Brain Space – Pain Mastery

Brain Space of Sensory Strip = Amount of Neuron Cells = Sensitivity

Here is an image of the sensory strip. The view point is as if you are looking at a person’s face, right into this particularly cross-section of their brain. The body drawing on the outside demonstrates the region of that strip that is typically devoted to sensations from those body parts. Thus, you can see just how weird the proportions really are with very large face and hands compared to everything else! When we introduce this skill we also choose to add the option of a focus on the feet. Although the sensations from the feet don’t take up a huge amount of brain space, they are are still proportionally larger and on such a different part of the sensory strip that it can really move the attention away from other painful parts.

Lessons from this week’s lesson

In this week’s lesson on managing pain, I learned some new concepts about how pain functions in the brain, as well as on how to take something I already knew, and provide a better and more purposeful way to use it to reduce my experience of pain in my body.

The main points of this lesson are as follow:

  • Pain is experienced in the brain, after information is sent to the brain through neurons transmitted through the spinal cord.
  • Passively attending to something in your body, other than the pain, will reduce the experience of pain to some degree or other. Sometimes this reduction in the experience of pain is significant, sometimes not.
  • Actively creating a mechanical distraction, especially in the area of the body which is experiencing the pain, can have a positive effect on that pain.
  • Interestingly, by creating a mechanical action, such as shaking your hand if you injure a finger or burn yourself, will reduce significantly the amount of pain actually experienced, by actively reducing the signal from the pain receptors in getting to the brain. This takes place in the spinal cord itself, rather than in the brain, so the reduction in the pain can be very effective.
Concentrating your attention on some part of your body not currently experiencing pain can help reduce that pain.

Now, lets stop thinking about the theory of pain, and think about what the theory of pain is teaching me. If I can move my attention from focusing on a specific cause of pain to focussing on some other part of my body, such as my face or ears, for example, I can significantly reduced my experience of the pain. This reduction is my experience of pain is relatively mild, for me, at this point, but it serves to reduce my experience of neuropathic pain from excruciating to merely troubling, a huge gain since when it is only troubling I can often drift off into sleep, which is nearly impossible when my neuropathic pain in my feet is most extreme.

Through practice and the investment of some time I hope to increase the effectiveness of this pain strategy, which holds out some promise in being an active tool to improve my current experience of pain.

The second strategy in this chapter of the course on Mastering Pain, is about a more physically active method, and requires some mechanical actions to be taken. So, when the pain in my hands or feet is most severe instead of mentally focussing on another part of my body, I use an action to draw my attentions elsewhere. This action can be pretty simple, such as playing with my car keys or making a cup of tea, and really paying attention to what I’m doing, rather than dwelling on my neuropathic pain.

Doing something physical, like washing a load of dishes in the sink, can sometimes be an effective distraction to even quite severe pain. It won’t make it go away, but it may help make it more bearable.

You’d be surprised at how often this helps reduce the experience of pain, sometimes by a lot, depending on how absorbing the actions being taken are, and depending on how seriously I focus on them.

Before I started taking this program I think I intuitively already knew some of this information, without knowing the underlying physiology of the spinal cord and the part of the brain responsible for experiencing pain.

A significant part of the benefit of taking this program is the development of a more organized and deliberate strategy for dealing with my everyday pain, in ways that improve my experience of life through my own conscious efforts, without taking opioids or other pain killers to deal with the pain. A major goal of Mastering Pain is to create a Personal Toolbox of resources to assist with what has become a major preoccupation of my life, the toleration and management of chronic pain.

For me, the alternatives to doing this program seem few and very unattractive. I have no willingness to go down the road of pharmaceutical solutions for my pain, unless I absolutely have no choice, in order to tolerate the ever increasing amount of pain in my life. It may be that at some point I won’t be able to function, whatsoever, without pain medications, but I intend to push that day off as long as possible.

Note on formatting

Up until this week I was using a Drop Cap for the first letter of each paragraph in my blog. I recently received feedback from a mobile reader, using her cell phone, that said that the Drop Caps were screwing up her ability to follow my blog, by throwing text all over the place, when viewed on her phone. So I’m not going to use them in this blog from now on.

A polyamorous life…some thoughts.

Polyamorous life may not be to everyone’s liking, and indeed offends almost every formal religion. And that’s not altogether by accident.

This blog arises from an exchange of comments regarding a blog I wrote some time ago about my marriage, and how my partner and I have tried to work through my fundamental polyamorous beliefs and nature, and to deal with and recognise her fundamental monogamous values and nature.

I appreciate your feedback to my blog which is couched as a question, but by which you really mean as a statement of your convictions and societal beliefs.

First of all, polyamorous relationships may or may not be “open marriages” and in fact most people in poly marriages prefer to de-emphasize sexual aspects of poly life in favour of the “loving” aspects.

Polyamory means loving more

Polyamory means loving more than one person at a time but doesn’t automatically include sex. True, if often does, but the ideology of multiple relationships rests more on a person’s right to engage in intimate personal relationships outside of a formal hierarchical structure. In some respects it’s the social and familiar extension of the ideas of the Libertarian philosophy, which postulates that the free will of an individual is the highest freedom. Anything that impinges on individual freedom and the personal right to control her/her own life is contrary to this philosophy, and that includes the traditional marriage customs of almost all religions and legal systems.

“Free love” is the lowest expression of the idea of polyamory, included but hardly the point of it for most of us. Many in this community are part of the LGBTQIA community as well, with certain blurring of the lines of gender identity and sexuality as well. It also includes BDSM and other types of experimental behaviour for many followers. What Polyamory shares with this community is a conviction of many that they are “born this way” rather than this being a “choice” which is what was believed to be true about homosexuality and transgender issues until very recently.

Almost all of the women I know in this community contend that polyamory is the fundamental nature of women, only controlled and managed by organized religions and public policy. Men in this community are often less certain that it is so, I think, because they feel enormous guilt about their inability to exist in traditional relationships without “cheating” and being outlaws of a sort.

But Polyamory is also not necessarily kink.

A kinky person may be polyamorous or a traditionalist believing in the one man/one woman type of marriage. But he/she may also be extremely interested in maintaining their own independence of thought and action, regardless of choices made as to their sexual partners or co-parents of their children.

I respect that your concerns have more to do with maintaining a stable, loving home, both for the benefit of children having two parents in the home, as well as for the husband and wife, who can have the comfort of maintaining lifelong stable relationships.

However, families such as you describe are rapidly vanishing in contemporary society, and seldom, in history, were seldom more than a minority of the population. Single parent homes now out number two parent homes in many communities, especially in millennial families.

Families may be stronger in polyamorous relationships.

Recent social trends and statistics suggest that polyamorous relationships are on the rise, radically so. On a recent CBC TV special recently it is now believed by certain social scientists that more children have multiple parents (ie: more than two) than are being raised in two parent families.

There is strong historical precedence for this. If you take the issue of sexual fidelity out of the question, and simply look at the number of children raised in homes with only one adult or two parents in the historical past, the number was small.

Families often included the two parents, at least one grandparent, often a couple of aunts or uncles, and siblings of the partner. Even today, in Vancouver’s East Asian families, there are many many homes which house as many as twenty five people at once, including the children. The same is true of many families from China, where the one child rule pushed people together to collectively raise children for their welfare.

The nuclear family is inherently unstable, even in the best examples of western values. Do you have any idea of the number of these traditional families who break up over and over again, reforming into new arrangements and new parenting partners? It can scarcely be better for kids to go through repeated divorces and remarriages than to live in long term polyamorous families with multiple parents in constant attendance. My poly friends mostly have a number of children, and their children are raised in the wider family community.

Traditional marriage is a financial disaster for most, even for those it works for emotionally.

One last point. The nuclear family, and its necessary companion, the single parent family, are financially a disaster for most people. The addition of more than two people to help share the load makes all the difference in the quality of everybody’s lives, including the children. When there are multiple people earning incomes it is much easier to be able to afford a home, feed the family, have nice cars, and afford family vacations together every year.

So don’t be quite so quick to judge. Those quirky people who live in these weird situations may have it much, much better than you realise.

Introduction, Thanks and Disclaimer

This blogger has put into words some of my own thoughts about sharing my stories with the blogiverse. I am inspired by her admission of awe in the face of the common humanity of us all. Also by her acknowledgement that some of her blogs may be contradictory. Consistency of beliefs and values is only possible for someone whose life is over and complete, as life itself forces new thoughts and perspectives on us every day.

I hope you enjoy this blogger, as do I.

Dense darkness cut through by light

In the darkest dark there is always some light, no matter how faint. This blog explores this theme in ways somewhat akin to poetry, which tickles my fancy and excites my love of words and language.

Enjoy.

Bird Flight

DSC_0149“There is no darkness so dense, so menacing, or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by light.”  -Vern P. Stanfill

After reading the quote above, I thought how wonderful it would be to explore the topic using poetry, but unlike many very talented people here in blog land, I just don’t have the knack for that. So instead, I decided to just jot down some random thoughts in the form of reflections. Please know that I am a believer that light is everywhere, all of the time, and forever more. Even during the worst of times there is some light that exists. Even when we are gone, memories of us stay alive. Even if those that remembered us all die off, part of us is present influencing others or the world (or universe) in some way.

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Bullying – you are not alone.

To Anon

The details of your story about bullying are horrible! When I read about what happened to you in school, and with your so-called friends, it made me feel like I was actually there with you as it was happening.

I was a small kid, and it resulted in me being bullied.

My story was a little different, and the reasons I was bullied seemed pretty much unique to me at the time. I was small and short. In every grade until I graduated from school I was usually the smallest and lightest boy in the class. And there was no relief at home, either, because my dad was the worst bully of all, who beat me and my siblings too. When he wasn’t bullying us, he was molesting the girls and calling out the boys for not being “men”.

Like, even when I was five and six years old, he’d call me a fag, a pig and asshole. There was never a day in my life until I was about fifteen when I wasn’t afraid of my father calling me names, hitting me all over my body, and sending me to school covered in bruises from his attacks. And at school, the bullies somehow knew automatically that they could pick on me, and I really didn’t know how to stop them, or even protect myself.

Things started getting a little better after my fifteenth birthday, because my father stopped physically abusing me because I knocked him down when he tried, and then he never tried again. The same thing happened at school, when I had fight with the meanest bully at my high school, and I beat him up so badly he ended up in hospital. Obviously I had grown up a bit, although I was still small, I was an athlete and played hockey. I was an okay hockey player, but the best thing was that I learned how to fight back.

The bullying pretty much stopped after that, and the kids at school treated me a lot better, so I got along at school a lot better. At home I mostly just avoided having to deal with my dad, who still had a mean mouth, and was always mad at someone or other.

The net effect of all of this is that I grew up feeling pretty insecure, and lacked confidence. I overcompensate, to this day, and feel like I have to prove myself to other people. Despite the fact that I’ve had plenty of successes in my life, I’ve never really felt “successful” and still struggle with feelings of inadequacy when dealing with the very real challenges of living.

Sculpted Self portrait as a young man in an Effective Disorders Clinic, in 1982

I’m now sixty-six years old, and although I’ve struggled with these feelings, including serious bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts, in the main I have learned to value what I have to offer the world, and respect my contributions to my fellow human beings. Having been bullied so much in my youth, and periodically even as an adult, I am a fierce protector of people who are being bullied, either as an individual or as a part of group or class of people being exploited or used by others. I won’t put up with abuse, and when I see it I stand up against it, no matter what the cost.

If you are bullied as a child, or maybe even ever, then you will have the ability to understand how it feels, and what it means to someone else when it happens to them. If you learn how to stand up for yourself, and face down the bullies, then you have learned something extremely useful to other bullied people. You become accountable for your own future happiness and safety, and are willing to do whatever you have to do to recover from falling down and failing. Nothing is impossible for you, merely difficult or painful, and neither difficulties nor pain can stop you. You’ve had to learn how to overcome all of those things, and get on with your life.

I start out each believing that today will be a better day, because I will make it so through my own actions towards others and myself.
I start out each believing that today will be a better day, because I will make it so through my own actions towards others and myself.

In a way I am glad that I was bullied as a kid. It taught me compassion, first of all for myself, and secondly, for others. It helped me see the ordinary humanity in each person I meet along the way. We are all simply human beings, looking out at the world and dreaming of having a good life. So I start out every day believing that this day will be better.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Sculpted by Donald Wilson 1982

I’m lost on a road to “God knows where.” Feeling scared. Uncertain. It’s my story right now, and I’ve good reasons for my emotional state. It’s not the first time in my life I’ve been lost or overwhelmed by circumstance. There’s no doubt my situation is difficult, and solutions to my problems seem beyond my current […]

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Two years ago I wrote the above blog entry in my other blog “Out Here in Paradise” and re-examining some of the issues with which I was ensnared at that time have shown that progress is possible, even given serious and intractable problems.

Mine isn’t a new story.  My health is not good, and is deteriorating over time.  It is responding to my focus on trying to find a solution to my worst problems, and a way to cope with the things I won’t be able to control.  My financial situation is a disaster, brought about by a series of mistaken steps, all of which seemed to be the correct decisions at the time, but have left me in serious debt, absent an income on which I can rely, and quite uncertain as to the potential for even basic survival, under my current situation.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise

Two years ago my health was a lot worse than now. At least it seemed so at the time. I had just got out of the hospital where I was extremely ill with pneumonia, with a new diagnosis of COPD, to go alone with my diabetes and chronic arthritic and neuropathic pain. I didn’t know it then but I also had the classic symptoms of fibromyalgia at work. I had a lot of good reasons to be depressed, just based on my health, not to mention a lifetime of fighting with bipolar depression even since my twenties, more than forty years.

So that was where I started to fight against continuing to fall down the Rabbit Hole, and started this blog, where I’ve largely focussed on discussing my attempts to improve my health and the quality of my life by taking intentional control of those things I can control.

If you follow this blog you will have read about my struggles with my medications, and coming to an understanding of how they interact with each other, and have many side effects, some of which still plague me.

You have seen my excitement of discovery when I read Dr. Jason Fung and realized that I can take control of my diabetes by making significant lifestyle changes, including intermittent fasting and radical reduction in the amount of carbohydrate in my daily diet. I came to realize that exercise every day is important, just not exactly for the reasons that I thought. I’ve lost a lot of weight on this journey, with the result being an increase in energy, a renewed sense of hope for the future, and a continued plan to improve matters further.

I’ve written about my challenges with my marriage and how we have evolved to a new set of understandings that allow for the possibility of staying intimate friends, while perhaps moving to a new description of our relationship. In our new relationship as Nesting Partners, rather than Husband and Wife, we talk far more openly about just about everything, than we even did in the past. Which is a good thing.

I’ve written about Polyamory, the state of being committed to being open to romantically or sexually loving more than one person at a time, within ethical boundaries and with full disclosure of the partners to each other and to every new person brought into relationship. We’re both struggling with our new definition but have continued to be loving to each other while figuring out how to move forward into the future.

Me as a kid.

In that Blog from two years ago I was feeling completely defeated financially as well. Things in this regard haven’t resolved themselves entirely, but I have made strides in dealing with my debts by filing bankruptcy. It wasn’t fun and it isn’t over yet, but it will be soon, and I will be able to move on into some meaningful employment or business. I’ve also learned the outcome of my problems with the Securities Commission, and while I’m far from sanguine about the Decision made, and the sanctions against me, I am in a place where I have begun to see how I can move forward from here. I have accepted entirely that I am accountable for my current financial situation, and if I am to rise again, it will be because I make it so.

Here are a few random thoughts about how I will get out of this mess.

Make a list, detail the issues including both those which seem unsolvable and those which appear to have potential solutions, no matter how unpalatable.

Take concrete steps to begin to address some of the issues.  Whether or not I can solve everything, or even most things, I can do something about most things.  I desperately need to break the hold that my emotional condition has on me.

Start listening better to the people in my life who care about me.  At the moment they seem to believe in me more than do I myself.

Creatively analyzing my situation with a view to possible improvements in it.  A little improvement is better than none.  Maybe everything isn’t quite as far gone as I currently believe,  maybe I can still pull myself back from the brink.  Of if not, figure out how to ride out the storm caused by going over the edge.

Let go of the past, embrace the future.  What is, is.  What has already happened is done, over and can’t be changed. But what has not yet happened, may never happen, or may result in outcomes totally different than anticipated by my fears.

Lost on the road to God knows where. — Out Here in Paradise
Self Portrait of me as a young man.

I haven’t entirely let go of the past, and I continue to work on those things from the past that still cause havoc in my life. What can say, two short years later, is that there is hope, and things have actually improved, through hard work, a renewed practice of personal discipline in following my new lifestyle, and a willingness to be open and transparent to my partner, which means a lot less anxiety of both our parts, and a better, if not a little more complicated, redefinition of our lives, both together and apart.