Training Your Brain To Reduce Your Pain

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 15 May 2016.
By John Abbate.


“More people are affected by chronic pain than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined,” said Dr Macnab, “and yet we have such difficulty acknowledging it and coping with it.”

In this address, Dr Macnab proposed to look at some of the wider issues of managing and lessening our pain. He guides us through five stages or insights:

  1. The context of pain
  2. Escape routes that we use
  3. Relevance of the human spirit or soul
  4. A way to reposition our religion in dealing with our pain
  5. The strength of the self in coping with pain


What is pain, such that it is worse when we sit around thinking about it, worse when we are tired or emotional? Any pain we feel exists in the context of the rest of our struggles, and our various and variable moods.

Escape routes

Dr Macnab covers five different escape routes, ways to reduce or deal with pain:

  1. If we can reduce the rest of the emotional load that we place on our pain (change its context), we can reduce or better cope with pain.
  2. We may refuse to take responsibility for someone else’s pain. Some religious expressions place a lot of emphasis on sharing the pain of others, but that is not possible. We cannot soften the reality that others experience.
  3. You can remove yourself from the pain, reposition yourself in relation to the painful event/context.
  4. Contribute to activities that lift your mood and change the context of your pain.
  5. Restore the belief that your own happiness is an acceptable and attainable reality.

The human spirit

“Some speak of spiritual emptiness, the loss of strength in the human spirit,” said Dr Macnab. Some even refer to something they call “soul murder.”

First, what is spirit? Dr Macnab lists four answers to that question:

  1. Spirit is energy
  2. Spirit is an influence
  3. Spirit is Being
  4. Spirit is connectedness

Our faith in Spirit brings the gift of strength. It is an inner-strength, a strength of self; it is a strength we need to better cope with our pain.

For more, please refer to the video of Dr Macnab’s address.


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