The first step to relieving a mind body pain syndrome, whether it’s vulvodynia, pelvic pain, or another type of chronic pain is to get your focus off your symptoms of pain.
In fact, what I see is that the sooner you are able to shift your focus off of your symptoms and get it onto your emotions, and everything else that’s going on in your life, the sooner you are going to relieve your pain.
I really can’t overemphasize the importance of this!
Getting your attention off of your symptoms takes some determination…. and I’m going to give you some practical tips to help you do it…. but it is incredibly important because when your symptoms are no longer acting as an effective decoy, when they’re not distracting you, your brain will stop creating them.
Of course you are going to notice your symptoms. Taking your focus off of your symptoms does not mean you’re not going to notice them.
What you want to do is let go of all of the other mental focus on them, like worrying, catastrophizing, obsessing, researching, trying to figure them out, measuring and tracking.
The goal is to be able to stay present in your body and with yourself in a loving way, even when your symptoms are flaring up.
I know that’s not easy, so I’m going to give you some of my best tips to help you do it!
These are the same strategies I have been using with my private clients and teaching in the Healing Female Pain program for the past 10 years. They are effective.
Remember, as with everything I teach you – you are not aiming for perfection with any of this. Just get headed in the right direction and you will get there.
5 Practical Tips to Help You Get Your Focus Off Your Symptoms
1) Understand that pain does NOT mean there is something physically wrong with your body.
All pain is created by your brain.
Dr. John Sarno says that mind body pain is created by the brain, as a decoy from emotions. Research in pain science shows that all pain is created by the brain, and perpetuated by nervous system sensitization and established pain pathways. What this means is that the presence of physical pain in your body, does not mean there is something physically wrong with your body.
Pain is a danger signal and the level of pain your brain creates depends on how much danger your brain thinks you are in.
Reminding yourself when you are obsessing about your pain, that pain doesn’t mean there is something physically wrong with your body – can help to ease worry. It also gives you space to shift your focus onto things that will actually help, like feeling your emotions, calming your nervous system and showing your brain that you are safe.
2) Don’t Measure Your Progress by the Change in Your Symptoms of Pain.
In fact, don’t measure your symptoms at all and you won’t be able to use them as a measure of progress.
Why? Because changes in mind body symptoms, whether they get better or worse, are not an accurate measure of your progress.
It’s very tempting while you’re learning to use mind body tools, like breathing or feeling emotions, to immediately check your symptoms and see if they’ve improved. That makes sense, except that the mind body tools are not meant to work like that. They don’t work like a pill. They are a deeper lasting solution, and if you try to use them to bring instant relief, or continually measure the change in your symptoms, it will get frustrating and discouraging. Sometimes your symptoms of pain will act up when you are headed in exactly the right direction. They are decoys after all!
Measuring your progress by the change in your symptoms keeps your focus on your symptoms. And that is counter-productive because it reinforces your symptoms of pain as an effective decoy – which causes your brain to keep creating them as a decoy.
The best way to continue making progress is to stop tracking and measuring your symptoms altogether.
3) Put Your Focus on Learning About Yourself.
So, if you’re not going to measure your progress by changes in your symptoms, you need something else to measure your progress by. The best way to measure your progress with mind body pain relief, is by what you learn about yourself and the successes you have with using the tools along the way…things like feeling emotions and leading your mind.
You are a highly sophisticated MIND-BODY-EMOTION-SOUL system that right now you probably know very little about. When you make learning about all these parts of yourself your GOAL, rather than relieving pain or getting rid of other symptoms, you will relieve them much more quickly!
4) Ask, “What’s Really Going On?”
When you notice you are focusing on pain or other symptoms, recognize that this is a decoy, breathe into your low belly, and ask yourself “What else is going on in my life besides this pain?”
Even though your symptoms of pain appear to be the primary issue in your life right now, the symptoms are NOT the real issue – and you’re going to find the real issues by shifting your attention OFF your symptoms and onto the rest of your life – including your emotions and your inner world.
5) Make Peace with Where You Are.
I’ve written about this before. Making peace with where I was when I was in pain, was a big step for me in relieving my pain. One day I recognized how much tension, struggling and trying so hard to find a solution was causing. So I made the decision to stop struggling and open to the possibility that my body was trying to help me. Instead of fighting against my body, I started getting curious about what it was communicating. And that’s what relieved my pain!
Resisting your symptoms creates tension and stress in your body, which perpetuates pain. What we resist persists and pain is no exception. Making peace with where you are, for now, allows you to drop the tension and stress so your body can heal.
Sometimes women are afraid to let go of resisting their symptoms because they think it means they are giving up and allowing their symptoms to “win”. But the exact opposite is true!
Accepting where you are, just for now, will help you relieve your pain.
These 5 tips will help you get your focus off of your symptoms of pain! Try them and let me know how it goes.
What strategies do you use to help you get your focus off your pain? Share them in the comments below!
For a comprehensive mind body approach to help you relieve vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, pudendal neuralgia, endometriosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, chronic infections, and other chronic pelvic pain syndromes click here to read more about the Healing Female Pain program.
It is great reminders and guidance. We are blessed to have you
Thank you Marie!
If you have pudendal neuralgia after a surgery can this still work for you? I know that the main focus is that there’s not something physically wrong with your body. I get so confused because some people say that pudendal neuralgia is not a real diagnosis and then other people say you can really damage yourself from sitting. There is so much fear related to this I can’t seem to get past the physical side. Any input would be much appreciated 🙂
Hi Natasha, I have helped many women who were diagnosed with PN and who have had surgery find relief. Even when there are physical components of pain there can be (and almost always are) significant mind body factors as well. All pain is created in the brain regardless of what is going on physically in the body. My approach is not to push past discomfort, but to start by doing things that calm the nervous system and create more safety. Once you get out of the confusion and fear you can connect to your body and inner wisdom about what’s right for you. Either way – worry, anxiety, and obsessing about symptoms increases fear and pain and reinforces that they are effective decoys so it’s important to find a way out of that loop. Hope that helps! Warmly, Lorraine
Hi. How about pain and discomfort on bladder filling ? Some pain on/after urination.
I get the sensation of bladder being full even when there is only very little urine. Is this caused by hypersensitivity ? How can I calm my bladder ? Is it possible by mind-body healing approach ? Thank you Lorraine 🙂
Yes. This can absolutely be a mind body symptom. I think a mind body healing approach could help.
What I have learned from Lorraine and I try to do each day: I focus on what brings me pleasure each day. I do not focus on what a “cannot do”due to physical discomfort at any given time. I do a 35-40 minute meditation and body scan each afternoon. I am highly observant of nature, even what there is in my suburban yard,and I am aware of the magnificent changes and ways that the flora and fauna sustain me. That connection helps me to heal.
These are wonderful strategies Jan! Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.