Researchers at Columbia, Dartmouth, and Yale came up with a study that proves pain can be managed with the help of mindful acceptance. Subjects involved in the research helped the specialist gather scientific data that confirms what meditation techniques or psychoanalytical therapies have proved by more empirical means. The human being has much more power over herself than she thinks. Mindfulness acceptance seems to be essential.
Carl Gustav Jung said that unaccepting a loss is a form of mental insanity. A loss doesn’t necessarily mean what we commonly accept as being a significant loss, like the death of someone close to us, or a painful break-up, or them getting sick, or us getting sick. When that happens, anyone loses a piece of their mind and soul.
Mindful acceptance reduces pain and negative emotions
But negative thinking has another pattern. It still comes from the feeling of loss, but it has different means. For every each and one of us, there are other things that only us consider as necessary as the examples given before. Principles, people not being and doing what we want or need them to be and to do, things not happening the way we want them to, moderate physical pain, and so on. Not having what we want is a loss. Not accepting that loss drives us on the way to losing our minds.
Wanting something is often felt like having it. Through complex processes in the brain, the images we create with the help of our imagination are often felt like the real ones. And letting them go is sometimes more painful than an actual loss.
Physical pain is just another piece of the same puzzle. We lost the lack of pain, and that is unacceptable. And that is what makes pain unbearable, not pain itself. Pain can be managed. Loss can be managed. Mindful acceptance can boost our positive state of mind.
Acceptance does not equal tolerance. Tolerance is what one does when one doesn’t accept. When we tolerate it, it means that we still judge. We get what is wrong and unacceptable, and we deal with it. Acceptance means not to struggle to deal with it. The struggle comes from judgment. We think we know better, or that we don’t deserve that physical pain, or that things aren’t fair the way they are. And reality proves us we are wrong, our judgment is wrong. Judgment is what we end up losing when things don’t go our way. Judgment stands in the form of acceptance. And judgment is the loss causing us pain.
Mindful acceptance means to let the pain be. To exist in it now, as it happens, without escaping into past or future ones, without judging it and thinking you don’t deserve it. Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.
The “Let it be” study
Meditation and therapy proved along the last century to be helpful ways to stay away from losing our mind highway. The new study, called Let it be, has the potential to generate more accessible ways to get there, for people who aren’t familiar with meditation.
Profane subjects were first briefly initiated into mindful acceptance for 20 minutes. The purpose was to make them able to manage some simple strategies of emotion regulation. Then, they were submitted to two different ways of feeling pain, emotional and physical, and asked to apply those techniques. During the second part, they were monitored with the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).
The results were astonishing: the subjects were prone to use the techniques before the painful impact with a disturbing image used for inducing emotional distress. The same happened with the hot water used to cause the physical one. And in both cases, the neurological response to pain was diminished, thus meaning the subjects managed their response to anxiety and negative thinking, drastically reducing them.
“Emotion regulation using mindful-acceptance was associated with reductions in reported pain and negative affect, reduced amygdala responses to negative images, and reduced heat-evoked responses in medial and lateral pain systems. Critically, mindful-acceptance significantly reduced activity in a distributed, a-priori neurologic signature that is sensitive and specific to experimentally-induced pain. Also, these changes occurred in the absence of detectable increases in prefrontal control systems,” the paper says.