Pain researchers now know that all pain exists only within the brain. And this is exciting news for anyone seeking to use the Law of Attraction to aid in injury recovery. In particular, it's significant for anyone with “persistent pain” – usually defined as pain which lingers at least three months after the damaged tissue should have healed.
Neuroscientists recently confirmed that the brain does not discriminate between “real” pain and “imagined” pain. The brain simply gives us the pain experience.
Not just the mysterious persistent pain from a long-healed injury, but ALL of it. The immediate agony of the original injury and the pain of every rehab session, too.
It's all in the brain. Not in the body, where it looks to live, but in the brain .
Cut your finger chopping veggies? Pain's in your brain. Pull a muscle in your leg? Pain's in your brain. Crazy killer migraine? Pain's in your brain.
How does this work?
All day long, 24/7, our body is receiving physical stimuli such as touch, heat, and so on. For each single incoming impulse, signals go through a system of “way stations” in the nervous system where they are assessed for importance. Crucial or confusing impulses are sent to the brain for further analysis based on a range of factors. Of course, all this is happening at lightning speed and without your conscious awareness. That analysis includes an assessment by the brain as to whether there is danger.
If your brain perceives risk, you'll feel pain. If not, you will not.
And here's the kicker: for as long as the brain believes there is risk, you will continue to experience pain.
This is why millions of people have persistent pain, long after injured tissues have in fact healed. The brain is convinced there is still risk. The brain is telling an old story.
If the brain believes it's safer to ignore the damage and allow you to move, it will delay the onset of pain. This can be seen in the reports of soldiers who are injured, but feel no pain until after they've successfully scrambled to safety. It even happened to me many years ago, when my nose was broken in a backstage mishap, mid-performance – and I did not really feel the pain until after we'd successfully completed the scene change, continued the show and stopped for interval .
Sometimes the brain can believe in risk and produce pain where there is no injury at all. We've all heard of the phantom pain which can occur in long-ago amputated limbs.
My favorite story to illustrate this phenomenon comes from a report in the British Medical Journal in 1995. A 29-year-old builder turned up at the emergency room after jumping onto a 15cm nail. He was in agony, especially when anyone tried to move the nail at all, so he was sedated before the nail was pulled out from underneath. Staff then removed his boot, expecting to see the horrible injury which had caused so much intense pain. But even though the nail had gone into his boot just behind the protective steel toecap, it had passed clean between his toes, leaving his foot uninjured.
That excruciating pain was all in his brain, based on its making a sufficient reasonable assessment of risk.
What does this mean if you're experiencing persistent pain, long after an injury should have healed?
You can not consciously convince your brain that the risk has passed by forcing or pushing or ignoring your pain. It's more complex than that.
But it is possible to change that danger signal in your brain, once you understand how it makes the decision about whether there is danger. That assessment of risk is based on incoming impulses – including thoughts and beliefs .
Pain researchers have even developed a term to define a thought process which is powerful enough to maintain a state of pain. They call it a thought virus
Thought viruses are basically the wide range of stories we might tell ourselves about our own offense. We may be aware of these thoughts; very often we are not. Some examples include:
- this will never heal
- I'm broken / fragile / frail
- I'll sit on the couch until I have no more pain
- I'll soldier on and ignore this pain, to prove I'm not a failure
- what if I can never walk / play with my kids / work again?
In other words – what we think has a direct impact on our pain levels.
We know that the Law of Attraction says that what you focus on, you get more of. It turns out that neuroscientism says the same thing.
To discover your own thought viruses, reflect on what stories you've been telling about it – to yourself and to others. Are you ready to let go of them, and tell a better story? Sometimes simple awareness can be enough. Sometimes it needs a little more gentle, non-judgmental exploration.
Consider the now-accepted wisdom that your pain experience does not relate to the amount of damage present. That does not mean your pain is imagined or not real; it does mean that your pain indicates an altered (not broken) pain system is now in operation. And that means healing is possible. Adopting that one single belief – that it's possible to heal – is the first step on the journey.
I love this quote from pain researchers, Dr David S. Butler and Prof. G. Lorimer Moseley. It's worth remembering if you're experiencing any doubts about whether this means you're making it up:
“… anyone that tells you 'it' is all in your head, claiming that there is 'it' is not real – does not understand physiology” [their emphasis]