Empathy and Learning How to Live With Back Pain
Let me tell you a story of how I learned to help my mother live with back pain.
For the last couple of years I’ve come face to face with what some call ‘’labor force non-participants.” They are often spoken of in terms of statistics. Well, I’ve gotten close enough to smell their cigarette breath and see their teary eyes. In short, I made a real connection. Making an honest effort to understand someone’s problem is a big deal in learning to communicate effectively and positively with a loved one who has to live with back pain—more about that soon. For now, here’s the story.
I was doing some research at a job-training center when I first heard him.
“ I hate this God damn online shit!” he shouted. “ I work with my hands. Why do I need this computer crap?”
The angry man caught my attention
I walked over to him and offered my help.
The man was having a problem
sending his resume to a job site.
The problem was a lot more than pushing buttons
“I’m a grown man and I feel like dumb shit,” he said.
This was a man who felt he didn’t fit in— that the world didn’t need him. This was not a cold-impersonal statistic. He was so agitated that he was almost spiting out his words, and then he lowered his voice. He was embarrassed.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so loud.”
“Don’t worry about it. “
I sat next to him and checked out the problematic web site. Eventually we were able to successfully sent out his resume and get a contact number for follow up.
It’s hard to look at the face of someone who has a desperate need to prove his or her self worth. You can’t just dismiss them as a labor force non-participant. You just try your best to help.
The connection is empathy
The capacity to relate empathically plays a major role in successfully helping a loved one live with back pain. It says I’m making a sincere effort to see the world from your point of view. To me that means understanding such things as :
Pain Can Be A Distraction.
Imagine trying to listen to your favorite song on the radio and all you get is static. Think of how frustrating it is when you just can’t get that damn radio to get rid of the static. Well, pain is distracting in a similar way. It’s not usual for a person living with daily pain to keep asking you to repeat yourself. They are not doing that to annoy you. They are fighting the pain–the static–and trying to tune in to what you’re saying.
Pain Can Exaggerate Sound.
Let’s talk about your TV. Do you ever notice that the sound goes up whenever a commercial comes on? Fortunately you have the option of adjusting the volume. For people living with chronic pain, adjusting that volume is something that they have to do often—even if others think that every thing sounds “normal”.
You must show the capacity to share pain.
This means genuinely wanting to know how a loved one suffering from daily pain is coping. I have discussions every day with my mother about how she is feeling. It’s my way of saying, “I understand what you’re going through.”
That said, Back pain doesn’t have to define one’s life. Yes, I know that a lot of people don’t really understand how hard it is to live with back pain. I can assure you that my statement in no way is meant to minimize the struggles but rather to celebrate the courage that I see everyday with people such as my mother living a productive life. We have a great time talking about sports, news, politics, and books. I always enjoy her insights. She is the most practical person I know. In fact, friends still call her for advice on such things as purchasing a home.
It boils down to this: one of the best ways to help a loved one deal with back pain is to demonstrate empathy.
I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.