Book Review: Outsmart Pain
Outsmart Your Pain: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion to Help You Leave Chronic Pain Behind
By Christiane Wolf, MD, PhD
Mindfulness and Vipasana meditation teacher Christiane Wolf kicks off her second book by introducing us to a simple equation: “Suffering = pain x resistance.” That is, the more we resist our pain, the greater our suffering will be. Rather than trying to get rid of the pain, she encourages readers to cultivate compassionate acceptance of their situation.
While working as a gynecologist at University Hospital in Berlin, Wolf found that her mindfulness and meditation practices helped her to be more fully present with patients and their families. She claims she has seen patients fully relieved of migraines, back pain, and other ailments within months of taking up a mindfulness practice.
Along with copious meditation techniques and mindfulness practices designed to
help make physical pain more bearable, Outsmart Your Pain presents practical advice for optimizing one’s attitude and mindset. For example, Wolf guides readers through the nuances of staying aware of the thoughts and emotions surrounding the pain, avoiding the temptation to identify with the pain or the
thoughts that can go with it, distinguishing between self-compassion and self-pity, resisting the impulse to compare oneself to others, allowing oneself to feel grief rather than pushing it away, and dealing with insensitive comments from people who don’t understand the pain patient’s situation.
“One of the most helpful mental shifts that can happen for a pain patient when they start practicing
mindfulness is realizing that you are not your pain,” Wolf writes. “Your pain is part of your experience, but it is not defining or reducing you. When a pain sufferer gets that message, they realize they are so much more than their pain! They learn to take a step back and observe the pain instead of identifying with it—and to experience pain one moment at a time instead of
becoming the pain.”