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i can see clearly now the pain has gone

August 3, 2011

Ever wondered why you put your underwear on the way you do?putting on underwear is like riding a bike.

It’s just like learning to ride a bicycle.

My daughters will tell you that I didn’t teach them to ride a bike. That is not what they were doing. (Though there was a bike, they were sitting on it and I was running along beside and behind them!) For the first few goes I had one hand on the handle-bars to help steer and one hand on the seat to help with their balance.

They got the hang of steering pretty quickly but I was still there with one hand on the seat to help with their balance.  That took longer. They had to learn new habits – new ways of moving that would keep them safe when I wasn’t there.

If you have ever lived with chronic pain you will know the importance of habits – of new ways of moving that keep you safe.

Chronic pain changes you. It changes the way that you live your life. It changes the way you love. You have to find a new way to be that doesn’t hurt.

A new way to stand. A new way to sit. A new way to walk. It isn’t always easy.

So when you find a way to be that doesn’t hurt you stick with it. It becomes you. Anything to avoid the pain that you know will come if you don’t. You develop new habits, new ways of moving that keep you safe from the pain. You even develop new ways of putting on your underwear.

If you do the work (or if you are lucky) then just maybe one day you will wake to find that the pain has gone.

But the habits remain and after a while you have forgotten:

why you get dressed in the strange way that you do

why you get nervous on public transport

why you always check twice to make sure you locked the door

why you don’t like speaking in front of a group

why you can’t say no to just one more

why you don’t carry your kids on your shoulders

why you find it hard to trust

Every time you get dressed in the coming days take a minute to picture yourself as you do one thing you know are going to do that day (meet with a friend, boss or colleague, drive to work, go somewhere for lunch, take part in a meeting). See yourself doing it, imagine what it will sound like, close your eyes and let yourself feel the experience to come. Then ask yourself these two questions:

“How am I going to behave? What is causing me to behave that way?”

If the answer to the second question is “Nothing. That is how I always do it!” chances are you have become your habit.

Habits might have kept you safe in the past but chances are they are now keeping you from becoming all you can be. It just might be time to try to do things differently…

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth Stubberfield permalink
    August 5, 2011 4:07 pm

    Paul – this is a brilliant posting that has provoked so much thought in me ! It reallly captures the way our world works, why people are the way they way. Why some people are bitter, why some are trusting… very insightful – it has captured the essense of NLP; we all have strategies for the way we are in life, some model good strategies and continually improve whilst others stick to one strategy and never, ever change.

    • August 7, 2011 8:36 pm

      Thanks Beth. For me the challenge is being able to see the strategies for what they are – strategies! Not something that is locked in stone but something that we can choose to use (or not).

  2. Gavin permalink
    August 8, 2011 11:08 am

    Deciding, creating and accepting our own “norms” is one of our greatest blessings – albeit that some can not see this as reality. I feel the ‘absence’ of pain is not my desired norm. But the ability to recognise and adapt to the ‘message’ of pain, is. The messages we receive and our decisions to respond to them definitely shape our lives. Obviously, chronic pain is one of those messages that we must listen to. Paul, it is inspiring to see how you respond to this message and focus on the way of life that you want – not just a way to avoid or remove the pain but one which allows you to extend so much further. Thank you, G

  3. August 8, 2011 6:12 pm

    Thanks Gavin – you must be able to read my mind. My next post is on the dangers of the absence of pain and some advice for living I heard from my dentist!

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