As has been discussed many times on this website pain pathways are permanent and part of the unconscious part of your brain. There is nothing you can do to “fix” them. Any attention paid to them simply reinforces them. That includes trying not trying to pay attention to them. The key is to calm down and shift your nervous system on to non-pain circuits. There are strategies that stimulate the brain to change its structure. The descriptive term for this process is neuroplasticity. This includes growing new nerve cells, increasing the number of connections between the neurons, and increasing the amount of myelin, which improves conduction. Reinforcing pathways One behavior that reinforces pain pathways is discussing your pain experience with almost anyone who will listen. You are simply placing your attention on pain pathways and reinforcing these circuits. Not only are your pain pathways being strengthened but you are spending less attention on enjoyable and creative experiences. Social isolation Complaining also drives others away and social isolation is common. You now have more time to spend on your pain pathways. It has been demonstrated in several studies that the same part of the brain is active in people who are socially isolated as in chronic pain. Being alone is a painful experience. The other problem is that the people you do connect with is through the common bond of pain and suffering. Relating to people by complaining is not a great way to create rich and fulfilling relationships. Do you enjoy being around negativity? How do you think others feel about being around you when you are in a bad mood? Several research papers have documented that belonging to a fibromyalgia support group is a predictor of a poor prognosis for healing. It is felt that the format might encourage interaction in a way that reinforces each other’s suffering. Awareness, hope, forgiveness and play I have held a five-day workshop in NY the last three summers at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY with Dr. Fred Luskin, a Stanford psychologist and author of Forgive for Good and my wife, Babs Yohai, who is an expert in movement. The seminar is based on awareness, hope, forgiveness and play. Many people experience major shifts in their pain and mood during the week and many continue to improve over the next year. There are three ground rules: 1) you cannot complain about your pain or let the other participants know where you are hurting 2) medical care cannot be discussed 3) no complaining – period. The seminar is centered on awareness, hope, forgiveness and play. Most participants are initially thrown off by not being able to discuss their pain but quickly realize how important it is in contributing to his or her healing. What I had not realized prior to conducting these workshops is how much people do complain – not only about their pain, but also about life in general. How can you enjoy your life when you are continually upset? Directing your attention You nervous system will rewire in whatever direction you place your attention. How much time do you spend thinking (obsessing) about your pain? How aware are you of others needs? What percent of your conversations are spent discussing some aspect of your suffering? Do you really enjoy discussing your pain? Don’t you become tired of it? Stop it Stop discussing your pain, medical care, or even any of your troubles with the world – NOW. There are no shortcuts. You are not going to move forward while hanging on to your grievances. Every day is an opportunity to begin anew. Behavioral patterns are so deep that changing your conversation to enjoyable topics may be difficult. Just do it. It will initially be challenging but you will be surprised at the effectiveness of this simple strategy. Can’t do it? Really? How badly do you want to heal?