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Case Studies - Page 6

Reversing Chronic Pain

In helping patients gain relief from chronic pain, I teach them some or all of 10 different building blocks or skills I've found to be powerful antidotes to pain—(1) regulating the breath, (2) developing a felt sense of the body, (3) relaxing, (4) imagining a new inner reality, (5) becoming mindful, (6) working with the body's energies, (7) body movement, (8) healing the unconscious connections between trauma and pain, (9) opening channels of love, and (10) building on success. Amy and I worked with all 10 skills for her self-treatment program.

The first two—learning to breathe in ways that create an effective mind-body partnership and developing the felt sense of her body (based on the focusing work of Eugene Gendlin)—served as the foundation for the remaining skill areas. Because many pain patients learn to disconnect from their somatic experience, it's essential that they find a way to reconnect, to tap into their mind-body resources that can help them recover.

The third skill, learning to relax, is effective in counteracting the effects of everyday anxiety and stress, which tend to push pain levels higher. Herb Benson's research on the relaxation response has provided evidence that individuals who practice relaxation regularly are less reactive to various stress hormones, even at times when they aren't practicing the techniques.

For Amy, giving herself permission to relax was a huge accomplishment. For years, both as a lonely adolescent and as a single mother, she'd pushed through stress, fatigue, and pain, both to succeed and to avoid feeling the emotional pain that arose when she wasn't busy. Gradually, she developed a daily routine that provided more balance.

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