Chronic Pain – Part 4: Pain & Resilience

“There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude” – Thomas Paine Living with chronic pain is a continual challenge. We often need to dig deep into our mental and physical reserves to cope. Mining our minds can sometimes reveal hidden […]

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“There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude” – Thomas Paine

Living with chronic pain is a continual challenge. We often need to dig deep into our mental and physical reserves to cope. Mining our minds can sometimes reveal hidden treasures, untapped resources we didn’t need to draw upon until now.

Post-traumatic growth

Post-traumatic growth refers to the transformational role that traumatic events can have in creating positive personality changes in some people. Facing adversity can lead to improved relationships with others as our need for social support increases. A positive outlook, with a renewed sense of gratitude, may result from dealing with and coming through tough times.

Although the theory has many critics, and there is clearly no straight line between trauma and growth, facing adversity can sometimes lead to greater strength of mind. Humility in the face of pain may bring improved compassion for others. Learning and re-learning our fragility may help us appreciate life a little more.

Unlock your cabinet of fortitude

To unlock your own cabinet of fortitude, here are some ideas:

  1. Engage your rational mind with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Harry Barry has a wonderful book on this. 
  2. Learn to accept and embrace your thoughts and feelings with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Here is an introduction.
  3. Learn to discipline your mind, little by little, and free yourself. Jocko Willink has a good book on this.
  4. Try journaling and expressive writing. There is a proven connection between expressive writing and wellness
  5. Challenge yourself – within reason and with medical advice – and test your limits. Learn your baseline for physical and mental activity and try to push a bit. 
  6. Be a friend to yourself. You are your company, alone, and around others. Be good to yourself, as you would be to a close friend.
  7. Seek consolation and wisdom in philosophy. I personally practice the philosophy of the Stoics, but there are many to learn about. Alain de Botton has a wonderful book to get you started. 
  8. Meditate on our place in the world. Sometimes, when we are caught up in our struggles, taking the cosmic view can help. Here is a thought-provoking video on this.
  9. Learn to pace yourself to preserve energy and take control of your days.
  10. Seek help and seek to help others