The Survival Response: The Amygdala Rules
(Workbook Page 38)
Unrelenting pain, never healing and constantly present, frequently leads to a derailment of a person’s life that should be seen as the slow motion part of the injury. We all expect pain to leave once we are stabilized, but persistent pain does not behave this way. As it becomes clear the pain is not leaving, a sense of disbelief sets in. The pain is disabling and the person gradually loses contact with friends and co-workers, work-related identity, social context and family. Fear takes hold. Medical tests and treatments that lead to more pain and partial or poor outcomes augment this fear. As the intensity of the pain increases so does the intensity of the fear. People experience their pain in the survival center of the brain called the Amygdala.
When the amygdala turns on, the upper parts of the brain involved in upper level functions are turned off. By design, danger detection leads to anxiety and fear and preparation for fight and flight before higher cognitive functions can mull over what to do. Our brains react first and analyze later, when danger is detected.
Soothing from others has little impact as the unrelenting pain isolates the person’s experience from that of everyone else. Hope of recovery leaves when the person is told that there is nothing further that can be done. Hope and motivation fade. The physical and emotional trauma merge. People live in an anxious state of pain and emotional upset. Interrupted sleep, fatigue and unrelenting pain make it even more difficult to cope. Instinctual terror and panic are triggered. Pain takes over reasoning, problem solving, emotional regulation and breaks the spirit. The pain becomes an enemy from within that attacks randomly. The person becomes emotionally and physically overwhelmed.
Look at the graphic and read the text on page 38 of the Neuroplastic Transformation workbook. Remembering that we are not defined by our pain turns on higher brain function and allows a person to put their pain and emotional response into perspective.