I’m really going to date myself when I say this but here goes. Many years ago I used to have a pen pal, a friend who I had never met who lived in England. She and I used to write each other letters sharing whatever was going on in our lives at the time. At some point she started to send little gifts in the letters, a sticker for instance. Over time I had quite a collection and they were all kept in my ‘treasure box’, which really happened to be an old cigar box that my Dad no longer wanted. Eventually I lost touch with my pen pal but I still have my treasure box and the many treasures that I’d collected over the years.
I remember an old aunt who I used to visit occasionally as a child too and with her, I’d get to see and explore the items in her treasure box. It was really her jewelry box but it contained her memories. She would pull out a necklace and tell me a story about who gave it to her, where they were, and how she felt at the time. I realize now it was a trip down memory lane for my aunt and it brought her joy to tell me the stories and kept me distracted and entertained for hours.
Distracting yourself when you are suffering with chronic pain may be an effective way of managing the pain. But you may wonder why. Pain, through a series of steps, registers the physical sensation in one area of the brain but the unpleasantness in another. For people who have lost or damaged their insula, a region of the brain deep in the cerebral cortex, they develop a condition where they can experience the pain without feeling the unpleasantness of it. For the rest of us, it means targeting the pain where it resides – in the brain – instead of where in started – in the body.
And what better way than with a treasure box? If you don’t already have one, start to develop one today. The local cigar shop near my home sells their empty boxes for a few dollars, or find a nice tin, or some other container that you really like. Then fill it with special treasures, things like photos, pins, jewelry or cards. Use items that mean something to you and make you smile or bring you joy.
On the days you are feeling low get your treasure box out and go digging. As you take each item out remember why it brings you so much pleasure. Tell yourself its story again. Enjoy the feelings it brings up for you. Allow those feelings of joy to radiate through your body and apart from distraction you’ll start to feel connected to those people and events surrounding the item again. The joy will also lift your spirits and though it may not relieve you of your pain completely, it will put it in the back of your mind.
Do you have a treasure box? If so, what would you put in your treasure box? Share with us on Facebook.