The Pain Companion:
Everyday Wisdom for Living With
and Moving Beyond Chronic Pain

by Sarah Anne Shockley

New World Library, 2018. ISBN 978-1-608-68570-7.
Reviewed by Mary Ann Moore
Posted on 08/29/2018

Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Body Language

Sarah Anne Shockley has created a beautiful book, full of wisdom and gentle guidance, for people suffering from chronic pain.

In the fall of 2007, Shockley developed thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) "due to prolonged computer use in a nonergonomic office set up." As she describes it: "Simply put, the area between my collarbones and first ribs collapsed, severely compressing the space to less than 20 percent of its normal width on both sides of my body." The effects were excruciating for Shockley and (as I've found with shorter periods of pain than Shockley has experienced), the pain takes over. As she writes: "you are utterly alone there."

Over time, Shockley found that the experience of physical pain and one's emotional responses to it can "become interlocked, each cementing the other in place." When acknowledging that, with some difficulty she admits, she learned to extend compassion to herself.

The section on "The Emotional Life of Chronic Pain" is, I found, a brilliant realization and a very valuable part of the book. To work with the "tension, anxiety, and fear" which made the level of her pain "skyrocket," she developed "The Fear Protocol" with six steps. Other chapters address the many aspects of "the emotional life" of chronic pain including guilt and shame; anger and blame; victimization and powerlessness; isolation and loneliness; invisibility and silence; and sadness and loss.

Shockley asks the question: "What if, instead of killing, or utterly eradicating, pain with pharmaceuticals, we used medications primarily to reduce pain to a manageable level, so that we can still hear what the body means to tell us in the language of pain?"

"Meditative Approaches to Physical Pain" are included with descriptions of and steps for each meditation, offering valuable and often profound insights.

Shockley presents some of the most important life lessons she learned, with pain as her "mentor." She had to learn to slow down, to honor what was right in front of her, to "give up the fight," to say no, speak up for herself, and to appreciate the little things.

I'm grateful Sarah Anne Shockley for sharing the insights from her own journey with pain. She believes in a multi-level approach to chronic pain and her book is an invaluable resource for people in pain and for those who care for them.

Sarah Anne Shockley is a former university instructor and an award-winning filmmaker whose work includes the highly acclaimed documentary on disabled dance, "Dancing from the Inside Out." She is a Master Practitioner of Transformational Neurolinguistic Programming (TNLP), a highly effective methodology for releasing long-term emotional and physical pain. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Various resources can be found on her website.

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