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What Hinduism Can Offer To Help With Your Pain: Part 5

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This post is part of a series about how Hinduism views pain and suffering. Today we’ll look at acceptance strategies to cope with pain.

Of the Hindu concepts we’ve talked about, acceptance, from a nonreligious perspective, has been studied in pain research. Although acceptance isn’t unique to Hinduism, it’s certainly central to the religion, and includes at least 2 aspects.

  1. Hindu traditions view acceptance as a logical attitude towards what one’s life presents, including pain and suffering, because all is seen as the just working of karma (karma = the principle that determines the unfolding of events, based on how a person has lived).
  2. The practice of acceptance is also a means to a greater end, detachment.

The process of accepting one’s life lessens one’s desire for things to be different than they are. As desires fall away, detachment is achieved.

Related to pain, both painful and pain-free states would be accepted equally. Detachment from this world, to be focused on God/The Ultimate, is a primary goal in Hinduism.

As ways to cope with pain, acceptance-based strategies can be contrasted to control-based strategies. In control-based strategies, the goal is to decrease problematic thoughts, feelings, or experiences. It’s believed that these need to be reduced for improvement to occur. For example, relaxation treatment is a control-based strategy for anxiety, in which relaxation exercises are used to decrease the thoughts and feelings described as anxiety. The treatment goal would be a reduction or elimination of anxiety.

In contrast, acceptance approaches attempt to teach clients to feel emotions and bodily sensations more fully and without avoidance, and to notice fully the presence of thoughts without following, resisting, believing, or disbelieving them. However, uncomfortable thoughts and feelings are delinked from behavior. Thus, problematic thoughts, feelings, or experiences don’t have to be reduced for improvements in behavioral endpoints to occur. Patients can focus on making desired behavior choices regardless of their feelings or thoughts.

In treating chronic pain, the goal of treatment wouldn’t be to decrease pain. As well, patients would be taught to not have their pain level determine their activity level, thus decoupling uncomfortable feelings from behavior.


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