Obsession with Diagnosing Pain May Obfuscate the Cure

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

April 3rd, 2011 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

When I was nine years old, we lived in Phoenix for the summer. One afternoon, my mom and I were driving in the desert, and a roadrunner bolted across the road, in front of our car. “What’s that?” I asked my mom. “A roadrunner,” she answered. “What’s a roadrunner?” I asked. “That,” my mom answered.

I was frustrated but didn’t have the words to express what I was seeking. After a couple more rounds of, “But what is it,” followed by, “It’s what you saw,” I gave up.

What I wanted was information about where this so-called roadrunner fit into the scheme of things in life. Did it walk? Fly? What did it eat? Did it get cold at night? How did it evolve over time? What class of animals was it related to? I wanted what you might call a “diagnostic” on the bird.

I think it’s cool that as a little kid, I was so hungry for understanding of the world around me and how we all related to each other. That said, there was wisdom in my mom’s words.

As I got older, I found myself repeatedly frustrated by people trying to figure out who I am – which they often set out on a mission to do, because I’m pretty much a loose cannon by society’s standards. Why couldn’t people just enjoy me without trying to dissect me? And why did we, as a general society, have so many damn rules and measurements for life? Why couldn’t we just be?

I think there is a place for both approaches – for detailed measurements on something, like a pain condition, and for a gestalt acceptance and visceral experience of something, also like a pain condition. It was when I said, “Enough!” to the poking and prodding and (mis)diagnosing, and when I turned my full attention on optimizing the positive healing vibes in my life, that I began to heal.

And yet, when I interact with the medical system, there is often an eagerness to dissect the dance method and figure out the nature of the pain, and what it was according to proscribed measurements, and what it all means and how it all comes together…That approach in itself can give one a full-throttle headache.

By trying to figure out “what” something is, we can completely miss it. In fact, we can kill it. By putting animals in a cage, to study and better understand them, we can end up looking at a shadow of who they are, because we’ve effectively destroyed them by capturing them.

There is a place for figuring out the cause of pain. But that approach can in itself obfuscate the path to healing pain. Perhaps we don’t need to understand the pain at all. Perhaps we just have to create an environment that is full of love and harmony and celebration and healthy lifestyle habits. Then the pain just might work itself out of our lives for good.

And paradoxically, through this process, we may effectively, intuitively, without words, come to understand the cause of and cure for pain better than ever before.

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