In general, there are two ways to handle pain: symptomatic and causal treatment. Symptomatic is pain relief without eliminating the cause of pain while causal is eradicating the pain at its root. Whenever possible a causal therapy has to be sought. Symptomatic therapy is reserved for incurable cases and conditions that need a temporary anesthesia.
These two therapeutic principles show similarities between organic and psychological reasons of pain. Drugs, known as pain killers or psychopharmaceuticals, are in use in medicine and psychiatry respectively. While the possibilities of distraction with organic pain is limited to methods like acupuncture, for psychological pain a broader spectrum of methods can be offered. The publication “DEALING WITH EMOTIONAL PAIN” gives some overview. Although this article focuses on emotional pain the techniques can be applied to all kinds of psychological pain, including anxiety.
Interestingly, many of these techniques are offered by laypersons, friends, or relatives; some may contact a member of the clergy, but rarely a professional psychotherapist is visited. That’s probably because psychological pain is so common and professionals so rare.
The most common strategies to cope with psychological pain include alcohol or other drugs, blinding out the pain by avoiding to think about it, and diversion by doing something that consumes all attention.
Alcohol and drugs are quite effective but only temporarily, so if the pain doesn’t go away after a booze, an other shot is needed and this repetitive intake will cause addiction in susceptible people.
Blinding out the problem was first investigated by Sigmund Freud. He primarily focused on psychological pain based on suppressed sexual desires. His seminal contribution to psychology consists in his discovery that such suppression causes cognitive inhibition, the inability to think straightforward and rational. This kind of blinding out is so common and by far not limited to sexual issues. In fact the cognitive inhibition caused by blinding out psychological pain is endemic in Western societies. It is one of the fundamental health problems, not appreciated because blinded out, collectively, too.
Diversion by engaging in something that takes full attention has become a huge industry in Western societies stricken by so many causes of emotional pain. Disney World’s and Universal’s roller coasters exist for just that purpose. Movies and video games became but attention grabbing devices to forget about the pain. Sex exhibitions and music excesses serve the same purpose.
All these three methods are widespread in Western societies, and some people even venture to call it Western culture and try to preserve it. But it is not a kind of culture, and it is not worth preserving. These are just signs of a society in which psychological pain becomes so endemic, of a society in decline. Consequentially, the article favors other methods to cope with psychological pain: meditation and expressive writing.
Meditation has positive and negative aspects. It includes thorough mental analysis of pain and its physical repercussions. Then by learning to mold symptoms gradually detach them from their source, the psychological pain. Some people combine this technique with physical stimuli, even physical pain. The effect is that the pain is not gone away, but is not felt as much any more. In that respect, this method is similar to the roller-coaster methods of diversion, but it has the advantage of self control, of not being dependable from the diversion industry.
Expressive writing is even more self control. As it includes a higher order cognitive ability, writing, it promotes rationality. Expressive writing allows to free your thinking from subconscious influences caused by the pain. It is a good way to prevent cognitive inhibition and to keep your mind open and free to accept new ideas. If writing down, as the author of the article suggests, also includes feelings and their effects on the physical level, physical symptoms can be handled rationally, which makes them easier to control compared to diversion industry dependency and meditation.
An other method not mentioned by the author of that article is to consult a therapist. It might not always be a good choice too. It heavily depends on the therapist’s expertise and goals. You may end up dependable as from the diversion industry or ultimately cured because the reason of the pain was found an eliminated.
And that’s my crucial point of critique concerning this article. It only lists symptomatic therapies. As with organic pain, symptomatic therapies might be appropriate with short-lasting pain when self healing can be expected or with chronic pain that comes from an incurable cause. But whenever there is an opportunity to cure your pain by the root, to eradicate its source give it a try.
There are multiple causes of psychological pain, and there are also several ways to treat causally. The causes of psychological pain may be grouped into organic, personal, and social. Organic causes may include organic psychoses, brain tumors, physical exhaustion, and organ failure. Personal causes include reactive psychosis, psychological misconceptions, self-inflicted psychological damage as with unattainable goals, and psychological exhaustion. The most difficult to treat causally, however, are social causes. They require group therapy, displacement, and in case of an endemic pain a revolution even.
The most progressive point about causal therapy is that it entails social advancement. It is pathognomonic of societies that exclusively use symptomatic pain relief fall behind in all aspects of social life. That can be witnessed in Roman culture that was known for its decadent entertainment in amphitheaters. The meditation so common in Eastern culture also brought their social progress to a halt.
By contrast Old Europe developed a method to cure socially caused psychological pain causally. This method is based on Christianity but further developed into humanism. It is the way to solve social causes of pain from an independent humanistic point of view. It was Christianity before all other religions on this planet that started to celebrate a men who was but a looser, lost his life even, for the merits of giving relief to those who suffer from oppression, which might had been enormous in his time figuring the pressure of a dying Roman empire. The celebration of such a man led into the more general concept of enlightenment and humanism.
The crucial point of humanism to favor social advancement is its capability to analyze social problems from an independent individual rational point of view. Not being confined to a set of rules imposed by a God or an emperor even, humanism allows to make decisions exclusively based on private judgments about the public good. With humanism all people are allowed do decide by themselves what is the pubic good they want to devote themselves to.