraid and upset when you get a sharp, shooting pain. Your experience will be different if you say “Oh no! Here we go again”, focus on the pain, and tense up. Compare that to telling yourself “Oh ya, there’s that pain again”, taking a few deep, abdominal breaths and distracting yourself.

Make a point of paying attention to how your pain experience changes with emotion, both positive and negative, and how it changes with how you choose to cope.

 

ARE THERE OTHER WAYS I CAN DEAL WITH THESE EMOTIONS?

Many ways. Here is one.

It helps to understand that the pain experience is very complex and is made up of many, many parts. Just to name a few, there are thoughts, emotions, behaviours, changes in your physiology, as well as in several parts of your brain, and the list goes on.
 
So how do you deal with something so complex? By understanding that each part of the pain experience is connected, but it can also be considered as separate.

If you look at pain as pain, emotions as emotions, thoughts as thoughts and behaviours as behaviours, then you have something manageable to work with.

To treat pain and emotion as different experiences, start with talking about them separately. For instance, if you are frustrated because when you fold your laundry it aggravates your shoulder pain, tell yourself that you have shoulder pain when you fold laundry. Period. And you have also noticed that frustration comes up for you. Period.

For the sake of this coping strategy, the fact they come up around the same time becomes as relevant as the fact a plane is flying overhead when you’re walking into your house.

The final step is to use appropriate coping strategies for each aspect. For instance, you could use pacing strategies for the pain and adjust recovery expectations for the frustration.