Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Just Snap Out Of It

Most people get pain for a reason, and it goes away when the source of the pain is cured.  They get sick, and get better.  They get depressed, and they get happy again.  They don't understand those of us who can't get rid of our pain/illness/depression. Theirs went away, why won't ours?  If we just stop dwelling on it, it would go away.  Just snap out of it.  (If only it were that easy!)

What if they are right (at least partially)?  Maybe we can't actually get rid of our pain/illness/depression that easily, but we can learn to change our thinking with a snap.  This is a behavior modification technique that has been around for awhile. I looked it up on the internet, found some mentions of it, but could not find a source.  Here's how it works:  you put a rubber band around your wrist, and whenever you catch yourself doing the behavior you want to change, you snap the rubber band.  The theory is that the zap of the snap on your wrist takes you out of your thinking rut, and gives you a reminder to change your thoughts/behavior.  The key is to snap it hard enough to get your attention, but not so hard that it causes bruising or lasting pain.

This technique has been used for panic attacks, anger management, obsessive thinking, self harm thoughts, and even for quitting smoking, among other things.  It works for some people, for others, it doesn't.  It won't make your pain/illness/depression go away, but it may help you to reprogram automatic unhealthy thinking patterns.  Before you start to snap your rubber band, think about what thoughts you want to get rid of, and what thoughts you want to replace them with. For example, you keep thinking, "This pain will never go away. I can't bear it another minute."  Snap your rubber band lightly (you don't want to add more pain, do you?)   and say to yourself, "I am strong and capable, I can handle anything that comes my way."  Follow this up with focusing your mind and energy on accomplishing a task.

Give it a try.  It might help you refocus your attention to more positive thoughts. People will ask you about it, which will give you extra chances to think about your thinking patterns, and what you would rather be focused on.  If your focus is on other things, it is not on the pain, and the pain fades into the background for the moment.  With practice, those moments expand, and you get longer respite.  

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