Pain Free vs. Seeking Healing

By Dr. Jason Slagel | July 18th, 2022

Today we will be talking about the dichotomy of people wanting one thing or the other.  The two choices I most commonly see in my office are people who want to be pain free versus people that are seeking healing. Now, this is actually a very important distinction to make because our goals are going to dictate our actions and behaviors. If a person’s goal is to be pain free, they will be doing different things than if their goal is to seek healing.

Here is a silly and extreme example: If you break your arm and your goal is to be pain free then you can knock yourself out with anesthesia and pain medication. But if your goal is actual healing then you are going to have the bone set, you are going to have a cast on there, and you are going to do the rehab afterwards.  Now, you are probably going to take some pain medicine along the way too, but the medication will not end all the pain, it is just a step in the process of healing. Let’s look at another example to make sure we nail this concept home: If a person rolls their ankle and their goal is to be pain free, then they will take pain medication or wear a brace. This will not fix the problem and doesn’t necessarily help anything heal, it just holds the ankle in place and weakens structure long term, because the ankle is not working the way it should be. If a person’s goal is to heal the rolled ankle, then they will do the hard work of going through the physical therapy, the rehab, strengthening the areas affected, and learning correct movement patterns. This way is a lot more involved, but it is true healing.

If we move to a different category, let’s say, hunger, and a person’s goal is to be pain free, like hunger pain, if a person’s goal is to be pain free then they will eat the fastest most convenient food they can find. They might eat McDonalds, microwave food, Hot pockets, that type of stuff, just fast food to get rid of the hunger. But if a person is hungry and their goal is to heal to help the body heal, they will seek out nutritious food to build up the body to be healthy. Do you see the difference?  Healing here is seeking out nutrients, that’s going to be more work, more expensive, but more complete.

Let’s switch gears to mental health, if a person’s goal is to be pain free, let’s say they had something traumatic happen, and their goal is to be pain free then they will shove it down, ignore it, go into denial, maybe even get into some substances to try to cover up that pain. Do you see where we are going here? If a person is going after true healing with mental health, then they will go through the work of going to therapists, support groups, all that type of stuff which is harder, a lot more involved, a lot more expensive, and takes more time.

Let’s look at another category, money!  If a person is trying to be pain free with money, where they don’t want to feel the pain of not having enough money, they might into credit card debt, they might buy themselves a bunch of things that they cannot afford, to ease that pain of not having money. If a person is going after true healing as far as money is concerned then they will do things like set a budget, have people that hold them accountable, maybe even cut up credit cards and pay off that debt.  This is more involved, more difficult, more expensive.

So, there are three major differences between the goal of being pain free versus the goal of healing and they are time, effort, and money. If a person’s goal is to be pain free it’s going to take less time, less effort, and less money. If a person’s goal is to go after healing it’s going to take more time, more effort, and more money. However, going after true healing is going to give a person a much better result in the end; the reward is better. With any issue we can look at ourselves and say “Okay, what is my goal here?” Most people will fall into the goal of being pain free, because most people are not aware of this type of thinking. We can ask ourselves, “Is my goal here simply to be pain free, or to seek healing?” and do the deeper work. In my practice I find the people who have the goal of healing in mind do much better than the people that want to be pain free. This makes sense because when people come to my office, they get pain free before they are finished healing, like with most things.  An injured ankle doesn’t keep hurting forever while it is being strengthened, but you do have to finish strengthening it. It’s the same thing with what I do.  A patient may feel much better before they are even finished healing, before they are stable in that new position. If a person’s goal is to be pain free, they will drop out of care early and then not actually have the healing fully take place. In this case, the problem comes back again. 

Sometimes our goal is to be pain free. There is nothing wrong with that. However, it is important to recognize the short comings. If our goal is to heal, we must realize the draw backs as well and go into it with eyes wide open.

My challenge to you is to see if there are any aspects of your life where you can move from only trying to be pain free to seeking healing.  Try this in any physical part of your life and you will see improvement when you switch to the mindset of seeking healing.

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