There’s a theory to happiness? Who knew? But even more than that, there is a science to happiness. We can know, with ever increasing certainty, what it is that makes a human happy. And surprisingly, it has very little to do with whether one has pain or not. In fact, research shows that six months after winning the lottery a person is less likely to be happy than someone who became a paraplegic six months prior. Crazy, right?
Happiness is in fact much more related to what we perceive to be possible as compared to what we currently are capable of. What we think we should have compared to what we actually have. What we think we should be able to do compared to what we actually can do. What we think we should be compared to what we are. What we think money should do for us instead of what it actually does.
Imagine you are out with your friends perusing a craft fair in the park. You are really enjoying yourself, relaxed and content to be browsing amongst the works of art and unique creations. You are just thinking to yourself what a fine day this is when suddenly you realize you are alone. Where did your friends go? Then you see them rounding the corner, each with a triple-decker ice cream cone. What were they thinking? Why didn’t they tell you where they were going? Why didn’t they bring you some!!?
Just moments ago, you were content and happy. Now you are angry. Your feelings are hurt. You are pouting. You won’t be happy until you go and get some ice cream as well. But what really changed?
The truth is - nothing. Nothing changed. Well, except what you believe. That is what changed. Contentment turned to anger when you suddenly believed that there was something you were missing.
People with chronic pain have to deal with this every day. Because, as we learned in my post Change your story, Chronic pain robs you of what is rightfully yours. It takes away so much that it is very hard not to feel just a little angry. There is a profound disconnect between what should be and what is. And your medical treatments only worsen the disconnect. Each new procedure, surgery or injection, every round of therapy and every new medication – all of these deliver much less than they promise. But maybe the next time it will be different. There must be something. A new pill. A new test. Another surgery.
If you believe that something is being held back, that something is finally going to end all the pain where nothing else has been able to, then you will inevitably be profoundly unhappy. And you will experience your pain in the form of profound suffering. What you need is acceptance. You have to find a way to bring your expectations and your reality closer together. Is this possible?
Absolutely this is possible. Acceptance of the reality of your pain and the reality of how that pain has changed your life is not only possible, it is necessary. Because when you do this, you will be happier than you have been since before your injury.
You may not be capable of what you used to be capable of, but you can still accomplish much. You may not have everything you would have had, but you can do something with what you do have. You may not be what you used to be or what you might have been, but you can still be something. You can still contribute. Learn. Create. Share. Experience. And you are not alone.
At Restored Horizons we provide some of our treatment in what we call shared medical appointments. Medical visits that are shared with other patients who have chronic pain just like you do. They each have their own story, their own journey. You can learn something from how they are re-writing the story of their pain. And they can learn from you. It can be tempting to turn these visits into “gripe” sessions, but with just a tiny bit of effort it is possible to learn from one another about what works. Because there is really no point in focusing on what doesn’t work.
What you believe is so very important that I will be bringing up this toping again in future posts. It is my true desire to see you living your life to the fullest extent possible. Let us work together to find a way to frame your life and your pain in terms of what is possible for you to experience and accomplish.