Step 8: Get people to treat you the right way.
Although people with chronic pain may not be aware of it, they either directly or indirectly send out signs that seek out attention from others. It may be a groan, a limp, or pained facial expression that tells others things are not well. Your subconscious may be broadcasting signals in order to receive sympathy and attention.
Unfortunately, if you’re trying to break free of pain’s grip controlling your life, broadcasting your pain can be self-defeating. Family or friends usually react to your responses in two manners-both of which can be unhealthy.
First, they can become unsympathetic and pay no attention to your signals, depriving you of attention and believing you are not in pain. Or, perhaps even worse, they may become too caring, doing every task for you, making you feel like you have little self-worth. Sometimes a spouse or other family member takes complete control over the medical care of the individual with chronic pain. He or she may take the individual from doctor to doctor, seeking a medical cure. He or she may do all the speaking for the individual, eroding the pain sufferers pride, confidence, and self-esteem.
Families of chronic pain sufferers must strike a balance between ignoring the chronic pain sufferer’s signals for attention and trying to do too much for them.
Guidelines for how to treat a family member with chronic pain include:
- Encourage the individual with chronic pain to become as active as possible. Try not to focus on the individual’s pain. For example, do not ask them, “How are you feeling today?” These types of questions may only serve to remind them that they have pain.
- If the family member is constantly focused on his or her pain, try to distract them with interesting activities. Try to encourage looking at the bright side of things, encourage exercise, or relaxation techniques.
- Try to encourage independence whenever possible. Don’t try to do too much for the individual-it will only hurt their self-esteem and make them feel like an invalid.
How you act makes a difference
It is important to recognize that the way you act has a large effect on others. If you act as “poor pitiful me”, you will be treated as “poor pitiful little old you”. In turn, you will think less of yourself as an individual, creating more negative and irrational thinking, and thus opening your pain gates even further.
If, on the other hand, although you may hurt, you at least come across as positive, you will be accepted as normal. For example, if someone asks, “How are you?” and you reply “terrible, my back is killing me”, the person may become nervous about interacting with you. He or she may, in fact, try to avoid you in the future. If, however, you say “Great”, although you may not feel this way, you are at least helping to cope with your situation. Others will engage you as an equal and not as an invalid. You will maintain your self-respect and confidence.
Become self reliant to build confidence and self-esteem.
It is natural as a pain sufferer to need to feel good about yourself and the surroundings you find yourself in. Unfortunately, you cannot always place yourself in a supportive, comfortable atmosphere. People may not always treat you with kindness and understanding. Therefore, it is important for you to build self-confidence, and not rely on others for the way you feel about yourself. You need to be able to feel confident about yourself regardless of whether someone looks at you funny or someone says something not so nice. Confidence and self-esteem go hand in hand to boost your self-image and your relationships with others. They allow you to ask for that pay raise or go on that job interview although it may not work out favorably.
Get rid of avoidance behaviors
Do you ever use pain as an excuse to get out of something you don’t like doing? You must become aware and eliminate these types of defeating pain behaviors. Using pain as an excuse will act as a road block, preventing you from taking control over your pain.
Robert used his back pain as an excuse to avoid having to sit for a two hour drive to his mother and father in-laws. At the time, Robert didn’t consciously realize that he used his back pain as an excuse not to visit his in-laws, an activity he did not care for. The next weekend, a buddy of Robert’s called to ask if he would like to join them for a day of fishing at the lake. When Robert’s wife asked him if he could tolerate the car ride, he had to hesitate and think. He eventually declined to go on the fishing trip after realizing his pain tolerance should theoretically not be different for activities he disliked versus those he liked.
Robert would have been better off being more honest with himself and his wife. Perhaps he should of said “If I am going to suffer increased pain from a car ride, I would rather make it worse doing something fun”. Doing an activity that he enjoyed may have helped his attitude even though it may have worsened his pain.
Sex and Pain
We have all heard the saying “not tonight honey, I’ve got a headache”. Although it is certainly possible for a person with pain not to feel well enough to become intimate, using pain as an excuse may have other meanings. It may indicate that you feel that your partner needs a bath; I’m mad at you for not taking out the garbage; I’m afraid I’m not attractive to you anymore; or I’m worried I can’t perform sexually anymore.
Whatever the real reason is for not having sex, the person with chronic pain needs to be honest about the real reason for not engaging in sex. Talk with your partner. Work out your concerns. Although sexual activity can be uncomfortable for pain sufferers, most individuals feel it is important in a relationship. Without intimacy a man may feel less masculine or a women less feminine. Sex can keep you connected with your partner while making you feel as if you are in command of your life and not your pain.
If you would like more information on back pain and sex, click on the link below.