Santa Barbara Therapist and Author
Dr. Rachel B. Aarons LCSW
Dr. Rachel B. Aarons LCSW
About Pain: Book Reviews
This book is a unique guide and potpourri of mind-body tools for helping pain patients reduce and transcend their pain. Skillfully filtered through the wisdom of Dr. Aarons' own pain experience, About Pain is an empowering antidote for the helplessness that both pain patients and caregivers feel. The reader will be provided with a variety of techniques culled from insight mediation, humanistic acceptance, imagery and hypnosis, EMDR, etc. to move closer to coping with chronic pain. Few writers on this complex topic address the hidden gremlins of pain, such elements as self-hatred and guilt, with the personal, courageous and compassionate perspective of Dr. Aarons.
Dr. Jeffrey Friedman Pain Management Psychologist, San Luis Obispo, CA
About Pain is divided into three parts.
Part I, “The Inside View”, provides a descriptive account of how pain alters the fundamental structures of human experience, including our experience of the world, of the self and others, of space, time, and ultimately of purpose; for pain can make one question the very sense of enduring the unendurable, and in this it serves as a limit condition of human finitude. The analysis is at once conceptually rich and surprisingly personal. The structural descriptions of experience are illustrated by intimate examples drawn from Dr. Aarons’ own personal struggles as a sufferer, as well as that of eleven other people who suffer from various forms of pain, each of whom describes to us in their own words their unique struggles with pain, and how it transformed their lives as well as that of those closest to them. At times incredibly moving and unbearably sad, this section paints a rich and varied picture of pain’s terrible power to rip our lives apart, and yet in doing so we come to see the power that narrating this experience in words can have to link those who suffer together in mutual understanding and empathy.
Part II, “The Outside View” makes a provocative intervention aimed at caregivers. Outlining the negative impacts that can result from misplaced or careless physical touch, information under-sharing, mood, etc., Aarons issues a call to action for medical practitioners, that they might begin to ask themselves a different set of questions, and develop a practical understanding of the immense power they wield over those they care for. In a field in which professional facilities are increasingly understaffed and personnel overworked, Aarons' intervention is overdue and deserves to be widely discussed.
Finally, Part III asks what folks can do to reduce, relieve or eliminate their pain, exploring tactics such as meditation, hypnosis, religious experience, EMDR, sport, art, and mysticism. The chapter provides a considerable toolbox of ideas, and while there is no magic switch to make pain disappear, the effort to place as many options in the hands of those who suffer makes this section a useful resource for those working to cope with a negatively transformed relationship to the world and to themselves.
Caregivers: please read this! But also those who experience pain themselves, or who know and care for someone who does. It is a passionate book with much to teach. Highly recommended.
Avi Booker, Scholar, Seattle, WA.
PAIN. All of us experience pain at one time or another. It can occur within the short term severity of a tooth ache, during the ongoing onslaught of long term illness such as cancer or the suddenness of an unexpected highway accident. Anywhere or any place physiological or mental pain can enter us. Pain is an inevitability of life. What do we do when it comes? How do we deal with pain when it won’t go away?
Dr. Aarons reminds us that pain is not a subject that we talk about much. However, in the book she has written, she has chosen to break the silence through her own studies and personal experience as well as the personal experiences of many people who have lived with pain. She walks us through the process and brings us closer, not only to the reality of all that pain brings, but to what can help those of us who live with it. Whether having experienced the severity of pain, or having had small, intense brushes with it, the reader will come away with a broader understanding of what pain brings to the person, as well as to family and friends. Most importantly, the author discusses ways to deal with this previously avoided subject.
Here is an outline of the book.
PART I: THE INSIDE VIEW
Dr. Aarons opens with her reflections on pain. Beginning with the section “Pain changes the world you experience,” she discusses the impact of pain on the patient and highlights the many psychological changes that typically occur with the onset of pain.
In the next section, she brings in a chorus of people who speak about their experience of pain. These words introduce what is written by the patients.
“Physical pain has no voice but when at last it finds a voice, it begins to tell a story.”
The reader becomes aware of the many ways that pain attacks and changes the personhood of the patient. We listen to the accounts of eleven people who have dealt with the wearing down caused by their chronic physical pain. Throughout the book, the stories of those who have experienced pain highlight her message.
PART II: THE OUTSIDE VIEW
The Caregiver is the outside person who has a key role through her or his relationship to the patient. This person brings a particular attitude, personality style and state of being into the room. How their personal characteristics are managed by the caregiver can have a determining effect on the health of the patient. Dr. Aarons describes the use of touch, the energy expressed to the patient, what can and cannot be talked about with the patient, and other aspects of the caregiving system. Whether the caregiver is a nurse, a doctor, or a family member, the caregiver has a role of utmost significance. Reading this section we can understand how vitally important the caregiver becomes.
We are left with the reminder that:
"Sometimes it is helpful to know the ideal we are pursuing even if we can't be perfect in achieving it."
PART III: RISING ABOVE
How does the patient take back personhood - ie. being a person and not just an illness? Dr. Aarons strongly states as her first point that the patient must learn to be on his/her own side, reaching inwardly for inner strength and reaching out for support. (One interpretation of those words could be: to be your own advocate.) She also suggests that the patient look for what can bring some joy back into life. The even stronger thought that Dr. Aarons ends with is the magic of compassion that leads the patient back to love.
The final message is: Bring in love and rise above negativity.
This book gave me so much help in dealing with those unexpected changes that come with our life experiences and bring us pain. I can’t think of anyone I know who couldn’t understand and work with the effects of their pain, including me. I have learned a great deal from reading this book. Thank you, Dr. Aarons!
Joyce Elijah MFT
ANNOUNCING: About Pain is now available as an audiobook!
Narrated by the author Dr. Rachel Aarons with the help of Deborah Allen, Christine Orpen, Thomas Robinson and Jonathan Young.
Purchase the audible, kindle version or paperback at Amazon
Click Here to Listen to a Sample or Download the Audiobook on Audible.com
Purchase other books by Rachel B. Aarons at Amazon