How to Control Pain – A Useful Technique

I recently had a bizarre experience – at least it was bizarre to me – and I want to tell you what happened in case it will help you control pain better and suffer less…

I went to the dentist to have a cavity filled and I actually had it done with NO ANAESTHETIC!!!

Why is that bizarre?

Because I was one of those kids where people used to say, “You’re too sensitive.” (Or, more typically, “What’s wrong with you? You’re WAY too sensitive.” Gee, thanks. That really calms me down.)

My startle reflex was high – yes, I “over-reacted” to things that didn’t bother many other people. If someone touched me, I felt that touch coming even before it reached my physical body.

So, in the past, I was always ready to open my mouth wide when the dentist brought out the syringe full of happy juice. When it came to pain, my attitude was, “Just say NO and bring on the drugs.”

But this time was different.


Because I learned a strange and interesting concept while studying an online course developed by Bill Harris (who produced the Holosync® meditation technology.) This is going to take a minute to explain, so stay with me.

Harris talks about intensity and how we perceive that there’s “good” intensity, like an orgasm, and “bad” intensity, like IBS pain. But, he says, the reality is that intensity is just intensity. It’s your mind that decides whether it’s good or bad.

And when your mind gets going with the idea that something is intense in a bad way, it makes you very scared. Then not only do you feel the intensity but you SUFFER because you’re so focussed on how bad it is.

So, if I’d sat in the dentist’s chair, thinking, “This is going to hurt. OMG! This is REALLY going to hurt!” I would have quickly convinced myself that was true.

Then, when she started drilling, if I’d thought, “YEOW! She’s killing me. This is torture!”… it would have been. Excruciatingly so.

But this time, when the whining of the drill started, I found myself thinking, “Well, it’s just a sound. I don’t like it, but it’s only a sound.”

When the drill touched my tooth, I told myself, very clearly, inside my head, “This is intense. There’s a lot of intensity here. But it’s only intensity.”

I didn’t classify it as good or bad; I just observed it. And it didn’t actually hurt.

Well, it turned out the dentist had to drill a little deeper than she thought, so she asked me if she should go ahead without freezing. I told her to continue. Sure I felt a couple of twinges, but it wasn’t awful. In fact, it was way less pain than I’ve felt when one of the dogs has run into me when we’re out hiking. (Geez, where is that syringe when you really need it?)

And here’s the part I never expected. After the filling was done and I was leaving the office, I felt strong, powerful, EXHILARATED! And I had a great day. Who knew?

If she’d frozen me, I would have felt weird and spacey and probably have gone home to sleep afterwards.

So what does all this have to do with YOUR pain?

Just this: when you feel pain coming on, or you’re already feeling pain, try thinking of it as intensity. Not good, not bad, just intense. Like, “Wow, there’s a lot of intensity here. Oh boy, this is intense. It’s intense and it’ll pass.” Because, let’s face it, nothing lasts forever.

Maybe that sounds crazy to you, or just plain stupid, but I’ve done this little intensity technique at other times and it has always helped me. I don’t know why – maybe it distracts your mind from focussing on the pain itself? Maybe it distances you a bit from the pain, so it becomes more manageable? Maybe by re-defining pain as intensity, your mind stops fixating on how bad it could be?

I guess there are a lot of possible answers. All I know is, I haven’t taken a pain medication in years (I don’t react all that well to medication) so this little technique has been amazingly useful. It’s not going to get rid of your pain forever, but it does help to control it.

Anyway, try it and see. And leave me a comment.

BTW, I am NOT against anaesthesia or medication for pain control. There are many situations where they are totally necessary and appropriate. Even at the dentist’s…

8 thoughts on “How to Control Pain – A Useful Technique”

  1. Thanks for your comment. I wonder if people who read this post put it together with IBS and not just the dentist. It’s amazing how powerful the mind can be, even with – or especially with – pain, although I know this is not always a popular opinion.

  2. Hi, I can appreciate your article, in relation to all the things I have been learning about the new “Mindfulness”, which in the old days, used to be called meditation. I am glad it is back, in a big way, and I even have apps on my phone, that are very helpful to listen to, when I feel stressed, and even when I don’t, so that I have “mindfulness.” The message seems to always be, our emotions, and feelings are things to try to observe, but we are not our thoughts, emotions, and feelings. We are more than that, and we are basically good, capable, and worthy. I got this from listening to Buddify, which is only $4.99, suggested by my therapist, and so worth it. The other one, that is similar is Stop,Think, Breathe, which is free. All these things are helpful, as is your blog. I appreciate that we are all so alike, in so many ways although uniquie, as in, “You are too sensitive,” from my Mother. So, we have coping mechanisms, but must practice them, so we they come to the fore when we are especially in need. I have a question for you. My psychiatrist is getting me off benzos, which I was on for 21 years, because I had unrelenting anxiety disorder in 1991, but it actually started before that. Now, no one even suggested for years that I get off my meds, and indeed, I was afraid if I did that I would have panic attacks. Finally, as they say in the country song, “Tonight the bottle let me down.,” but it was really, the benzos began to backfire. Hence, I went through a few Psychs, who gave me more pills, until I found this alternative psych. Of course, -he can’t just stop me “cold turkey,” so he put me on the benzo that has the longest half life. I am cutting down the doses by 2mg. every week, but yesterday had a bout with withdrawal, and it was frightening. He told me I’m cutting a little too fast, and to give my body a chance to get used to the new lower dose. Believe me, the dose is still high, but the ultimate goal is to be off, and be able to use his TMS therapy. He has this in his office, and I thought after reading your tapping therapy, that indeed, this sounds like tapping0,, in a sense. I cannot avail myself of it until I am down to 0.5 mg valium. Do you think that this is like tapping? It is supposed to fire up neurons that are latent. Anyway, let me know what you think about this method?Thanks for letting me share, it is so helpful at this time.M.L. Mursch

  3. Hi Marsha,I had to look up TMS Therapy as I had never heard of it. TMS is a magnetic pulsing technique done by a machine, over your brain. According to the Johns Hopkins article I read, there is the possibility of side effects for some people – headaches in about half the patients, hearing problems, and very occasionally, seizures. I really can’t give you an opinion about it, since I don’t know anything about it and I’m not a doctor.EFT Tapping is a technique you do yourself, tapping with your fingertips on specific acupressure points on the head and torso. It is based on the ancient tradition of Chinese medicine and the meridian system – which is about the flow of energy or chi through your body. Tapping actually works on your energy system but one of the consequences seems to be that, as you neutralize stressful emotions and situations or memories, you change the way your brain responds to similar triggers. I believe meditation works the same way, only it may take longer.My personal opinion is that tapping is very effective for anxiety, and it has certainly been used successfully by thousands of people for stress relief as well as by people who have been seriously traumatized by car accidents, war experiences, etc. The evidence for depression is less clear, but I think this is because depression can have physical causes that include leaky gut syndrome, unbalanced gut flora, chemical exposure and nutritional deficiencies. Until those are corrected, it’s difficult to get clear of depression. While you’re waiting to try out the TMS, why not try some tapping? As yet, there are no known side effects. You’ll find tapping videos – which you can tap along to – in some of our articles (e.g. Self Treatment for Anxiety…) or you can look at our NoIBSvideos YouTube channel. You can also go to a qualified EFT practitioner or contact Kathy through our Contact form – she does phone or Skype tapping sessions.Thanks for your question – it was very interesting to read about TMS Therapy. If you go with it, I’ll be interested to hear about your experience and if you find it effective.

  4. Thank you Karen, your article is very Interesting, and helpful. I would like to mention what a Dentist taught me, which I found very helpful. Years ago I had a tooth abscess, when I visited the Dentist which I must add was a new one as the one I had before had moved away. Well this Dentist was unbelievable after treating the abscess with antibiotics he had no other option but to extract my tooth as it was badly decayed. I sat in the chair all worked up and was at my wits end, when he told me to relax. and calm down and told me to massage the section between my left thumb and pointer finger, I was absolutely blown away I couldn’t believe it after a few minutes he told me to rinse my mouth the tooth has been extracted.To this very day when I feel stressed and nervous I do the massage technique the Dentist told me.

  5. Liz – This is a fascinating tip! Thanks for posting. I hope people will try this for pain when they need it. The more techniques you have to work with, the better.

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