A Word About Outcome Independence, by Alan Gordon, LCSW

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Alan Gordon LCSW
One of the clearest paths to eliminating your symptoms is to take away the pain's power by overcoming your preoccupation with it.

Easier said than done, right?

Shifting to an attitude of outcome independence is a great technique to help achieve that.

Outcome independence means your definition of success is independent of a specific outcome.

My favorite example of this comes from the movie, "Dead Poet Society."

One of the students has a huge crush on a girl from a nearby school, but is terrified to ask her out. Finally, with a burst of courage, he rides out to a party she's attending.

Later that night, he returns to his school with a black eye, and beaming with joy. His friends ask him what happened.

"I asked her out," he replied with a huge grin.

"And she said yes?" They asked.

"No," he said, "and her boyfriend punched me in face."

"Then why are you so happy??" His friends inquired.

"Because I asked."

He wasn't pleased by the outcome, he was pleased in spite of the outcome.

Think how outcome dependent you tend to be with the pain. Assume you have back pain when you take a walk (or some comparable situation.) Every time you take a walk, you monitor it. "Okay, today the pain started after a block. Yesterday it started after a block and a half." "Today it was a 3 out of 10 when I returned home. Last week it was a 7 out of 10 after the same distance."

When you have a good walk, you feel happy, optimistic, feeling like you're on the right track. When you have a bad walk, you feel down, defeated, bad about yourself and your prospect of ever getting rid of the pain.

This attitude, this outcome dependence is feeding the pain cycle. It's reinforcing its very purpose.

Change your definition of success. Work on it. Success is no longer measured by whether or not you have a good walk. Success is measured by how little you care.

At the beginning of your walk, tell yourself, "It doesn't matter how much it hurts afterward. That isn't an accurate measure of monitoring my progress with PPD anyway. What matters is how little I let it affect me; how I refuse to let my mood, my self-perception, my feelings about the future be determined by how much pain I'm in afterward."

This is not an easy transition, and you'll revert back to outcome dependence plenty of times. But if you keep at it, and continue to work toward altering your definition of success, you will strip the pain of its power, and it will likely lose its hold on you.

Alan Gordon is a LCSW psychotherapist working in California specializing in the treatment of chronic pain. He has extensive experience working with TMS clients suffering from back and neck pain, RSI, fibromyalgia, IBS, tendonitis, pelvic pain, chronic headaches, and other pain disorders. Alan is the Executive Director of the Pain Psychology Center in Los Angeles, and is also on the board of the PPDA. He co-organized the 2013 clinical training for the treatment of mindbody disorders in Los Angeles and also chaired the organizing committee of the 2010 LA Mindbody Conference.

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