Different emotions create different physical symptoms in your body. You know this intuitively and from your own experience. This demonstrates the fact that your mental/emotional state affects your body. [READ MORE about how physical pain and emotional pain are the SAME in your brain.]
Emotions are experienced in the brain
Neuroscience explains what is really happening. Your brain releases chemical proteins called neuropeptides with every emotional reaction. Dr. Candace Pert, an internationally recognized neuroscientist and pharmacologist, studied how each emotion has its own individual frequency and, simultaneously, releases a corresponding receptor active peptide.
That’s what is going on in your brain from a neuroscience perspective. What you notice is the result of those neuropeptides: you feel different sensations in your body depending on your emotional state.
Pain is experienced in the brain
We think of pain as the sensations we feel in the body. A sensation itself is pretty objective. You might have a hot or cold sensation, a burning sensation, an aching sensation, a muscle tension sensation etc. A sensation is a physical feeling you can describe.
So how is the brain involved?
Well, how does anesthesia work?
Anesthesia works by interrupting nerve signals in your brain. It prevents your brain from processing pain during surgical procedures. Your body feels no pain because your brain has been “manually shut off” by the anesthesia.
Without your brain, you don’t experience pain.
There is no denying that the brain plays a critical role in the body experiencing pain sensations.
Pain vs. Suffering
What is the difference? There is a big difference! Understanding this helps us understand how to reduce both pain and suffering.
Suffering is more subjective than just describing a physical sensation. [pullquote]Suffering comes from your thoughts and your emotions ABOUT the sensations.[/pullquote]
When you categorize or judge sensations, this is your brain adding interpretations ABOUT the sensations, such as thoughts about whether it is good or bad, and whether it is in or out of your control.
Chronic pain comes with a whole history of previous pain, negative experiences and problems. Memories of past pain and fear that it will never go away create very strong thoughts and emotions.
Despite the many difficulties of chronic pain and past memories of pain, your mind and your emotions cause additional suffering when you are spending time focusing on the negative and focusing on “problems” or “catastrophes.”
It’s NOT all in your head
This does NOT mean pain “is all in your head!”
If you’ve had chronic pain, you have likely had someone suggest it was all in your head. Nonsense!
The term “psychosomatic” pain doesn’t mean that pain is “all in your head” and it doesn’t mean your pain is not real. It is very real. But it does mean that real physical symptoms can be the result of your brain and neurochemistry as well as your thoughts and emotions.
The Good News?
If your brain and emotions and neurochemistry can contribute to real physical pain, then you can also harness the power of your mind to relieve physical pain.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Pain
Research shows that when your attention is focused on pain, it is perceived as more intense. To reduce suffering, you can learn how to redirect the attention which your mind automatically has given to the pain.
You can also learn to change your thoughts and judgments about the pain (which add to suffering) such as:
• Good vs. bad
• Pleasurable vs. pain
• Wanted vs. unwanted
• In your control vs. out of your control
• Temporary vs. permanent
• Acceptance vs. resistance
• Positive vs. negative
Fears and anxiety and hopelessness about reducing pain are very common human responses. But they add more suffering. Anxiety, anger, fear and catastrophizing can be more detrimental than the pain itself.