How we talk and think about pain:

We talk about pain and injury, meaning different things.

There are the physical sensations in the body. There is the meaning we give pain and this includes both possible physical effects, and social effects or meaning. There is the emotional experience (“Misery Factor”) that goes with the pain and what it means to us.

Circle your own experiences:

Body sensations Meaning (Physical) Meaning (Social) Emotional description
Throbbing Injury Embarrassed Tiring
Pounding Ambulance Failure Unbearable
Sharp Unemployment Inferior Agonizing
Aching Paralyzed Useless Punishing
Burning Collapse Lonely Killing
Dull Disabled Humiliated Wretched
Tender Forever Ridiculed Dreadful
Sore Emergency Ignored Exhausting
Gnawing Attack Insecure Nagging
Hurting Crippled Ashamed Sickening

When we feel body sensations, we interpret these, and are prone to predict or guess the possible physical effects and social effects of what is happening. This is what the pain means to us. Depending on the interpretation, we will also have a different emotional experience.

Part of the job of people in chronic pain is to learn to identify (be aware of) and change excessively negative interpretations of body sensations.

Alternatives

Body sensations Meaning (Physical)
(add your own)
Meaning (Social)
(add your own)
Emotional description (add your own)

Temporary

I’m adequate

Manageable

Same as

Minor

Understanding

Coping

above

Healing

Compassion

Tolerable

Inconvenient

Strong

OK

Adjustments

Helped

Challenging


Self study

When you are in pain, how often do you think of the kinds of possible physical effects noted above? How often do you think of the social effects or meaning noted above? Which emotionally loaded words do you use to yourself and others? How could you begin to think and talk about your symptoms that might be better?

Brian Grady, Ph.D

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