Many patients have told me that they believe their situation is hopeless, so there’s no point trying.
This raises a few important questions: What do you believe you can do? And how do you think that belief influences what you try to do?
When I first met Lucas, he was really angry: He was sick and tired of being poked and prodded by one doctor after another, not one of whom had been able to help him He was frustrated that modern medicine could not supply him with a pill or treatment that would make his dreadful sciatica disappear. After being disappointed by one doctor and one treatment after another, he considered his situation hopeless and just wanted somebody to prescribe something to knock him out. “If I can’t feel good,” he said, “I want to feel as little as possible.”
Yoga For Severe Lower Back Pain Never Give Up! Photo Gallery
When I told him that I really couldn’t solve his problems that way, he got even angrier. He told me I was a lousy doctor for not putting an end to his suffering. Without thinking, I replied that he wasn’t suffering because of his pain: the problem was his attitude about his pain. Yikes! Did I really say that to a brand-new, already upset patient? I really thought I blew it, but his demeanor suddenly lightened up dramatically. “Tell me more,” he said.
We talked about how he had been stuck in a rut by his attitude and frustrations, and how he was hampering his search for relief. Lucas began to share his experiences of fighting in Vietnam He had overcome so much tragedy in his life; but he realized that, this time, he was standing in his own way. He walked out of the office that day feeling liberated and believing that maybe he could conquer his pain.
Psychologists have a term to describe a person’s belief in his ability to do something: selfefficacy. When you have self-efficacy you believe that you can accomplish a task, whether it’s exercising regularly, giving up cigarettes, losing weight, improving your grades in school, mastering stress management techniques, reading the works of the Great Masters—or even turning a “pain brain” into a healthy brain.
I often work with patients who depend on a cane to get around when they first come to my office.