A very interesting and novel study, published ahead of print by the Clinical Journal of Pain (see Offenbaecher et al in the library), “Struggling with Adversities of Life: The Role of Forgiveness in Patients Suffering from Fibromyalgia” is exactly what it sounds like, a study that examines how fibro patients cope with anger directed at both themselves and other people, and what affect that has on their fibro symptoms.
The bottom line of their study is that fibro patients tend to be angrier and less forgiving not just of the people around them or even their circumstances but of themselves. We’re ticked off with ourselves as much as with the people around us. In addition, the authors point out that letting go of that anger and the psychological baggage that goes with it benefits everybody, regardless of whether they have fibro, both emotionally and physically. Forgiveness will reduce pain. Quality of life in particular jumps when patients are able to forgive.
This is something I have struggled with for many years, and mostly because I didn’t even realize how angry I was. I never acknowledged my anger, and if I didn’t know it existed, there was little I could do about it. Since so many fibro patients note traumatic experiences in their past, it does seem like there could be a connection between forgiveness of the people who caused the trauma in their lives and feeling better when they can let go of that anger.
More difficult, however, is forgiving ourselves. This is where cognitive behavioral therapy has really helped me. First I had to identify when I was actually beating myself up and when I was giving myself constructive criticism. Then I had to admit that I was always beating myself up. Then I had to figure out why that was. What had I done to myself to make me so very hard on myself. I had to learn to sit down and talk to myself like I talk to everyone else who has ever asked for help or advice. I had to learn to give me a break when I made mistakes, how to cope with making mistakes.
The thing is, this is not a fibro-specific problem. I know so many people who beat themselves up every day, and they don’t have a chronic pain disorder. Even though I have learned how to cope with my own anger, particularly against myself, it has not stopped fibro in its tracks. Is it possible that lingering, suppressed anger could be part of what makes developing brains develop differently during childhood trauma? There is a physiological change that can happen, maybe that anger helps that along.
I would love to hear from anyone who has undergone psychological therapy and discovered that it has reduced or “fixed” fibro or chronic pain.