The Importance of Sharing Our Perspectives as Chronic Pain Patients

Tonight, my friend and I were discussing accounting strategies, and I was trying very hard to understand a specific way she processed something. I had to play “21 questions” to finally understand.

I could not see things from her perspective. It sounded like, to me, she did a lot of extra work, but she was certain her way was easier and maybe even quicker. We had the same end results but, we didn’t see the process the same. The differences in our lives created our unique perspectives. Obviously, no one has been through exactly everything you have been through – maybe similar, but not the same.

The questions I asked my friend led me to a mutual understanding eventually, but it was difficult. At first, I had a blank picture in my head of what she was talking about, but with each answered question I was provided a puzzle piece. Slowly, the picture emerged, and I began seeing through her eyes – her perspective.

The problem is that we always listen to respond and do not listen to understand. I wanted to hurry up and tell my friend my process, but when I started trying to see things her way and ask more questions to clarify, it became easier. James 1:19 offers some valuable insight and wisdom to help us: “My dear brothers and sisters, (A) take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak (B) and slow to become angry.”

How often do we find ourselves quick to listen and slow to speak? I know that’s not my first thought. I want to explain my point of view immediately. But when I listen with curiosity, the questions come easy, and the picture in my head quickly starts lining up with the picture in their head. Once I understand their perspective only then can I give them the information they are missing to see things from my perspective. This works both ways.We must first try to understand others so we can help add our puzzle pieces to their thoughts. If someone doesn’t see things the way you do, they may need more information that only you can give them from your life experiences.

Why is this important to people with chronic illnesses and chronic pain?

It creates empathy. Right now, the chronic pain community needs a tremendous amount of compassion because we now have our own epidemic along with the opioid addiction epidemic – an epidemic of untreated painful conditions that could lead to suicides because the pain is unbearable without proper medications. That’s why I am always saying, share your stories! No one can understand if we don’t get our voices out there. Write emails to your elected officials, track what different government agencies are making decisions on and make your opinion known. The U.S. Pain Foundation has an advocacy page that is a great place to start learning how to get your voice heard.

I love this quote that has been attributed to Roy T. Bennett: “Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” Begin by trying to understand others, then ask yourself, “How would I feel?” If every person did that, imagine what it could do to the world we live in!

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