Distraction as a pain management technique has been used for decades. From clinical practices and non pharm interventions, we are no stranger to it.
Distraction works on a physiological level. How? It modifies our perception of pain— meaning when our attention is elsewhere, we can decrease the activation of areas in the brain (thalamus and insula) which contribute significantly to pain perception (sometimes referred to as the gate control theory). Essentially, non painful experiences can override painful ones.
Some distractions are helpful. However I like to think of them as PAUSES and not actually “distractions…” these tools don’t take me away from my pain, but instead allow me some time + space to get curious about it and later return to it. We can’t heal all day, everyday. We need breaks. Rest. We need distractions.
I know for me I spent years avoiding fixing my own life by attempting to fix others. I hung on to the role that I was helping them, even though I knew somewhere deep that what I was really doing was helping myself avoid my own stuff. I was self centered, cowardly and exhausted; relying on the temporary relief to survive and with no way to break free.
We have to learn to spot the difference… and reflect often:
Is this helping me pause, rest + return later more energized, more aware, more able?
Is this keeping me from my own work?
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