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How to ease pain with the help of disassociation

By Joseph Pond

People who are in pain will often say something like, "If this doesn't stop soon, I'm afraid that I'll go mad!" This is, of course, understandable. Pain's a terrible thing to live with and the various uncertainties which it can bring up - how long will this go on or will I ever be able to work again? - can introduce into the treatment process complications which are related to but separate from the pain itself. Fortunately, mindfulness is a very helpful tool for dealing with all of these emotional aspects of discomfort.

I've written about this before and will send you a recorded meditation if you want it. On the subject of the actual physical pain, mindfulness can also be helpful. The treatment protocol for using mind-based approaches for pain relief is straightforward: capture a person's attention with a state of mind and body which is incompatible with the old way of experiencing the discomfort. In other words, mindfulness help a person to dissociate from their irritations.

Dissociation is often viewed as a bad thing, as in the term "dissociative disorder". However, most of us intuitively understand that artful dissociation is a therapeutic balm that soothes many irritations. After all, don't we commonly advise others to take a step back or a minute to think? When a mindfulness instructor tells a person to 'experience your pain with an observer's mind, detached from judgement', they often don't realise that one of the reasons this approach can work so marvellously is because it offers a framework to dissociate from one's ongoing experiences.

Please note dissociation does not mean merely distracting yourself. Watching TV may temporarily distract a person but doesn't give any new skills to use when the TV is broken. Dissociation differs in that it implies re-association into a better, more useful state of mind.

Specifically, a mindfulness-based approach to pain relief gives sufferers an opportunity to associate into an observer's mind, which has access to, but is detached from your physical body. This may sound too good to be true, but you'll only know when you start.

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at Hypnosis/ ?ref=hl/?ref=hl

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