One of the most difficult aspects of chronic pain management is dealing with the losses that may accompany pain.

Your roles may have changed. Your role as spouse or partner, friend, worker, mom or dad, brother or sister, athlete may be modified or lost. You may no longer be able to work, may have to reduce your work hours, or may have to do a different kind of work.

Some of your relationships may feel less close, may have changed in ways you can’t quite understand or may be lost altogether. You may have less contact with friends or feel that some of your friends just don’t understand your pain situation.

Leisure may not feel so leisurely anymore. You may no longer be able to do some of the things you used to enjoy. And you may be learning new ways to relax and enjoy life.

Your personal characteristics (e.g., kind, funny, hard-working) may be altered by pain too. For example, if you have generally been a caring person, pain can’t take that away from you. But it may make it harder for you to care for others, because pain naturally causes people to focus on themselves. If people have often told you that you are funny, you still have the creativity that makes you funny. However, severe pain may dampen that creativity when it makes you tired or dulls your thinking a bit. As a example, you may have found that you are less reliable than you used to be—because pain is not always predictable.

Dealing with these losses can trigger sadness, anxiety, anger and/or depression, making coping with pain more It takes time and effort to come to grips with such changes.

Reflecting on how pain may impact your personal characteristics is a helpful place to begin. Rediscovering who you are, in the face of chronic pain, will help you to redefine your roles, your relationships and your leisure activities.

Select a Characteristic and Cultivate It, One Week at a Time

One way to yourself again is to focus on a single personal characteristic and cultivate it one week at a time. Start by looking at the examples of personal traits below. Use the list as a way to think about what matters most to you about the kind of person you are.

* Sincere
* Kind
* Friendly
* Caring
* Thoughtful
* Pleasant
* Insightful
* Quirky
* Helpful
* Active
* Honest
* Funny
* Calm
* Intelligent
* Good-natured
* Practical
* Sexy
* Independent
* Optimistic
* Curious
* Gentle
* Hard-working
* Organized
* Reliable
* Sensitive
* Open-minded
* Romantic
* Strong

Select a trait to cultivate; choose one from the list or think of something else. Pick a trait that really matters to you.

Next, consider what situations, state of mind, activities, time of day, day of the week or people help you to cultivate this aspect of yourself.

* Who triggers your funny side?
* Who helps you to work harder?
* What situations help you to recognize your kindness?
* What time of day are you likely to be most reliable?
* Who brings out your caring side?
* In what settings can you use your intelligence?
* What day or time are you most able to socialize?

Once a week (e.g., every Sunday night) select your “trait for the week.” Make a list of everything that might help you cultivate that trait for the coming week, then post your list someplace where you will see it often. Work on letting that part of yourself grow a little each day. After a week, continue with the same personal characteristic or select a different one. You are still yourself, and you can keep growing, even though you live with chronic pain. {PP}

About the Author. Dr. Linda Ruehlman is a social/health psychologist and researcher, co-founder of Goalistics, and director of the Chronic Pain Management Program, an interactive site that helps people with chronic pain to manage their pain and live richer, more effective lives as well as Think Clearly about Depression, a self-management program for depression.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is provided as an educational and informational resource only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional psychological or medical advice.