I was talking with a close friend of mine who has two grandchildren whose names are Tyler(age 4) and Joan (age 1)   Tyler was walking through the kitchen and, for no reason, smacked Joan as he was walking by.  His dad saw him do it and gave Tyler a 5 minute time out in his room.

Tyler, who is pretty precocious and emotional, had a complete meltdown in his room – fairly typical for a 4 year old.  He was screaming:  “I’ll never get out of my room.  I’ll never get to do anything.  I want to go home (he was home!).  Nobody loves me.” You get the picture I’m sure.

My friend (Tyler’s Grandma) walked into his room and said:  “Tyler, honey, you’re telling yourself a scary story here when you say no one loves you and you’ll never get out of your room.  You’re scaring yourself  sweetie.  How about if you tell yourself what really happened here? You’re getting a 5 minute time out because you hit your sister on the head and you’re going to be out of here soon.  And you won’t have to go back to your room for another time out if you keep your hands to yourself.  How about if you tell yourself THAT story instead?”

Tyler looked at her, with his tear stained face sobbing, and for a split second it looked like he might give it up but then. . . . round 2 of screaming began:  “I don’t want to tell myself another story!! No one loves me.  I’ll never get out of my room..”    Can’t you just picture this?

It actually made me laugh. . . . as I realized how many times I’ve been unwilling to tell myself another story too.

My friend decided to save her breath, closed the door and chalked the whole thing up to experience.  Tyler did not want to tell himself another story.  He wanted to have a fit.

I’m assuming if you’re reading this you’re not 4 years old.  And, if you’re anything like me, I’ve told myself a lot of stories in my life – and many of them haven’t been true.  Sometimes, someone has pointed out to me that my story isn’t true – and I’ve been willing to consider a different story.  Sometimes not.

When we’re stressed out and sick, chances are good that the first story we tell ourselves is pretty scary.  Totally understandable.  It IS scary being sick when you feel overwhelmed, in pain, and too tired to deal with it. I’ve been in that spot and it’s often the first place I go when I don’t feel well.

It’s also scary, overwhelming and exhausting when you are helping someone you care about whose struggling with being sick.  And when you’re doing double duty taking care of yourself while also being sick or managing something like back pain or insomnia, of course that’s scary, tiring and overwhelming too.

My 20 year old son would say to me, “Mom, I hear a big but coming.”

And, he’s wrong.

It is scary being sick when you feel overwhelmed, in pain and too tired to deal with it AND there is a way through it. You don’t have to tell yourself a story that it’s too scary, you’re going to be sick forever, and no one loves you.

It’s also scary taking care of someone else when you feel so tired and drained AND there is a way through that too. You don’t have to tell yourself that you’ll always be tired and you’ll never get through this – that’s a scary story.

If you find yourself telling yourself a story that is scary, you can tell yourself another story if you want.

What story are you telling yourself right now?  How do you feel when you tell that story?  Would you like to tell yourself a different one?

Or maybe you don’t have any ideas for what other story you could tell yourself. Share your situation here if you’d like and we’ll see if we can help

2 Responses to “Case Study: The Effects of Pain On Our Psyche and A Way Through It”

  1. Linda Resca Says:

    Hi Char ~

    I love that Tyler’s grandma offered him the idea of telling himself a different story … even if he didn’t go for it.

    I’ve had LOTS of practice with telling myself stories & especially when I’ve wondered/feared that I might have cancer again. I’ve learned allot from these stories. I’ve learned to notice what precedes them, what the deeper thing is that’s behind them and, perhaps most importantly, how to use them to my advantage.

    It’s my experience that scary stories are always generated by an unmet need … e.g. a need for feeling safe is a BIG one for me.

    Stories are great, sometimes scary & ultimately chock full of insights that ultimately encourage healing.


  2. Char Says:

    I think we’ve all had lots of practice telling ourselves stories especially when we’re afraid. I love how you mentioned using stories to your advantage. Would you be willing to share an example of that with us?

    It’s often difficult for me to figure out what’s a “story” and what’s the truth when it comes to this stuff. Recently, I went through a long bout of insomnia and I actually found myself thinking that it was sustainable for me to stop sleeping for days on end. THAT’S when I knew that most likely I’d gone over the edge here – it seemed so reasonable that sleep was a luxury but my wiser self knew that that’s not the way we were designed. When I get sleep deprived, it’s still a process of reminding myself that sleep is really important to my well being and create the conditions for it to happen more easily.

    When you said scary stories are always generated by an unmet need – I wonder what my unmet need was when I told myself that it was sustainable for me to not sleep. I was running on so much adrenalin at the time that my hunch is that underneath that adrenalin surge was a need for safety or security. What do you think o wise one?

    Thanks for helping us think this through together. That’s what this forum is about!!! Appreciate your insights and wisdom Linda.


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