Posted by Jennifer on Apr 17, 2017

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Pain. What do those words mean to you?

Chronic pain affects one in seven globally...and no one is immune to it.

If you are not currently experiencing some form of physical, mental, emotional or situational pain then chances are you know someone who is. But, I bet I am speaking directly to you.

Pain is devastating. It can take your breath away. Pain can cause you to act in irrational ways and make poor choices. Pain touches every area of ones life.

Humans are pretty tough and resilient creatures, but somehow pain can level even the strongest among us.
 Nearly 100 million American are challenged by chronic pain and its devastating consequences. 

 I am one of those 100 million.

 In my journey through pain, I have been a great study as to how to successfully navigate the challenges and horrific symptoms the life of one living with chronic pain encounters.

I do not take any type of pain medications. This is by choice and by the genetic findings introduced to me in a scientific study on medication which I was fortunate enough to participate in.

Bottom line...any pain medication (even Tylenol) would have serious side effects and perhaps death if taken.

That’s fine because I know the havoc pharmaceuticals can do to your body and thought process.  

But, I have found the greatest form of pain medication out there today…..YOUR MIND.

Your mind is far more powerful than you may realize. I knew that if I were going to get through the episodes that make me go to a very dark place, I was going to have to be stronger than my obstacles.

This insight led me straight into studying the mindset of NAVY SEALS. 

I can tell you with absolute conviction and first-hand experience, that my pain has been dramatically reduced when I control the thoughts in my head.

I am not saying this is easy by any means, or when you get hold of your thoughts that your pain is gone forever.

What I want to express is this: act instead of react to your pain. Then, the way you perceive the pain is diminished and your quality of life can be greatly improved.  

Let me ask you this? What is the story you are telling yourself about your pain? Do you think it’s permanent?

Maybe your self esteem is so poor that your emotional pain prevents you from truly loving and embracing the amazing person you are.

Perhaps financially you have been devastated and you live in fear of never having enough…a lack mentality.

If you have been living on this planet then somewhere down inside you carry a certain amount of trauma from life's blows. All of this is pain.

Again, what is the story you are telling yourself?

You can change that story.

I am. 

“Psychological and social factors play an important role in causing pain, especially after an injury has healed. Your thoughts, emotions, behaviors, prior experiences, cultural influences, religion, and work can all have an impact on the brain’s decision to produce pain. These factors all influence how the brain and nervous system process injury, disease, danger, and recovery. At the heart of your persistent pain lie your thoughts about your pain and your experiences. “
– Dr. Joe Tatta

This brings me to the Navy Seals.

I have read countless books on the mindset and practices of the Seals.

I want to share with you a passage from one of my favorite works.

Eric Greitens has written an extraordinary book called Resilience.

I highly recommend you get a copy.

In it, he devotes a chapter to mastering pain. We all journey through painful struggles, challenges, defeats and obstacles of life that come with being human.

I want to share the perspective of this one Seal that has reminded me about the power of one's mind and that we don’t have to suffer. 

“There is a difference between pain and suffering. You don’t have a choice when it comes to pain. You often DO have a choice about whether you suffer, because suffering is created by your perception of and relationship to pain.” Greiten says. 

Do you remember getting hurt as a child? You were sobbing and mom and dad asked you what’s wrong?

As you recounted what had happened, your sobbing stopped as you described the pain. You calmed down and so did the discomfort.

This is what happens when you step outside of your pain. Changing your perspective is one of the keys for effectively managing pain and not letting it control your circumstance.

In a later article I will describe the tools and techniques that I use to rise above my pain.

You can bet that mindfulness is one of my main go to’s.
Greiten goes on to say, “To describe your pain, you have to (metaphorically) step outside of it. You have to look at it, analyze it. Instead of BEING in pain, you are now thinking about what the pain is doing to you. What’s happened, at the most basic level, is that you have changed your relationship to pain. The pain might still be piercing, but by describing it, we SEE our pain. What happens –and this is true whether the pain we feel is from a knife wound, hunger, or a deeply loved relative’s death-is that deliberate attention to pain helps us separate the physical sensation from the suffering we mentally attach to that sensation. What’s true about pain in this sense is similar to what’s true about fear. IT DOES ITS WORST WHEN IT’S HIDDEN. The minute we write down what we are afraid of, or take objective stock of what’s hurting us, we begin to gain control.“

He then reflects back in history to Seneca and Epictetus. “Seneca was a chronically ill man for much of his life; it didn’t stop him from writing many letters on the good of life that still make me sit up and pay attention. Epictetus, one of the most revered philosophy teachers of his day, was disabled from childhood in a world without wheelchairs, handicap ramps, and effective painkillers. My point is not that Seneca and Epictetus were legendary tough guys. They weren’t. But they found ways to work with pain without letting it consume them. They remind us that none of us need to be trapped in our suffering. Most profoundly, we can shape our relationship with pain by choosing the meaning we give to pain.” 

Today, think about what challenges you are up against.

What is painful to you?

You may not have the type of pain that I do, and I pray you don’t, but the pain you have does not have to take you down.

It does not have to break you. You have the choice, often an uncomfortable and challenging choice, to Rise Up and meet the pain head on.

Navy Seals don’t run from fire, they run into it.  Fire shapes steel and a stronger structure emerges.

Pain can become a vehicle to propel you into a greater relationship with yourself and to those around you.

You can use your pain instead of it using you. Let it shape you into a stronger structure and then give your strength to someone else who feels the fire.

You are never broken. It is never over.

Life is not easy. But you are resilient and you are strong. Keep your perspective in the pain.

Be compassionate to yourself, take time to rest and never compare your journey to another’s. There is always the possibility of light the next day.

“In the end everything will be okay. If it’s not okay, it’s not yet the end.”
– Fernando Sabino

With Love and Hope,