Saturday, 9 March 2019

Managing Chronic Pain Week 5

Title text over a faded out photo of a girl climbing on a wooden bar fence.After waiting an hour for a bus in pretty dreadful weather the previous week, it's probably not surprising that I came down with a really horrid cold virus the next day. I know that we shouldn't blame the weather, and viruses aren't caused by standing in the freezing cold, but I'm convinced it made it worse and have been sending psychic hate messages to the bus company ever since. Anyway, the upshot of all this is, that I couldn't attend week 5 because you are can't to go if you have something gross and contagious, on account of it being a course for people with chronic conditions who could have lowered immunity. So this is a summary of week 5, Communication, from the hand outs we received afterwards.

I was so sad to miss this week as I think communication is one of the hardest parts of having a chronic illness. It's hard to say how you are feeling, sometimes because you don't know how to explain it, sometimes because you don't want to worry people and often because you are just sick of the problem and don't want to talk about it anymore. However, it is actually really important to communicate, particularly with our friends and loved ones, since it's easy to forget that pain conditions are often invisible to those around us. We know how we feel, but it isn't obvious to others. 

There are three main types of communication; 

  • Passive - Moaning, apologetic, quiet, indecisive, helpless. A 'victim' stance of hunched shoulders and avoiding eye contact. 

  • Aggressive - Bossy, arrogant, domineering and intolerant. A combative stance with defiant eyes and intrusive body language. 

  • Assertive - Calm, direct, positive, honest and uses 'I' statements, such as 'I feel'. 

Assertiveness is considered the most effective communication style, as it fosters honest and open dialogue. These are some examples of assertiveness in action:

  • Appropriately expressing your own feelings while listening to and respecting other people's.

  • Asking for what you want and setting your own priorities. 

  • Saying 'no' without feelings of guilt or regret. 

  • Making your own decisions and living with the consequences.

  • Being able to change your mind. 

There are some things to bear in mind, when trying to become more assertive. The first is to recognise that it is ok to express your thoughts and opinions and that this may lead to more open and honest discussions with others. Being aware of your own needs and feelings is also really important, because if you don't know what you want to happen, or what would help, it's not fair to expect other people to know. There can be mental obstacles to overcome and we can talk ourselves out of being assertive, because we worry about the consequences. One idea that may help with this is to identify any negative thoughts that hold us back from asserting ourselves, and try to think of more helpful ways of viewing the situation. 

Good communication is all about firstly being honest with yourself about your own feelings. It is sometimes beneficial to use relaxation techniques in order to remain calm. It is important to be clear, specific and direct and to use appropriate body language, such as an open and calm posture. In the event that you meet objections, be sure to listen to and consider the other person's perspective and offer alternative ideas if you can, but ensure your message is clear. If you don't understand something, it's ok to ask. Always own your statement, by using first person language, such as 'I'. It's less confrontational and more helpful to say 'I don't agree', than it is to say 'you are wrong'. You have a right to be heard and a right to make mistakes, the same as anyone else. 


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