In this episode, we're going to do something different. Instead of me interviewing someone, I'm going to share a simple yet powerful technique that will help you whether you're someone living with pain or a practitioner who treats people. This exercise is called Dropping an Anchor. It's typically one of the very first techniques that I teach patients who suffer from pain or pain catastrophizing, having problems with difficult emotions, emotion dysregulation, anxiety or any challenge that's coming up in the therapy room. Before we begin, we probably should revisit the term pain catastrophizing and review and identify what that means. Pain catastrophizing is the tendency to magnify the threat value of pain, feel helpless in a context of pain or the inability to inhibit pain-related thoughts in anticipation of a painful encounter. The last part, the inability to inhibit pain-related thoughts in anticipation of a painful encounter, is what I would like you to think about as we go into this episode.
Think about someone who has chronic pain. Each time they come into your clinic, each time they come into the therapy room with you, they are in some way in anticipation that there may be some pain during that session. We're going to talk about pain. I may be moving or moving your arm. You may be experiencing pain. It's a lot of pain-related thoughts that are happening in anticipation of a treatment session. That's why we're going to go through this Dropping an Anchor exercise. If you've taken my ACT for Chronic Pain Course or my Mindfulness-Based Pain Relief Certification, you'll be able to identify that this type of exercise fits squarely in the psychological process of contacting the present moment. You'll also be able to identify some degree of cognitive defusion. Cognitive defusion is the idea of distancing or separating from thoughts. You'll definitely see aspects of both of those during this exercise.
There are lots of different ways you can drop an anchor. You can drop an anchor by focusing on your breath, by stretching, focusing on the rise and fall of the diaphragm, looking around the room and fixating on a point or listening to sounds in the room. You're going to hear all of those flavors now because I'm going to share a session that I had with a client that I worked with virtually. This whole encounter here that I'm going to share with you with my client, Barbara, I have her permission to share this. At the end of that exercise, I gave Barbara a while to debrief so we can talk through what she noticed and experienced during the activity.
Probably the most common mistake I see both therapists, as well as patients, make with this type of exercise is they attempt to use it as a control or a distraction technique. Control and distraction techniques are very opposite of what happens in mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches to pain. Mindfulness and acceptance-based approaches involve helping you turn toward what's in the present moment with an openness and a curiosity and not necessarily to distract, eliminate, control or avoid what's present.
I invite you to participate and play patient. If you're at home, find a comfortable chair to sit in. Any chair will do. You can do this as an eyes-open or eyes-closed exercise. It doesn't matter. I personally enjoy eyes-closed exercises like most people do with regard to cognitive and mindfulness exercises like this. If you're seated, all you have to do is place your palms down on your lap, relax your arms at your sides and gently begin to close your eyes. Let's get ready. I invite you to drop an anchor with us. Let's get started.
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