A few weeks back, I was talking to someone who knows a fair bit about pain. They shared with me the fact that they were experiencing quite significant back pain; had been for a few days after a relatively minor incident. They explained that the pain was pretty severe at times, had interrupted sleep and most movements were reduced and painful. They weren’t too concerned, thought it likely that there was a bit of inflammation going on but the whole thing would settle down and eventually go away with a bit of time and some carefully graded movement and activity.
Then they said something that I reckon sums up one of the biggest problems “out there” while also reinforcing education as one of the most (if not THE most) powerful interventions that a person in trouble can be provided. They said (I paraphrase a little):
“If I didn’t understand what was going on with my back, I think that I might be pretty worried and scared by what I’m feeling right now. I can certainly understand why some people feeling something like this might get more than a bit freaked out”
What a powerful and privileged position we are in as clinicians and therapists when people in trouble come to see us- those precious minutes spent on education that can lead to new understanding, the reduction of fear and the abatement of suffering.
This reminds me of a session with my Psychotherapist a few years ago. I was pouring my heart out expressing how desperate and miserable I felt. Life looked very bleak and hopeless at that moment. Susie looked at me with tears in her eyes and said ” David, I hear what you are saying and I really feel for you but, do you know what…….how you feel right now is exactly how you should be feeling considering the circumstances” I took great comfort from those words. Today, when a patient comes in fearful of the state of their swollen knee, I respond with ” I hear what you are saying but, do you know what…..that’s a fantastic response there and it’s exactly what should be happening” ……
“It’s exactly what should be happening” – What a powerful and graceful move to make in the dance that is therapy! How do people usually respond? I’m guessing a bit of shock, a bit of surprise and then some curiosity?
A few grey hairs helps with the delivery but the response is usually one of relief……..” Really, it’s normal” ….” Wow that’s a relief” …….