The purpose of life is to be happy. Many people feel that this is an unrealistic idea, and chronic illness and pain are often the reasons why people feel that they cannot be happy. Your life conditions do not have to be perfect in order for you to be happy. Happiness results from a realistic assessment of our life conditions at any given time, behaviors aligned with our values, and from effectively using our bodies and brains as a coordinated system. We this happens we are in a state of wellness. Wellness is a dynamic, or continuously changing, state of health that allows a person to move toward a higher level of functioning that represent an optimal balance between that person’s internal and external environments. Chronic pain can serve as an impediment to that optimal balance because it is typically associated with changes in our physical being. However, the body and brain are a coordinated system. It is not that something happens physically or mentally. Physical changes are associated with mental changes; mental changes are associated with physical changes. Some people will report that they were told “they pain is all in your head.” That assessment is only partially correct. The pain is real, physical pain. And that physical pain it has mental and social consequences.
People in physical pain often have painful thoughts, feelings, and memories. These are private events. They are accessible only to the person who experiences them until that person reports them to someone else, making them public events. These painful private events can hold you back from valued living – that is, behaving consistent with the ways that you want to grow and develop. Psychological treatment is used to help you recognize how private events can lead to suffering and then how to move beyond their limiting effects. A variety of approaches are available, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, stress management training, social and physical re-activation and mindfulness-based coping skills training. Psychological treatment, along with the medical treatment, can help you grow back into a full and meaningful life, and to more effectively handle the pain and stress that goes along with life. Psychological treatment is helpful when people want to make changes in unhealthy lifestyle behaviors that also contribute to their pain. Examples would be, poor weight management, smoking or chewing tobacco, drinking too much, using recreational drugs, poor sleep and poor exercise routines.
To have a psychologist included in your treatment team does not mean you have a mental disorder or that your pain is not real. It is recognition of the ways in which your body and brain influence each other. The goal is to help you achieve stable pain control using a variety of complimentary methods and skills, and to get back on the path to wellness. The purpose of life is to be happy and you can accomplish that purpose when you are able to constantly and continuously pursue living your life to its fullest potential.