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Pain Take 3: Safety, Compassion and Pain Reduction

What would you do/ be in the world if you felt truly safe?


I have been thinking so much lately about safety.

How our own sense of safety informs not only our felt sensations, the function of our nervous system, the capacity for us to be creative in our thought. But also how our own sense of safety can determine the way we broadly inhabit the world.


When I read articles about people scrambling for vaccines ahead of priority populations, it makes me wish we had a national discourse about safety and how to support our own. I can hear how people are desperately trying to find more safety for themselves- and in those attempts inadvertently oppressing the safety of others.


Two truths that I know about safety:

1) We can work with out sense of safety and danger by working with our thoughts and beliefs

2) Safety is interdependent. Our physical safety is reliant on the safety of our neighbors, the trees, indeed the whole of our planet. In addition, the safer we feel, the more we can enhance safety in others.


I was first introduced to the trippy connections between safety and pain when I was a PT student, doing lab classes in neurologic rehab at famous Rancho Los Amigos in greater LA.

Pain is a common experience for people who have had central (and of course peripheral) nerve damage. I recall reading a research article that measured pain levels of individuals with spinal cord injury, who used wheel chairs for mobility and who experienced high pain on a chronic basis.


During the course of the study, researchers created an optical illusion- they put a mirror at the level of the participants head, so that his (the study was conducted on males) head could be clearly imaged. And they used a screen to project an image of a person walking. The effect was to create a visual of the participant walking with ease.


Very broadly, pain levels w