People who live with chronic pain often experience their most
profound sense of distress in the area of perceived personal control.
The inability to escape the noxious stimuli of pain--particularly
after countless physician visits and medication trials--leaves
one in a perplexing state of hopelessness and helplessness.
Emotional pain is often related, at least in part, to a crisis
of meaning. Experiences such as physical discomfort, functional
limitations, changes in lifestyle, and social impairment serve
to validate the presence of pain (i.e., give meaning
to the experience of pain).
When pain is inescapable, definitions of self must be reworked
to incorporate that which is not desired and frequently loathed.
Not only is the pain a threat to the biological integrity of
the self but all other definitions of self (e.g., social, psychological,
spiritual) demand revision. Persistent pain frequently means
uncontrollable bodily sensations, unpredictable pain patterns,
disrupted social contacts and family relations, economic uncertainty,
and alterations in one's sense of self and worldview. Command
of one's life becomes increasingly tenuous as the person with
persistent pain scrambles to accommodate to the stress of so
much instability. This accommodation can be an extremely difficult
and emotionally wrenching process marked by continual efforts
to reinstate the desired normal way of life.