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coping with physical pain

Pain, whether it lasts a day or recurs indefinitely, is a friend. Of course, when we are in pain it can be hard to remember that. Nor am I a masochist; I’ve taken my share of Advil for coping with physical pain. But, pain, physical and emotional, is guaranteed and both are a boon to self-awareness if we take advantage of them. The more we embrace life the richer it becomes even when it hurts.

What can we learn from pain?

Pain reveals our fixed images and ideas about the world and ourselves. Sick or hurting it is the worst of our hard-wired thinking that will surface. For example, if I believe I am unwanted, unloved, or rejected, then in a state of pain I will feel even more strongly that others don’t want to be around me or care for me. After all, if they did love me they would take care of me. Conversely, if I felt especially loved when I was sick as a child, my physical suffering can serve me to expect (or demand) that others will take extra special care of me.

Positive self-images as well as negative images control and therefore limit our behavior. My self-perceptions go with me to the grocery and to a party, with differing yet the same outcome both places. Pain highlights my beliefs.

So how can we benefit from the pain we cannot avoid?

coping with persistent pain

Step 1: Feel the Pain

It seems redundant. “Of course I feel the pain; that’s why it’s called pain.” No, really, let yourself enter into the physical sensations. Vibrate with what throbs. Give way to stabbing sensations. If the pain shifts to another part of your body let your attention follow. From an energetic perspective, this is the first step to healing. What we resist persists and pain itself can shift, change, even disappear if we roll with it.

Fortunately, most pain is simply inconvenient and we know that it will end. It interrupts our lives and we are impatient for it to go away. That means the opportunity to practice the presence of pain is fleeting. As tough as it may be, it is too rich to be wasted.

positive thinking and chronic pain

Step 2: Notice Your Response to the Pain

Beyond wanting it to stop, pain holds a message that can lead to longer term healing. It is worth looking at the origin of the pain from an emotional perspective. Do I push myself too hard? Did I eat foods I cannot tolerate? And, what does the pain say about me? (e.g., Life is unfair; I’m getting old; My body has betrayed me.) Where do you look for relief? Who do you expect to help? What would it be like if this pain never goes away?

Some years ago I suffered through recurring bouts of extremely acute stomach pain later diagnosed as gall bladder attacks. My husband pleaded unsuccessfully to take me to the ER. Unable even to stand I was adamant I was not going anywhere. The underlying belief was that I couldn’t trust anyone; I had to figure it out for myself.

While the image appears strong and self-empowering, it is also dangerous. As a friend, a Physician’s Assistant, pointed out, I could have died. And, I have come to recognize that this unwillingness to ask for help has limited and held me back throughout my life. A gift that is also a curse. Over the years I’ve worked, more and less successfully, to alter the image.

A few weeks ago a friend had emergency gall bladder surgery. Though she had been asymptomatic, one terrible attack put her in surgery within 48 hours. The surgeon said later that he had never seen a gall bladder so infected and if it had burst she would have died. In short, she is fortunate to be alive. I couldn’t help but hear her story as a Divine Warning intended for me. “Trust. Ask for help. The life you save may be your own.”

Our images and beliefs appear to be allies. They are also terrible enemies that, if not literally, will nonetheless cost us our lives.

positive affirmations for chronic pain

Step 3: Can we Learn from the Terminally Ill?

What if you knew your misery would never end? Whether acute or chronic, pain is exhausting. The excruciating pain I experienced would sap my energy for days. Between times, I was constantly queasy. I recall thinking, “If this doesn’t go away it might be better to die.”

Immersed in physical misery day in and out I came to understand how the terminally ill patient, once full of vigor, makes peace and welcomes death. Stephen Levine, a spiritual teacher known for his work on dying, recounted the story of a young man who was diagnosed and died from cancer in just a few days. The man went from vigorous denial to peaceful acceptance in a matter of hours. Though we may be strong and healthy now, such a story gives us hope. Hope that anyone who dies even a sudden death has sufficient time to make peace. Hope that we, too, will be at peace when our time comes.

overcoming physical pain

Step 4: What Occurs for You when the Pain is Gone?

From what friends tell me and my self-observations when the pain is gone our relief is brief. We want nothing more than to forget it happened. Erase the memory and get on with life as it ‘should be’. Anyone ever so desperate as to bargain with God, “I’ll never be impatient with (my mother, my husband, my kids, etc.) again!” knows well how long that promise lasts.

The possibility is much greater, of course. Eventually each of us will face our terminal ‘illness’ and the pain of that. For now we can embrace the minor aches. Noticing our thoughts provides the opportunity to expand, bend, and change our fixed images of ourselves and the world in which we live. And thereby to revel in the full experience of what it is to be alive.


If you’re looking for natural healer in Scottsdale, reach out and contact Dr. Sandra Egli at Center of Intention to start your holistic journey. Call (480) 860-0400 today!

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Meditation: Sandra Egli
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The wisdom of a thousand generations guides you today. Only listen. Without a sound their voices reverberate in your cells. Settle within and choose your path.

All of us come from strength, fortitude, perseverance. No matter how difficult their lives, our ancestors made it through and passed on life for the next generation. Over and over, until it came to you. The intelligence that guided them has also come to you.

To Thine own Self be true.

If I could present you with a single blessing, it would be the gift of Mindfulness. Awareness of yourself: body, emotions, and self-talk, all the time. Our immediate experience is the ultimate exploration that only grows richer with time. What we do or don't do, and the roots of our behavior, are accessible with the simple practice of noticing immediate experience. It is this practice that makes it possible to know and be true to ourselves.


Sandra's graceful way of listening & non-judgmental demeanor allowed me to open up effortlessly. I was certain, as I left her office, that I had received precisely the healing I needed.

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Phoenix, Arizona