An unhappy reader “Your book about back pain is bullshit! I learned the hard way that pain is an indication something is wrong. The unsuspecting public goes to idiot doctors like you that say, “It’s all in your head you crazy bitch.” Guess what, that pain I was told was all in my head was my back being destroyed. But doctors, mostly men, like to tell women, “ We’re just some crazy bitch looking for attention.” I think the way male doctors have treated female patients is criminal. By the way/after over 20 years of disability and pain a female doctor discovered my problem. She was stunned at the number of doctors I had seen and all the misdiagnosis and “crazy” “not real” “imagined” pain etc. Of course they were mostly male doctors talking down about me and being too lazy to do their job. As a result of lazy doctors and doctors like you perpetrating the, “its all in your head theory” I am severely disabled now and must endure very painful surgeries. Why don’t you actually help and write a book about how to diagnose, because patients believe medicine is a science, not a game doctors play with our lives.” This is a recent post that was on my Back in Control Facebook site. I was well-aware of being on the receiving end of this type of feedback before I published the book. I deal with variations of it daily in clinic. Part of my practice “I want surgery and you are not going to do it for me. You are the worst doctor I have ever met.” This patient decided to express his feelings screaming them at the top of his lungs as he walked out the office. “I read your book. I still hurt.” “Hanscom is a charlatan.” Trapped by pain Being trapped by chronic pain is a terrible thing and a horrible way to exist on this planet. You are not only trapped by the pain but by the medical system that keeps bouncing you around. Employers, claims managers, your friends and family don’t believe you; you feel and are labeled. There is little question that you have many legitimate reasons to be upset. The problem is that you are the one who suffers the most by remaining in this state of mind. The consequences are severe: “The Pit of Despair” Pain signals are amplified regardless of their source. Anger is never attractive; you drive people away. Slowly, but surely, you will become socially isolated. It is all about you. Anger is a survival mechanism and the needs of others will pale in your mind compared to yours. Anger is always the first step in engendering the many forms of abuse; the essence of abuse is unawareness of others needs; or feeling your needs are more important. It just isn’t that much fun being angry Guess what – it is you The most difficult aspect of anger I struggle with is that the anger response has nothing to do with the person or situation that set it off. Anger is only a neurological pattern that exists within you that was triggered. It just doesn’t feel that way. Understanding that anger is an opportunity for self-discovery is a paradigm shift that will change your life – and your pain. The first step is being aware that your frustrations are only within you. Taking responsibility to learn what it means for your personal growth is the next step. Anthony De Mello Anthony De Mello was a Jesuit priest who clearly delineated the issue. I was recently re-introduced to his work through a book given to me by a fellow physician, The Way to Love. He states the problem with anger very clearly. “How could you go about creating a happy, loving, peaceful world? By learning a simple, beautiful, but painful art called the art of looking. This is how you do it: Every time you find yourself irritated or angry with someone, the one to look at is not that person but yourself. The question to as is not, ‘What’s wrong with this person?’ but ‘What does this irritation tell me about myself?’ Do this right now. Think of someone irritating person you know and say this painful but liberating sentence to yourself. ‘The cause of my irritation is not in this person but in me.’ Having said that, begin the task of finding out how you are causing the irritation. First look into the very real possibility that the reason why this person’s defects or so-called defects annoy you is that you have them in yourself. But you have repressed them and so are projecting them unconsciously into the other. This is almost always true but hardly anyone recognizes it. So search for this person’s defects in your own heart and in your unconscious mind, and your annoyance will turn to gratitude that his or her behavior has led you to self-discovery.” “But I’m right” Although you feel a strong conviction of rightness of your views and you have all the right in the world to be angry, anger is only destructive. Nothing constructive will ever happen from words said or actions taken while angry. It feels energizing and directed. It is actually only energy drained and it is never focused. It will engulf you along with everyone close to you. It is similar to setting off a tear gas bomb in a crowd and you do not have a protective mask. You are also equally affected. Neurons that fire together wire together Since pain and anger neurological circuits are intertwined, it impossible to experience meaningful long-term pain relief until you have completely let go of the past along with all of the wrongs that have been heaped on you. I have stated from the beginning that, “Anger is the Continental Divide of chronic pain.” You must let go and there are endless ways to go about it. There is no shortcut. It was about six months after I took responsibility for my own anger that my pain and other Mind Body Syndrome symptoms disappeared. Dr. Luskin’s book, Forgive for Good, entered my practice six years ago; that is when my patients began to consistently become pain free. You may not feel you have much choice about the severity of your pain, but you do have a choice regarding your relationship with anger. That is the choice you must make to experience this freedom.