I just read a really great article on the Embodied Predictive Processing Theory and although the paper was a bit of a heavy read, I did get some great concepts out of it that I’d like to share with you.
Pain is created by the body in order to achieve the goal of self-protection by attracting attention. Pain motivates us to potentially take action to either avoid or escape something that may be threatening to our survival… so far that’s easy to understand.
Though acute pain is obviously useful, chronic pain is typically not useful where instead of being self-protective, it becomes self-destructive.
Chronic pain not only alters how we experience our own body, but also changes how we experience our surrounding world. When pain persists beyond the anticipated time of healing, it commonly leads to a sense of uncertainty, fear and distrust towards one’s own body and the world outside.
“…being in pain contributes to how a subject experiences not only their own body but also their relation to the world.” – Kiverstein et al 2022
Pain is a subjective experience and is influenced by how we view our body and how we view the world in general.
The body is how we normally connect with our surrounding world, but when pain consumes a person’s awareness, the outside world shrinks as one is confined to dealing with a body that is sensed to be under a threat.
“… pain disrupts ones sense of being-in-the-world.”
It seems like when pain persists it may alter our perception of the world outside by seeing it as being more untrustworthy, unfair and unkind. Regrettably, a negative worldview further contributes to the maintenance of a hypersensitive nervous system and the persistence of pain.
Our expectation and prediction of potential threats of the outside world is shaped by our beliefs which are based on our experiences from the moment we enter the world. Understandably, experiences of abuse, neglect, social isolation or discrimination all lead to a sense of mistrust of the outside world.
Therefore when your body is threatened from the inside due to a physical issue, the experience of pain can be magnified if it is in combination with a sense of danger from the outside world.
Even when the threat from the physical body is resolved, the sense of threat from the outside world is sufficient to trigger and maintain the pain experience, which is what we call chronic pain.