We are built to experience pain to become aware that something is amiss. Pain can be triggered by either a physical injury or an emotional state.
In the case of physical pain, the nerves from the site of the wound send a signal to the brain that is interpreted as being painful. On the other hand, an emotional trigger may lead the brain to cause a disruption in the body, which is painful, or may cause the brain to interpret common body sensations as painful. Sometimes, the physical manifestations of pain can serve as a way of expressing the nature of the emotional distress. For example, when we deal with disruptive people in our lives, some of us develop a “pain in the neck,” a “killer headache,” or feel as if we are being “punched in the gut.”
Pain that occurs right after an injury is useful as it causes us to protect ourselves by moving away from the source of the pain and tending to our wounds. Chronic pain, on the other hand, might be caused by nerve damage, and serves little useful purpose. That being said, some philosophers have benefited by deriving meaning from learning how to deal with chronic pain.
Aside from the pain trigger, many other factors affect how pain is perceived. For example, athletes who are very focused on their competitive sport may not even recognize they have been injured during a game. Patients who are very depressed may experience pain more intensely because they may feel that everything is going wrong, or that they deserve to be punished. Religious individuals may welcome pain as a way of helping direct their thoughts toward God or repenting from sin.
Treatment for pain can involve both medications and complementary therapies including hypnosis. When pain is addressed with hypnosis, therapy can be provided for its physical nature as well as emotional components, which frequently complicate its management.
By teaching patients to process the pain signal differently, with use of hypnosis, the experience of pain can change, and sometimes even dramatically. For example, a patient who is gifted at hypnosis may be able to tune it out sufficiently that typically painful medical procedures (such as blood drawing, dental work, or even surgery) can be performed without use of chemical anesthesia.
Hypnotic imagery to help change the physical experience of pain can include changing its color, size, or shape, or imagined manipulation of a pain control center in the brain, such as by turning off imaginary pain switches. To address the emotional aspects of pain hypnosis can be useful in helping patients identify the nature of their emotional state, and how to shift that frame of mind through visualization of a peaceful experience. Further, the hypnotic state can be used to promote insight that can serve as a foundation for counseling patients deal better with their emotions. This can lead to an associated improvement of their pain.
Hypnosis can be very effective in the treatment of discomfort when it is directed at both the physical and emotional aspects of the pain experience.
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