Another Wonderful Realization-Radically Accepting Pain

June 19, 2012

In my last post, I talked about a great realization that I had. Now I am going to talk about another realization that I had a few weeks ago. I had the realization on a Thursday two weeks ago. I know that, because I have my Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) class every Wednesday night and I believe it was the DBT class that prompted my realization the next day. You see, we had been talking about the concept of radical acceptance. I guess you could say that I was having a lot of trouble "accepting" the idea. Basically, radical acceptance is accepting a painful reality for what it is. It can be enormously helpful, but it is also very hard to do at times.

The day after the second week of talking about radical acceptance, I was finally able to apply it to my chronic pain.  I had been doing pretty well in not engaging in suicidal thinking for a while, except when I would have a fibro flare-up.  Then, in an unconscious effort to not feel the pain, I would start obsessing about acting out, usually in the form of some kind of self-harm.  But all this would do for me is increase my anxiety, as I know my job is to resist acting out.  I knew I would not hurt or kill myself, but still I obsessed about it, sending me in a whirlwind of anxiety.  That Thursday something almost magical happened: as my obsessive thoughts and anxiety increased when I started to feel pain, all of a sudden I had an amazing thought-

"What if I just accepted the fact that I am in pain and then dealt with it without all the suicidal thoughts? They don't serve any positive purpose for me anymore. I don't need to obsess about acting out, because I know I am not going to do it anyway! All they do is make me more anxious!"

And with that realization, the obsessive thoughts disappeared.  I had finally accepted reality for what it is and I had come to realize that life is worth living, even when there's pain.  Life lived in reality is really a life worth living.  I had paid attention to my wise mind.

For these past two weeks, my pain has not gone away, but it has diminished.  I believe it is because I am not adding the stress and anxiety that those thoughts produced on top of it.  I have found that when I accept my present, painful reality then it is much easier to do something productive about it, because my mind isn't clouded up with the disorganizing and depressing thoughts.  I'm feeling pain?  Then I need to take some pain medication.  Or maybe I need to rest a while.  Or both.  But I cannot figure out what I need in order to feel better unless I first pay attention to how I am feeling and then simply accept it for what it is.  I don't think that one can hear about the concept of radical acceptance one time and then miraculously be able to do it well.  I think you need to hear and talk about it repeatedly until it starts to make sense.  I know that's how it worked for me and thank Godde it did.

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2 comments on “Another Wonderful Realization-Radically Accepting Pain”

  1. Hi K.C.,

    I have been practicing radical acceptance with my Buddhist studies and practice and it is an eye opener. I admire you for learning over time to accept your chronic pain and thereby lessening the intensity of it by reducing your anxiety about it. Have you heard of someone named Jon Kabat-Zinn? He wrote a book called "Full Catastrophe Living" (it's also an audiobook). He uses the Eastern practice of mindfulness to treat people just like yourself who suffer from chronic pain or other disabilities. In his practice mindfulness is partially taught through simple yoga exercises and also a lying down meditation on the body called a "body scan" amongst other practices. The people he describes in his book chose to go through an eight week program and I believe that most if not all of the participants discovered how to apply this form of radical acceptance to reduce their pain and increase their joy at living despite the pain. I firmly believe that in changing your attitude and approach you can lessen the severity of many disabilities. This is such good news.

    Kate : )

  2. Thanks Kate! I just put the book on my wish list at I never would have believed it, but my pain, anxiety, and depression has improved a lot since that post I wrote. I mean, I think it'll probably always be something I'll deal with, but I'm handling it a LOT better now.

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