HOW BDD AFFECTS LIVES – SOCIAL CONCEQUENCES – OTHER PROBLEMS: BRIGHT LIGHTS AND LEISURE ACTIVITIESHarry rarely went to movies, and when he did he tried to avoid being seen. “I always sit in the back row so people can’t sit behind me and laugh at the shape of my head,” he told me. Curt walked behind people and sat in the back of the class so no one could see the slight hair thinning on the back of his head. He also always waited for an empty elevator. Jesse avoided dancing, which he loved, because he thought everyone would laugh at his supposedly bowed legs.Many people, especially those concerned about facial defects, avoid bright lights, which could illuminate the perceived defect. “At parties, I’m very uncomfortable hanging out in the kitchen with bright lights,” a 26-year-old computer programmer told me. “I prefer a darker room.” Others avoid restaurants with bright lighting, or find a dark booth in the back, so they can’t be seen. Some people quit their jobs, or never accept one in the first place, if they have to work under fluorescent lights. In BDD-treatment groups I ran, the group members tried to avoid sitting next to the window, because they feared their defects would be more visible in brighter light. Several men have told me that they know everything about lighting. As one said, “I’m an expert on lights. I’d be a darn good lighting salesman!” will be more exposed—large hips or thighs, small breasts, small body build, thinning hair, skin defects, or cellulite. In addition, wind and water can easily ruin camouflage and painstaking grooming: makeup runs, bronzers streak, and hair styles are destroyed.Some people avoid the things they love most. Greg avoided sports, even though he’d been an excellent athlete and had played on several varsity teams in high school. Although he was muscular and in excellent physical shape, he feared that people would see his “small and puny” body build, and stopped playing altogether. Loni didn’t play on her high school field hockey team because it would mess up her hair. “I missed a very important thing,” she told me. “I loved playing team sports—it was what I liked best of all in high school.”*129\204\8* sundrugstore.com
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Conditioning becomes possible through the calm state of mind induced by the exercises. We subject ourselves to minor painful stimuli. We are not disturbed. Gradually we use more severe stimuli; we maintain our calm of mind and we are still not disturbed. In a little while we can tolerate quite severe stimuli without discomfort. By the process of conditioning, we come to be less disturbed by pain in general. This is possible only by virtue of our relaxed and regressed state of mind while we are doing the conditioning.
The Acceptance of Pain in Pure Form-This is the last of our six principles in the
self-management of pain. You may find it more difficult than the others to understand. Actually it follows quite naturally from the practice of the other principles. If you have too much difficulty in believing that pure pain—that is, pain devoid of any psychological reaction—does not really hurt, then concentrate on the other principles which you can understand more easily. Then, when you have mastered them, you will come to realize of your own initiative the fundamental truth of this last proposition —that pure pain does not hurt.
Night and day, the recurring seasons, our breathing, our heart beat, the natural cycle of women is recurring phenomena. Growth, maturity, age and death are equally a part of our biological lifespan, just as it is with all that is living around us, treasured plants in our garden, the trees in the park, our pet dog, our family, our friends, ourselves not least. All participate in the recurring cycle of growth, maturity, age and death.
What has all this to do with our experience of stress? Unlike these matters, stress is not a naturally recurring phenomenon. Problems and adverse circumstances in the biological sense are a natural part of life, but stress is essentially pathological. Something to be avoided, and which to a great extent can be avoided.
An awareness of these naturally recurring cycles in which we participate helps the living matter which is us to run more smoothly, as it were. The problems of life which could cause stress are seen rather as incidents on the background of what is around us, and their power to disturb us and create stress is so much the less.
Our awareness of these matters, in the way that it affects stress, is more than our knowledge of the subject. We all know of birth, growth and death. Such a knowing is a function of our intellect, and is little related to our experience of stress. Nor is the awareness, which is significant, simply our emotional involvement in these things. We have a feeling of attachment to the countryside, our forests, and the long sweep of the beach. We love our mate in life, our children, our family. But the awareness that affects our stress is something different. It is an understanding of these matters which relates neither to our intellect nor our emotions. It is just the naturalness and the simplicity of it all. So simple that it defies clear description in the sophistication of words. Those fortunate people who have something of this basic human awareness do not come under stress from the problems of life in the same way as others do.
“It’s his responsibility. His responsibility, not mine. That’s what he is paid to do. That’s what accountants are for. If the tax people want to make a fuss, let them get on to him, not me. It’s his responsibility. But I can’t help worrying. Worrying and worrying. Worry that it was my responsibility. I knew they might say it wasn’t quite right. He was trying to do his job. Damn him! He thought I would sack him if he did not do it that way. What a mess!”
It is quite clear there are two problems. There is the major problem of being investigated by the tax authority and the likelihood of being fined. And then there is the associated problem – the inner disquiet of his own conscience. Without the augmentation from the associated problem, the major problem may not reach such a degree of intensity as to produce stress.
The whole situation may be further complicated by some background problem, such as his wife’s unexpected pregnancy. But in the individual’s mind his symptoms of stress are caused, simply and solely, by the tax problem.
The major problem, the tax trouble, must be dealt with, in a practical way, according to established business principles.
The secondary problem, his guilt, and the disturbing influences to his brain arising from it, need to be dealt with by letting his mind run freely for a short period each day to reduce his level of anxiety and so allow his mind to settle. And the background problem, his wife’s pregnancy, requires his mental adjustment to a changed situation.
The difficulty is that the individual sees only the major problem, and is loath to attend to the other matters, which in fact may be the key to resolving the whole situation.