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A Lesson in Dealing with Pain...

courtesy: S.S. Mani of Kalakad.org

Successful fashion model Petra Nemcova has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. She was on television recently to promote her book, Love Always, Petra. On December 26, 2004, Petra was on vacation with her boyfriend in Thailand.

The two of them were in a room when the devastating tsunami hit. They were thrown into the fierce waves; her boyfriend was swept away and died. Petra clung to a palm tree for 8 hours with a cracked pelvis before she was rescued.

While in the hospital in Thailand, Petra experienced excruciating pain. When she told the doctor how much pain she was suffering, he explained to her that in her mind she was "rating" the pain as "10" on a level of 1 to 10. The doctor suggested that she could just as easily decide that the pain was 4 out of 10 in terms of its intensity. He also told her that she could focus on more positive images and take away much of the sting of the pain.

Petra took the advice of the doctor. She no longer rated the pain as a "10" and she focused on more positive things. She reported that the pain was considerably less after she followed this approach.

In short, Petra learned that she had significant control over the pain. Relief came not from a pill or an injection, but rather from how she used her mind.

This may sound crazy to some of you. Can you really control the amount of pain you are feeling? Well, consider this: How can certain athletes play with broken bones and other serious injuries, while some of us would claim we couldn't move due to a bruised toe?

These athletes have trained themselves to play through the pain, or to ignore the pain altogether. They give themselves a different message. While most of us would say, "I'm hurt and I can't play" the athlete often says, "I have to get out there and help my team to win."

The difference in these responses can't be explained simply by genetics. It's in the way we train ourselves to use our minds, and where we choose to place our focus.

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