Friday, August 26, 2011



Chronic Physical Pain: I don’t like to be paranoid, but I believe the people at the Hope Foundation are out to get me. They’re putting on more of those hope and strengths groups for my sufferers. They’re bringing in positive emotions to work against me. It’s not fair.
Awe: isn’t that amazing? A few years ago nobody would have thought you should pit positive emotions against chronic pain. And now, here’s Pain, claiming it’s not a fair fight.
Gratitude: That’s something to be thankful for.
Joy: How absolutely delightful. I’m thrilled.
Amusement: I think it’s rather funny. Chronic Pain is such a monster that not even the medical profession can vanquish it. And here it is whining about fairness.
Pride: Yes, it is most satisfying to see how much attention we positive emotions are getting in the psychological research. Barbara Fredrickson says we broaden the repertoire of potential responses and build resources. It seems like people who have us find more options for themselves and more ways of getting the things they need. That’s why we’ve been asked to square off against Chronic Pain. There are people out there who believe we can really make a difference.
Pain: But it’s not fair. Here we have ten positive emotions fighting against little old me. I have been around a long time, and I know that ten to one fighting is not fair. I say you make it a fair fight. Choose one positive emotion. One to one. That’s fair.
Inspiration: I have an idea that might solve this. If Pain insists on having only one opponent, we should send Hope. Hope is the most complex of us all, and the only one that’s equipped to focus on the future. People with chronic pain need to be able to hope for a good future. Yes, I do believe that Hope can go in alone. Raise your hands if you agree,
Hope: Not so fast. I have my doubts about the wisdom of sending me in alone against Pain.
Serenity: Don’t worry. Hope always has doubts. That’s what distinguishes it from positive thinking and optimism.
Pain: I hope they don’t send Hope. It gets people thinking that they could have a good future, and I find that very threatening.
Hope: But I still don’t want to go in alone. We positive emotions have done it together and it has worked out well. I wouldn’t want to try it without your support. You’ve all been there to help. I am a helpful conversation piece. People can think about me, and talk about me, and make me the centre of activities, and it’s good when they feel me.
Pride: Actually, you have a bit of each of us in you.
Hope: That may be true. But each of you makes a special contribution. I say we all go together. Usually there’s more than one way to get what you need. Is there some other way of thinking about Pain’s complaints?
Inspiration: I suggest we send interest over to have a look at Chronic Pain. Maybe Interest will be able to notice something that will help us decide who should join the fight. Go on over, Interest. Take a look.
Interest: hello Chronic Pain. I’ve come over for a closer examination of your corner. Now that I have a better view, I see you’ve been misleading us a little. You are hardly here alone.
Pain: Of course I am. It’s just me against all of you. Not fair, I say.
Interest: Oh no you’re not. You are taking all the credit. But some others are acting alongside you. Fatigue is over here, tiring out the people who have to live with you, and Disappointment is demoralizing them when they try to find solutions. Hiding behind you I see Isolation, keeping your sufferers away from their friends and routine activities. And who is this over here on the left? Is it Despair? Why, yes it is. How are people supposed to take advantage of opportunities and resources if they don’t expect anything good to happen? And there’s Depression keeping its head down, making people feel like they’re not worth helping. Shame on you for whining. You aren’t alone at all. I say it’s a fair fight. Positive emotions against you and your team. We all should go in.
Awe: Nice job, interest. A case well stated.
Pain: okay okay. So I admit that my sufferers might be feeling more than me alone. But it still won’t be a fair fight. The leaders of the Hope Foundation groups are against me. They don’t give me a fair hearing. It starts on the first day.
Interest: Tell us more about what happens.
Pain: The sufferers come in, thinking mostly of me. Then the leaders just ignore me. First they make people feel welcome.
Love: That’s where I begin, with the warm welcome.
Pain: Then, instead of acknowledging me and giving me the right to speak for every sufferer, they get people to introduce themselves in ways they never expected. They don’t even mention me.
Joy & Amusement: Yes, it is a pleasure to be there for introductions. We’re always there at introductions.
Pain: After they get going, the leaders help them brainstorm about hope. I can’t stand it when the sufferers start brainstorming ideas about hope. Pretty soon they all think they are poets or something.
Hope & Inspiration: It does set a lovely tone, doesn’t it?
Pain: Near the end of the first session they start talking about hope suckers. I’m usually on the list of hope-suckers they mention, of course. But even then, I hear people giggling. How can I have power if people don’t take me seriously?
Amusement: Laughing and being truthful at the same time. They’re mentioning their discouragements and laughing at the idea of hope-suckers. I love it.
Pain: Sometimes nobody mentions me at the end of the day. I feel so small when that happens. But the second day is just as bad, or maybe worse. They start making those hope collages. It wouldn’t be so bad if they’d stick to picking pictures of things they hope for. I could definitely get in the way of that. But then they start picking out pictures of beautiful scenery.
Awe: That’s me at work.
Pain: It’s disgusting. They start choosing pictures of happy families.
Love: That’s my territory.
Pain: They’re always showing pictures of things they like to do.
Joy: It does get very pleasant.
Pain: Worst of all, it seems to be contagious. All that pleasantness and awe starts spreading. It’s like a disease and it’s hard to stop once it gets going. And there’s always something about peace and patience in those collage pictures. Don’t bother saying anything Serenity. I recognize your hand in it.
Amusement: Pain certainly is going on and on. It’s being positively chronic.
Gratitude: Thank goodness we sent Interest over to stir things up. I now see that we all have a part. Hope ought not to have to face it alone.
Pain: Pay attention to me. I am not finished yet. On the third day those leaders get going on strengths. Depression has a terrible time with that. You can almost see people getting bolder, prouder.
Pride: Oh, I love it. Depression is my worst enemy.
Pain; But that’s not the end of it. By the fourth session, they’ve started paying attention to me. But are ,my sufferers complaining, letting me have the day? No! They’re making lists of resources, sharing information on ways of putting me down. All sorts of things come to light. One person knows something and pretty soon everybody knows it.
Awe: They actually start talking about things that help them.
Interest: And they get excited about searching for options.
Pain: How am I to defend myself against all that?
Gratitude: Can’t you just be happy that they’re dealing with you? You were complaining about being ignored.
Pain: The worst thing about the strengths and resources is that they start to build up Hope.
Amusement: I get a kick out of watching Hope sneak in, growing a little bigger all the time. Maybe on the first week Hope is the subject of a little amateur poetry. But on the last day, people are laughing about the future and imagining all sorts of adventures. Hope seems to be running the show.
Love: Don’t forget about me. The people with pain always say they hate to leave. They get rather attached to each other, and to the leaders, and to us. They remember that Isolation made them lonely and they don’t want it back. I guess they really aren’t too keen on facing Pain alone.
Pain: I don’t see why. I’m not nearly as powerful at the end as I am at the beginning. All those positive emotions release hormones that work against me. The sufferers aren’t nearly as willing to bow down to me. They’ve got their new friends and their new resources. They’ve got funny things to remember and pictures to look at. They’ve got ideas of things to try. Even if I stay around, I am not nearly the force I used to be.
Interest: Well, Pain, I have assessed the situation from many perspectives and I do believe you are justified in being fearful. Over the next few years there will be a lot more research that will help us find more effective ways of handling you. The medical people are working on it, and the psychology people too.
Hope: Sounds like there’s good reason to have me. When it comes to your future, Chronic Pain, I think you can expect to meet some stiff opposition. In the meantime, we positive emotions, your sufferers and the Hope Foundation leaders will be at the Hope Foundation on Tuesdays this fall, waiting to take you on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This brought tears to my eyes. Thank you so very much for writing this and for offering the groups to those of us who suffer from chronic pain. I look forward to taking part and to knocking chronic pain's influence right out of the stadium!
Yesterday, I discovered your blog and I vow to make it part of my daily reading from here on. In keeping with your committment to keep on writing it, I'll join in solidarity with you by keeping on reading it (hand in hand, with Hope at my side). Janie