Using chronic pain as an opportunity for personal growth

Chronic pain is not something you have to experience passively.  Part of taking an active role in coping with your pain is finding a way to use it to learn more about yourself.

How do you begin to make sense of what it means to live in pain?   For many people, living with chronic pain provides an opening to think about important life questions, like:

  • What is the purpose of my life?
  • What really matters to me?
  • How can I make the best of a bad situation?

Spiritual and religious beliefs help many people answer these questions. Sometimes people with chronic pain discover new spiritual or religious beliefs. Other people may find themselves continually searching for ways to make sense of it all.

Ask yourself the following questions.  The answers may help you begin to understand better what chronic pain means to you, and they may help you think about your pain in a new way – as an opportunity for personal growth.

Love

Personal relationships are especially important to people coping with pain.  Think about the important relationships in your life.

  • Whom do you love?
  • Who loves you?
  • With whom do you feel most free to be yourself?
  • Who can you count on?
  • Who counts on you?
  • Has pain made it harder for you to love?
  • How has pain changed your relationships with those you love?

Forgiveness

Chronic pain leads many people to think about how they’ve lived their lives, or to reflect on regrets or misgivings they have.  Think about whether these issues are important to you.

  • Who do you want to forgive?
  • By whom do you want to be forgiven?
  • How can you seek this forgiveness?
  • For what do you need to forgive yourself?
  • Has pain changed the way you think about forgiveness?

Hope

Finding hope is a critical part of developing and keeping a positive attitude.  Answering these questions may help you identify what you hope for.

  • What are you hoping for now?
  • What dreams are not yet fulfilled?
  • What keeps you going?
  • What can you contribute to others?
  • What can you contribute to the world?
  • Has pain changed what you hope for?
  • What has living with pain taught you about hope?

Serenity

Living with chronic pain can be very intense. Everyone needs a time and a place to get away from that intensity. Think about where you can find peace.

  • What helps you feel most peaceful?
  • What interferes with you feeling peaceful?
  • When do you feel most at peace?
  • Where do you feel most at peace?
  • Do you give yourself enough time to experience peace?

Meaning

Living with chronic pain brings some people face to face with many of life’s biggest questions. Think about what’s most meaningful in your life.

  • What do you believe in?
  • What gives you strength?
  • What brings you joy?
  • What brings meaning to your life?
  • What have been your biggest accomplishments?
  • What do you still want to accomplish?
  • Has pain changed the way you think about the meaning of life?

Gratitude

When you are living in pain it can be easy to overlook the positive things in life.  Thinking about what you are grateful for can help you face the challenge of living with pain.

  • What do you feel most grateful for?
  • To whom do you feel grateful?
  • How do you express your gratitude?
  • Do you show enough gratitude toward others?
  • Is there anything that pain given to you that you feel grateful for?

At times, living with chronic pain can be lonely and frightening.  There is nothing “good” about being in pain, but many people find a way to grow through the process of living with pain.  The challenges of living with pain can help you to:

  • Strengthen relationships
  • Master difficult challenges
  • Undergo spiritual and conscious awakening

Hopefully, your answers to these questions will help you sort out what it means to live with chronic pain and learn more about yourself in the process.