psychology of pain

Pain is interesting. At least I find it interesting.

I guess that comes from my work in helping women prepare for pregnancy and birth, because pain comes up a lot!

In fact it comes up too much in my opinion. More than it should do. And this is because a fear of pain is probably one of the most common pregnancy and birth fears I come across. Well, it’s only to be expected, after all childbirth is the gold standard when it comes to pain. Everything is compared to childbirth.

And yet in some countries, childbirth is not considered or thought of as being painful. Now THAT is interesting!

This raises all sorts of questions for us around the psychology of pain especially around something like childbirth.

Is childbirth painful?

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that ‘childbirth is painful’ as being a fact and therefore guaranteed that it will happen. Well it’s not. It’s not something that happens every single time. It might happen for some people but not all. In fact some people find labour enjoyable or euphoric.

From the reading I’ve done over the years, it’s accepted that around a quarter of women experience pain-free births. In this study the figure was 28%. So it’s most definitely not a fact. It’s simply the experience of the majority.

So this does raise all sorts of questions for me around the psychology of pain.

  • How subjective is pain?
  • Do our beliefs around pain have an impact on us experiencing it?
  • Can we do anything to avoid it or reduce it in some way?
  • Do we all experience it differently?
  • At what point does pain become suffering?
  • Is it psychological or is it physical. Or both?

Thankfully I came across the opportunity to speak to someone who specialises in pain and suffering and was able to put these questions to them on my Head Trash Show podcast.

The psychology of pain

In this podcast chat I’m joined by Dr Gary Keil. Dr. Keil was originally a pharmacist but has continued his hunger for knowledge in better understanding the human condition, why we behave the way we do and how we can improve. And now he specialises in pain and suffering.

“I am passionate about how the mind and body work together, and how both can be fully developed to create happier, healthier and more creative individuals.

Neuroscience and neuroplasticity, philosophy/theosophy/positive psychology, and mind-body practices like yoga and meditation are my main passions but I’m a FIRM believer that what you put into your body is just as important as how the innards work.”

During my podcast chat Dr Keil talks about

  • the difference between pain and suffering
  • how pain has both emotional and physical components
  • what we can do to reduce our experience of pain, and what is likely to increase it
  • how our beliefs impact our experience of pain
  • the opposite of PTSD, PTGO
  • what we can to prevent our experience of trauma
  • the length of time it can take to train and change our minds

It’s a fascinating conversation and one that I hope you enjoy.

Listen to the podcast here

Alexia Leachman
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