Patterns that maintain pain
Our brain chemistry and even our brain structure is constantly changing in response to our experiences. Every single thought, feeling and experience that we have influences our brain chemistry and can influence the structure and connections of the neurons in our brains.
One consequence of this is that the experience of pain itself can trigger responses that can maintain pain. It is important to realise that symptoms may have been caused by one thing, but often go on to be maintained by something different. This is why research consistently finds that after 6 months or more of pain there is very little correlation between injury or disease in the body and pain intensity.
When we experience pain we tend also to automatically feel a sense or dislike and an urge to do something to reduce the pain. These automatic reactions are there to motivate us to take action to deal with injuries and wounds. If our efforts to reduce our pain do not work, we can be pulled further into a cycle where the sense of dislike triggers a sense that 'It shouldn't be like this' or 'there is something wrong with me'. This activates our automatic threat / protection system, which responds by releasing inflammatory chemicals which intensify pain and can increase our sensitivity in other parts of the body too. The threat / protection system also narrows our focus right down so it is hard to think about anything other than the pain and its impact on us. It also activates our motivation / drive system to look for a solution to the problem. This in turn continually activates the threat / protection system as attempted solution after solution does not help. In a desperate attempt to find a solution to a problem that cannot be resolved the motivation / drive system also often generates self-critical thinking and even suicidal thoughts. These responses then become additional problems that trigger the threat / protection system even more. We can easily find ourselves in a seemingly endless cycle of pain and misery.
While we are caught in this cycle we are unable to rest. This means that we are unable to connect with our natural healing and soothing capacities which involve activation of our third emotional system, the soothing / affiliative system, which is responsible for natural healing and has access to powerful painkilling hormones.
Our understanding of how these patterns work can help us to develop new alternative pathways that can reverse these biological processes.