THE PAIN PARADOX from “Trauma Sensitive Mindfulness”. Part 1

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There is one more idea in Buddhism and MBSR that shapes our orientation to mindfulness: the notion that our avoidance of suffering can exacerbate it.

 

Mindfulness experts John Briere and Catherine Scott referred to this as the pain paradox—the observation that our natural tendency to escape, deny, or withdraw from pain only intensifies and prolongs the distress.

 

 

What we resist, the saying goes, persists.

 

 

This paradox was key to Kabat-Zinn’s introduction of MBSR to the medical community.

 

When he originally approached doctors with the idea of having patients meditate, Kabat-Zinn was advocating for a fundamentally different approach to suffering—one that lay at the heart of the Buddhist tradition he’d trained in.

 

From the perspective of mindfulness,” he wrote, “nothing needs fixing.

 

Nothing needs to be forced to stop, or change, or go away.”

 

 Perhaps not surprisingly, this idea raised eyebrows.

 

Western medicine was built largely on helping alleviate people’s pain, offering interventions such as medication or surgery.

 

Mindfulness ran completely counter to this paradigm. How could paying closer attention to one’s pain alleviate it?

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