Is Psychology Wrong About How to Handle Pain?
A new study from researchers at Yale, Columbia, and Dartmouth Universities shows that disassociating from your pain, rather than consistently and deeply analysing it, is highly effective in its treatment.
This methodology, sometimes refered to as present-moment awareness or mindfulness, was so effective that even when participants were subjected to high heat on their forearm, their brain responded as if it was experiencing normal temperature.
Founder of Recovering Man Richard Joy said: “These findings are often seen as ‘controversial’ in psychology circles, yet after years of therapy and analysis over traumatic experiences, addictions and pain in my own life, success began to emerge when I let go of egoentric identification.
“This is not to say psychology and trauma work doesn’t have its place, but that there may come a point where we begin to construct our whole egocentric vision of who we are in our trauma and pain.
“Meditation, mindfulness and work that gets you beyond the ego and in natural spirit are all tools that seem massively underused and misunderstood in recovery from the issues many men face today.”
You can watch Richard’s story ‘From Trauma, Addiction & Suffering to Meaning, Purpose and Peace’ here
Mindfulness – the awareness and acceptance of a situation without judgment – has been shown to have benefits in treating many conditions such as anxiety and depression.
However, in the latest study, researchers showed that people with no formal training in meditation and mindfulness can benefit from a brief 20-minute introduction into mindfulness concepts.
In the study, participants reported less pain and negative emotion when employing mindfulness techniques, and at the same time their brains showed significant reductions in activity associated with pain and negative emotions.
These neurological changes did not occur in the prefrontal cortex, which regulates conscious or rational decision-making, and so were not the result of conscious willpower, the authors note.
How to Transcend Regret
New research also indicates that most people have regretful thoughts multiple times per week which usually cause fruitless suffering, yet people can use regret to ‘self-actualize’, according to Professor in Clemson University’s psychology department Robin Kowalski.
According to the study, people can benefit from regret because it helps them conceptualize and even realize their “ideal self”.
“Following [their own] advice helped participants overcome regret,” Kowalski said.
Adding: “When participants followed their advice in the present, they were much more likely to say that their younger selves would be proud of the person they are now.”
Kowalski also found that almost half of participants said the advice they would offer their younger selves influenced their description of their future selves, whether that was “successful and financially stable” or “old and decrepit.”
Areas People Offer Advice to Their Younger Self
Kowalski said the top three areas clearly are education, self-worth and relationships.
Advice tied to education often was individuals urging themselves to return to or finish school and many participants offered a timeline, such as “get master’s while in your 20s” or “finish college in four years.”
Advice related to self-worth, such as “be yourself” or “think through all options before making a decision,” tended to be more inspirational and corrective than the more temporal advice about education.
Kowalski said all of this advice, particularly related to relationships, can lead to corrective behavior.
“My favorite piece of advice in the whole paper came from a guy who said ‘Do. Not. Marry. Her.,’” Kowalski says.
“That’s valuable for the person that he is now because he can reflect and have a better idea of what he’s looking for in an ideal mate, plus he can offer advice to others.”
Kowalski’s findings are consistent with research on the “reminiscence bump,” which is the tendency for older adults to have increased recollection for events that occurred during their adolescence and early adulthood.
Most of the advice participants offered to themselves was tied to a pivotal event that had occurred between the ages of 10 and 30.
“These are critical years; people go through high school and college, get married, have kids and start their careers,” Kowalski said.
“On the one hand you can say, ‘Duh, of course these are important years,’ but when we separated positive pivotal events and negative pivotal events, almost all of them fell into that time period.
“It’s interesting to find clear evidence to support the reminiscence bump.”
Surprising Research Factors
Kowalski said the honesty and poignancy of some of the responses were surprising.
Many had to do with addiction, and one participant offered advice to his younger self that would have prevented a car accident that killed his uncle.
Kowalski said she’s only preoccupied with these “dark side” subjects because it helps her appreciate the light.
“There’s a real emotional pull to this topic and it’s what drew me to it in the first place,” Kowalski said.
“These are two of my favourite studies I’ve ever done because everyone can relate to it and everyone has asked themselves this question.”
If you’d like to explore this subject area more, why not check out the free book from Recovering Man, From Lost Boy to Awakened Man, below: