Outcome Independence

Someone once handed me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift
— Mary Oliver

One of the things I work with most often with clients (and with myself) is cultivating outcome independence. Outcome independence is shifting one's definition of success from achieving a preferred outcome, which we often have very little ability to control, to defining success based on we relate to the present moment. When dealing with chronic pain, this means making the shift from trying to get rid of the pain, to trying to change the way one relates to the fear and anxiety around the pain. It’s simple in theory, but is actually a lifelong practice of noticing the tendency to want pain to go away and instead practicing letting go of how we want things to be and accepting them as they actually are in this moment.

I notice all the time in my daily life how I suffer when I wanted things to go a certain way and they did not. And I notice that even when things do actually go the way I want, I am very rarely as happy as I thought I would be when it actually happens. My mind basically shrugs and then is off to worrying about how to achieve the next goal. It's great how life is endlessly showing us where we're stuck and need to practice letting go and pain is no exception. It can be your greatest teacher. 

Notice what it feels like in your body when you think and believe the thought, “I am not going to be able to survive if this pain doesn’t go away.” Do you tense up? Notice what happens with your breath. Notice the muscles in your shoulders, neck, and jaw. See what you notice in your stomach. Unfortunately, trying to force the pain to go away, which of course it what we are hard-wired to do, actually causes tension and the release of neurochemicals that perpetuate the pain. Try instead to think the thought, “How ever this unfolds, I know I have the inner resources to meet it.” It probably feels unnatural or forced and that’s okay. But beginning to hard-wire your brain for these new messages that support outcome independence is the way to begin to suffer less. Allow this pain to become your teacher in learning to relate to things as they are instead of how you wish they would be.