Phillip's Writings

Why acceptance of chronic pain is bad both for the individual and the society.

I believe that the argument for acceptance of chronic pain ultimately makes us invisible to the very people who have the power to help us, the medical professionals.  I find Hanson's article, found on line here fails to recognize the point that you can sugar coat any theory, make it sound viable but it doesn't actually work.  Change the term chronic pain for say slavery or spousal abuse in any article arguing for the acceptance of chronic pain Any situation can be accepted, but to accept an intolerable situation, such as slavery or chronic pain, for example, does nothing but permit the status quo continuing in perpetuity.  Pain is a negative force, like slavery was and should never be accepted as a natural state as slavery was.  Do we still tolerate slavery today, the answer is no, because it was negative and intrinsically wrong.  Lives are lost to suicide and the joy of living and families are being destroyed by chronic pain, purely because of life with chronic pain.

I want to draw the distinction between coping with chronic pain and acceptance of chronic pain.  Many people cope with chronic pain, this has nothing to do with accepting it.  Coping is dealing with the day to day crap on top of the chronic pain that we need to, to have lives.  It is possible to have a life while not accepting chronic pain, coping with it on a day by day, minute by minute, basis.

To make a comparison, slaves developed methods of coping with slavery, that doesn't mean that the slave should ever have had to accept slavery, nor should the chronic pain sufferer accept chronic pain.  Coping isn't accepting, we cope because we have to, accepting it is preached by those who want to maintain the status quo, the medicos and other professionals and the drug companies who make a living off our chronic pain.

Accepting an intolerable situation such as colonization is bad psychologically, as Fanon showed.  Fanon a psychiatrist working in French North Africa argued that the psychosocial effects of colonialism are neurosis.  Freire, an educator in South America showed that until the oppressed began to analyse the cause of their oppression they couldn't challenge the oppressors.  To me this is another example of the colonialisation, this time by professionals with good intentions, just like the older colonial powers had good intentions.  It tells us how we should act to be well adjusted individuals with chronic pain, just like the French told their colonialized populations, just as the upper classes in South America told the peasants.  The is no two people are going to be.

As an atheist and a materialist, the following half a paragraph fails to address my chronic pain, the following speaks of religious experience as such the atheists,( believe there is no god) agnostics (believe that god may or may not exist and may or may not be powerful) and other non believers and materialists (no soul) have no place in his view or we probably don't have chronic pain, thus he says....

Spiritual surrender is a paradoxical approach to control that is recognized and advocated by nearly all the major world religions, including Christianity and Judaism.  Spiritual surrender, which may be accompanied by a powerful and profound religious experience, involves relinquishing one's futile efforts to control unpleasant reality (adverse situations) by turning the situation over to God, higher power, or some other transcendent reality.  This may be especially relevant when faced with personal crises that offer very few options for constructive problem solving.

Further I see coping with and acceptance of chronic pain as fundamentally different methods.  Most chronic pain sufferers cope.  The difference between coping and accepting is that coping does not require we accept a condition that is imposed on us called chronic pain, we can fight, we can do whatever is necessary to minimize the pain without accepting it ...  and yes we can have lives worth living.

Silence is the enemy of change.  Not talking about chronic pain does nothing but permit the medical establishment to sweep us, the chronic pain sufferers under the rug, as failures of the medical establishment, permitting them to earn money for dispensing drugs that are inadequate.  Also as failures of the mighty medical machine we pose a serious problem if we become vocal and demanding.  Our silence also justifies the research into new treatments of chronic pain not being adequately funded, if they ever are funded in the first place, and as soon as we the people with chronic pain speak up we get sent to the psychologist or the psychiatrist for adjustment to what should be seen as an intolerable situation.  The adjustment to any intolerable situation including chronic pain is a myth.  Dr Hanson is wrong about acceptance, most times we need to rant and rave at the world to have an effect.  We often need to exchange information on what works and what doesn't work, this requires we communicate with others who have chronic pain.  Most people in the general public and Dr Hanson have little or no understanding of the draining effects of acceptance of chronic pain, a tooth ache will ache and the person will go to the dentist, that's not chronic pain.  Chronic pain is unremitting.  A tooth aches as long as we have to wait to get to the dentist, chronic pain is there despite whatever steps we take.

All pain is negative information to the brain nothing more, nothing less, it is designed to make us act.  If we put our hand on the hot plate of the stove we burn ourselves, we have a pain experience, which forces us to act.  If we ignore the pain and leave it there longer the burn gets worse as does the pain.  The whole pain experience is designed to force us to act, if we felt no pain as happens in leprosy and some other conditions a person may place their hand on a hot plate and not feel the pain and may only recognize the burnt hand when the meat is cooked by the smell.  Pain is a necessity for our survival.  Chronic pain occurs because accidents, wear and tear, or disease have damaged our bodies in ways that can't be fixed.  The brain can't switch off the pain sensations, so we have drugs that can to some degree switch off the brain's ability to feel pain.  In a few cases the brains own pain receptors are damaged.  The point is pain has to be able to force recognition of pending danger to protect the integrity of the body otherwise we would damage the body more.

The only healthy way to deal with chronic pain is to act, ignoring it is what everyone wants us to do.  I hate pain, I won't accept it, that's defeatist.  I live with pain but I don't accept it.  To quote from the article mentioned above, by Hanson, who I doubt has had any personal, on going experience of chronic pain:

Healthy acceptance means recognizing the futility of struggling against the unpleasant realities that are beyond your control.

The unpleasant realities are political, because, as feminism pointed out in the 60's and 70's, the personal is political.  And there is little that's more personal than pain.  If any chronic pain sufferer took his advice we wouldn't get up in the morning, the struggle for many is finding a meaning, an excuse for getting up each day in the face of the futility of life with chronic pain.  Knowing the risks of complications with drugs and overdose, that is always a possibility that needs to be acknowledged.  Going to bed at night, not sleeping, then, getting up in the morning is the reality we live with.  It isn't the pretty young wife with a sore toe who complains that her toe hurts.  It's the aeronautical engineer who can no longer function in her job, and looses it because she can't take opiate based drugs as a condition of her employment.  It's me sitting at my computer trying to do a Phd thesis with the opiates and the other drugs and the alcohol I use and randomly mix to control the pain.  The reality is that we are on drugs that are addictive and often dangerous in various combinations.  The medical professionals won't, can't develop new drugs that work, unless we rant and rave about our need for them.

The article argues that:

You can say to yourself, "I don't like having this chronic pain condition, but I'm going to do everything I can to make my life as best as I can despite the pain."

When the pain is flaring up and I am writhing on the floor, in agony, how can I live my life as best I can despite the pain.  So, I like many other chronic pain sufferers live in between the gaps where the pain is at a manageable roar, that could end any moment, we live life between the cracks in the wall of pain.....  Life for many of the chronic pain sufferers is lived between the cracks.