In the name of patient empowerment, many natural health care practitioners claim that we create our own reality. The intention, of course, is to encourage us to take responsibility for our lives, rather than fall victim to circumstance.
Often, however, this approach can come off as blaming rather than encouraging — the experience of numerous chronic pain patients, who feel either directly or implicitly accused of creating our suffering. Given that so many of us have done everything short of chopping off a limb to find a remedy for our condition, that kind of blame can feel tantamount to emotional violence.
Want to be self-empowered or help empower someone else in chronic pain? Here’s my to-do list, gathered from the front lines of my own personal chronic pain-assed life:
- Distinguish between where we do actually have control (fastening our seatbelts while driving) and where we do not (being plowed into by a reckless driver).
- Evaluate what tools we have at our disposal (nutrition, bodywork, medications, exercise) and where we can acquire additional tools (books, CDs, classes, Internet).
- Determine what may be standing in the way of our using those tools (fear, anger, frustration, lack of money) and what we can do to overcome those obstacles (psychological counseling, support groups, bartering services).
- Figure out whom we can ask for help (friends, family, Internet chat groups, medical specialists, credit union) and how to most effectively approach those people.
- Go ahead and implement our tools to the best of our ability at any given moment, letting go of self-criticism and judgment of that ability.