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Images, stories and pain

One of the things I've noticed about dealing with my pain is that it's very difficult to tell stories from the past which aren't colored by my current experience of pain. And that it's also hard to think of future stories which aren't colored by pain. I even find that being in pain makes it even harder to tell stories, period. Even telling my own story to doctors or others who don't know the whole story (think people I only see once a year or even less) is difficult. There's the emotional aspect, of course, but also the difficulty of putting each detail in succession, or coming up with a metaphorical representation (when necessary).

So it was with some interest that I read
this interview on guided imagery and chronic pain


I'm familiar with guided imagery from my relaxation class from last year, and my own attempts at using it to help manage my pain. I've found that images can be helpful. I don't have to worry about what happens after the image, or before it. I can just focus on the image. I can use stories, which I love to hear and even now love to create, to help me both explore the meaning of my pain and try to reduce it.. But when the pain is bad, and all I want to do is get away, I don't have to come up with a beginning, middle and an end, I just have to come up with a setting. Then, once the setting has helped me step back from the pain, and relax, I can sometimes see the story of how my bloodflow increases to my foot, how the medications turn down the burning red pain, or how the heat helps me feel better. I can imagine how the sun shines on my foot, and the light and heat melt away the pain, or how my breathing matches the pace of rolling ocean waves.

Notice that I'm not saying imagery is better than stories, or that stories are any better than imagery. It'd be like saying that coco is better than whipped cream, or vice versa. Both are needed to create the experience of the drink and both are needed to experience releif using my mind. They're just different ways of getting at them, is all.

I'd also like to add that imagery can sometimes be difficult if I'm in a flare. That's when I do afew different things. One is to use music to help me relax. I'll focus on the sound of the music, the beat, the instruments and the words until I've interrupted my mind's focus of pain (when it's bad, it's natural for the mind to focus on the pain). The other choice, which I use even when things aren't bad is to use a pre-recorded imagery exercise. This allows someone else's voice to guide me through the techniques. This is helpful because sometimes, like in anything in life, we need that external voice, that source of assurance, calm and creativity, to get us through the motions. I use recorded exercises for the longer images, but when I need a quick image, I can usually pull that off myself. Except when I can't...

How do you use images and stories in your life? If you don't have pain, that's good, and I'd still love to know how you use images and stories. Drop a comment (shot of espresso if you're on my blog's main page).

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