No pain management without a calm mind


There's an old Irish joke about a tourist couple hopelessly lost in deepest County Kerry in the days before the Digital Revolution. Driving along the road they spot a local and pull up to him.

"Excuse me" says Mr Tourist. "Is this the right way for Dublin?"

"Well" says the grizzled old Kerryman, "if ye be wantin' to go to Dublin, ye don't want to be startin' from here!"

This can be said for a lot of things. If you want to study something, you might to need to learn some underlying principles before you even start. Don't even bother to start learning Physics for example before you've a good grasp of mathematics! In the same way, you'll get nowhere with pain management before you've learned how to calm your mind.

Calming your mind and calming down in general doesn't come instinctively to most of us. If it did, road rage and generally losing one's rag wouldn't ever happen. "Calm down" is one of the world's most pointless instructions. You might as well say "go to the moon". People in general don't have the first idea how to calm down. Calming down is a skill that needs to be learned, and then you have to keep practicing it to keep being able to do it, like physical fitness (when we used to have it!)

I know this only too well. I am fully trained and experienced in calming the mind, but after a prolonged spell of neglecting to practice it, I then developed the excruciating pain that subsequently got diagnosed as Osteoarthritis of the hip and believe me I was not particularly calm about it. I've had to go back to basics and re-learn it alongside the new and much-resented discipline of daily Physio (groan!)

Calming the mind is the foundational fundamental number one mental health discipline, the first thing you should learn to do to look after your mind. It needs to be in place before you tackle almost all mental heath issues there are. If I had my way, it would be taught to every five-year-old at school as part of the National Curriculum - that would actually stop many issues arising in the first place.

There's more than one way of calming the mind, and the one that works for you will depend on your personality. If you're pretty good at paying attention, and not too easily distracted, the go-to method is meditation. Often associated with eastern spirituality since the 1960's, it has actually existed in some form and in different names worldwide for millennia. Practiced daily, faithfully and regularly, it will greatly improve and maybe completely transform your wellbeing.

But meditation isn't for everyone. If you can't focus, there are other methods, such as repetitive exercise, chanting, singing and dancing, and "ritual movement" such as T'ai Chi. So if one method of mind-calming doesn't work for you, there are plenty of others to try.

The objective for the novice of mind-calming is to reach a state where in a pre-arranged session, your thoughts and feelings no longer bother you or upset you. The advance student is aiming to empty the mind at will, any time anywhere, and achieve instant calm. Once you've got a handle on calming yourself, THEN you're ready for tackling specific issues which for all of us is pain-management!


  • YvonneH
    YvonneH Member Posts: 1,076
    edited 27. Jun 2021, 10:11

    Comment written by Damned69 and moved to this discussion as it is the second installment of this discussion. Yvonne_H



    If you're told to do something that's good for you, it doesn't follow that you're going to do it, especially if the doing of it isn't particularly appealing. I hate doing daily Physio, and it doesn't surprise me for a moment that plenty of arthritics don't do the Physio they're prescribed. Most Physiotherapists, bless them, aren't Psychologists and don't do the greatest job at "selling" their therapies to people with chronic conditions like ours that aren't going to heal anyway.

    Calming the mind also doesn't come naturally to most of us and requires time set aside to practice it. The biggest and most common obstacle to doing that practice is the argument that "while I'm sat here doing nothing interesting, there's lots of other things either useful or entertaining I could be doing". And as with Physio, calming the mind isn't actually going to make anything go away anyway. So if you're going to do it, you're going to need more than the statement that it's good for you before you start doing it. Good news! You've found the post that will convince you to do it! Read on!

    Calming the mind is NOT doing nothing. It is in fact the complete reverse: it does something ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL. It will enable you to see your true role and purpose in life and empower you to do it. You'll be like the ugly duckling who emerges in the Spring as a stunning swan, empowered to cope with anything life throws at you. You will become in every sense enlightened. You will experience complete fulfilment, which comes not from the absence of darkness but from making a difference. You will experience darkness inside and out but find peace of mind anyway. And you don't need strength, intelligence, faith or an angelic nature, just persistence.

    Peace of mind is the opposite of nothing - it's the experience of having nothing left to want - you are complete. Other people's perception of you might not change at all - to others you might seem the same person you always were - the same awkward old grump - but within yourself, your life experience will be transformed!

    So how does a calm mind achieve all this? By redrawing your map of reality. You might think you know full well what the "real world" looks like. You don't. What you have is a set of experiences from which you have drawn a conclusion, that gets reinforced by those experiences repeating. From that, in your head, you have not reality but just a map your mind has created by itself. The map works fine most days. But your experiences are just a miniscule fraction of all the experiences out there, and a new experience will expose your map as incomplete. Go to a different place with a different culture and you'll find it woefully inadequate!

    A calm mind doesn't have rigid ideas, so is much more adaptable to whatever situation its in. The map is deliberately vague. This adaptability gives a sense of control. The focus shifts from "how things are" to what you can achieve, what difference you can make, to knowing in this situation what to do. Your reaction to pain and loss shifts from resentment to a desire to carry it better. The root cause of stress and anxiety is the despair of being unable to win. But a calm mind always knows what to do, even in the darkest places.

    A calm mind isn't invincible. I've frequently had a calm mind and then lost it through a lack of daily discipline. Anyone can be broken if smashed hard enough, faced with a big distraction or if taken by a big enough surprise. A calm mind is however more robust, and when you do lose it, is more likely to recover and recovers quicker. Calm minds are much more able to get back on the horse after being thrown off.

    Calm minds cope better because they see better. The mind is like muddy water. If it's allowed to settle, it becomes clear. You will see possibilities and avenues open to you that weren't visible before. You will be able to LEARN. You can't learn if you're agitated, upset, or think you know it all. Only with a calm mind can you start to learn that essential skill for arthritics - pain management.

  • stickywicket
    stickywicket Member Posts: 27,719

    I'm genuinely trying to be helpful here, to you and to others but......

    Could you explain where you're góing with this, please? I think we're all aware now of 'keep calm and carry on'. We have the mugs, the T-shirts, the posters, the bags, in fact enough to irritate us out of our calm at the very sight of the slogan😄

    Versus Arthritis has plenty of info on relaxation techniques as does the NHS. They say, quite succinctly what you seem to be - forgive me but this is how it seems to me - labouring at length. I'm trying to understand who might be helped by this.

    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.
    Steven Wright
  • Mike1
    Mike1 Member Posts: 1,992

    It made me yawn anyway!

  • Damned69
    Damned69 Member Posts: 55

    The fact that YOU don't understand who would be helped by it does not necessarily mean that such people don't exist. My belief is that they do. On that point we may have to agree to disagree. My way of putting things might appeal to someone who is new to all this. If it is of no use to YOU, you are not obliged to read it, or any other of my posts. I tend not to be persuaded by those who don't get the point from attempting to reach someone who might. I will therefore continue to write related articles that pass moderation. Feel free to skip them.

    On a technical note, this was originally TWO articles, one about how calming the mind is an essential pre-requisite to pain management, and the other going into more depth. The moderator took the decision to merge them. I would have preferred them to remain as two separate more digestible articles, but the way the forum works is that it is that the moderator not the author that has final editorial control. Though there is a channel for contesting an editorial decision, I decided that in this case I did not feel strongly enough about it to do so. It is therefore one long article.

  • Mike1
    Mike1 Member Posts: 1,992

    The Administrators and Moderators do a good job and it is only right that they have overall control of the forum. I made my light hearted comment as I found the articles somewhat abstract and patronising in places. I agree with Stickywicket that there are numerous helpful and more digestible articles of a similar vein which are available on the Versus Arthritis website as well as the NHS.

  • Damned69
    Damned69 Member Posts: 55

    The first paragraph of my reply to Stickywicket also applies to you.