Soothing Island of the Brain
(Workbook Page 44)
The experience of unrelenting pain, constantly present and frighteningly familiar, can be used as a signal to self-soothe. This type of pain is characteristic of persistent pain and is clearly abnormal. The terror that attends this pain goes beyond rational experience. It relates to the genuine fear that it will never leave and will disrupt and potentially destroy one’s life. This type of pain causes a sense of being trapped. The fear, anxiety, panic and pain are processed in the same areas of the brain. They become intimately entwined. These extreme emotions wrack the entire body with powerful electrical and chemical responses.
Look at the graphic on page 44 of the Neuroplastic Transformation workbook and read over the text describing the functions of the insula. This part of the brain modifies the intense emotional input from the amygdala, the fight-flight center of the brain and steps down this intensity to make emotions more tolerable. It is highly involved in self-soothing activities. The fear caused by persistent pain can be used as a signal to self-soothe. Remember what is soothing, and practice this when pain intrudes. Listen to soothing music. Rub a smooth stone or gently rub your skin. Apply a soothing lotion and pay attention to how that feels. What would soothe the area of your body where you feel pain? Try gentle self massage. Try to calm and soothe the emotions that accompany your pain. Use hope , courage, joy, pleasure, love and kindness to counter fear, anxiety, sadness, frustration and anger. If pain makes you feel isolated, reach out for family and friends. Come up with simple, soothing phrases, such as “calmly relax,” or “it will be ok.” Breathe slowly and relax your muscles. Appeal directly to your brain to shut off the pain. It serves no purpose.
GABA is released by the insulas to soothe the Amygdlas. Each of these brain regions is located in both hemispheres. Soothing the wild Amygdala is the way to calm chronic anxiety and persistent pain.