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Being fully present… and how it affects pain

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

With social media and the internet, its really easy to have many different messages coming in and bombarding our senses on a regular basis. Many of us become accustomed to a high level of stimulation of our senses, may become easily bored when we are not scrolling through something to view, read or listen to. We are quite a distracted generation compared to our parents and grandparents. We may have lost our innate ability to put our hearts, minds and souls in perfecting a craft or engaging in a task which can bring about massive fulfilment.

In addition, the fast-paced nature of society, makes it harder for us to become fuller immersed in the process of doing something, as we are too impatient and eager to get to the end and have the results we want. Instant gratification and over attachment to results, unfortunately takes the joy out of the doing and being in the present.

To bring back the joy in doing and being we can take a leaf out of a book written by Mihaly Csikszentmihatyi; a psychologist and author of the bestselling book entitled “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”. He describes experiencing flow in work and play, as the panacea to boredom and anxiety.

From the book “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszenmihaly

The more we experience flow on a regular basis, the more we move away from feeling states of anxiety and/or boredom. We move away from the natural chaotic state of our consciousness. Without goals, without purpose, it is natural to experience anxiety and/or boredom.

Reflect upon when you have possibly experienced flow in life. It could be a work-related activity or a sport or leisure activity. Remember how it felt and the pleasure you took from it, including how it challenged or engaged you and how you felt time either flew by or stood still.

Here are 8 characteristics of flow which you could look out for:

1. Complete concentration on the task at hand

2. Clarity of goals and immediate feedback to performance

3. Time transformation (either speeding up or slowing down)

4. Effortlessness and ease

5. A balance of challenge presented and skills required (not too hard and not too easy)

6. Losing self-consciousness or thoughts of anxiety or feeling bored

7. Having control over the task

8. Intrinsically rewarding task (rewarding in the process itself and not just the reward)

Experiencing a flow activity has the same qualities of being mindful and in the present moment. Whereby your senses are fully engaged in a task. This is the exact opposite of being distracted, multi-tasking and feeling overwhelmed. It is also the opposite of boredom without any goal or purpose. It takes conscious decision and intention on your part to experience flow in your daily life as much as you can in your waking hours. As you engage in flow activities on a regular basis, it becomes part of you and you move closer and closer to who you really want to be in the future.

Experiencing pain is quite the opposite of experiencing flow. Pain is typically experienced after you have gone through a period of either overwhelm or boredom, accompanied with a mix of unpleasant emotions including fear, frustration, anxiety and helplessness. Experiencing pain takes your focus away from being truly present, to focus on the pain, and the meaning you perceived behind the pain.

Part of the pain cycle is experiencing a pattern of anxious thinking of the future, getting overwhelmed and coping with the overwhelm by distracting and switching off and becoming bored as a result. Aiming to surf in the “Flow Channel” (as shown in the graph above) is one possible strategy to stop the above thinking pattern and to stop the cycle of pain.

Pain coaching helps you find your “Flow Channel” to surf, its one of the strategies to empower you to live the life you want without being limited by pain. With the guidance of a Pain Coach, you not only learn to resolve your pain, but you learn more about yourself and your ability to lead the life you really want.


Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990) written by Mihaly Csikszenmihaly

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