#705 The Psychology of Pain

Want to Endure More Pain? Science Says: Brace Yourself

Continuing our exploration of how to endure the pain of walking over burning (psychological) coals in pursuit of the upper limits of our potential, let’s talk about one of Matt Fitzgerald’s recommended “coping strategies” to Optimize our perception of effort and get closer to that wall of our potential.

Today we’re going to talk about The Psychology of Pain. (Cue weird music?)

Short story: Researchers have studied how different people deal with pain and have discovered that some people are MUCH better at dealing with it (and, as a result, perform at a much higher level in the midst of experiencing pain).

Get this: There are basically two ways you can deal with the prospect of experiencing pain. You can accept it. Or you can try to suppress it.

(Which one do you think is more effective?)

Here’s how Matt puts it: “Research on the psychology of pain has produced similar findings. A number of studies have compared the effects of two contrasting anticipatory attitudes—acceptance and suppression— on pain perception. Some people have a natural tendency to look ahead to the repetition of a familiar pain stimulus with acceptance. They tell themselves, ‘This is going to hurt, but no worse than before.’ Other people try to cope with the same situation through suppression, a form of denial. They tell themselves, in effect, ‘I really hope this doesn’t hurt as much as it did the last time.’ Psychologists have generally found that, compared to suppression, acceptance reduces the unpleasantness of pain without reducing the pain itself. For this reason, it is a more effective coping skill. … In common language, this attitude of acceptance toward an impending disagreeable experience is called ‘bracing yourself.’”

Today’s +1.

How do YOU deal with prospective pain?

Here’s to bracing ourselves, K N O W I N G pain is inevitable on our hero’s journeys and then #OMMSing our way to awesome.

+1. +1. +1.

P.S. Check out our +1 on Kristin Neff’s pain equation for more. Remember: Suffering = Pain x Resistance.

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