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Take the Risk of Diving Into Your Fears or Pain

I have often talked about suffering less by accepting and being fully present with pain or other symptoms. But, this seems counterintuitive and risky. A common question is: When I’m really afraid or in a lot of pain, why would I want to experience more of that? Wouldn’t it be better to do things to take my mind off the pain? This is a common question. Of course, none of us wants to suffer. However, on the occasions when I’ve tried to reject fear or pain, it intensified. A common expression is: What we resist persists. Whereas, when I fully accepted my fear or pain, allowing myself to fully experience it and fully accept it, it diminished markedly. In other words, when we allow ourselves to accept rather than reject our fear or our pain, we are, in effect, accepting ourselves, just the way we are. Nevertheless, there are times when acute fear or pain is too intense. In those situations, it can be most helpful to use distraction or dissociation. Watching a movie or listening to our favorite music can provide both distraction and dissociation. However, for chronic pain, whether it is emotional or physical, it is better to learn to surf rather than to try to get away from the wave.

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I co-teach a course at College of Marin in Kentfield, California; Mindfulness-Based Self-Compassion (MBSC). For those who do not live geographically close enough to attend the class, this page can serve as a guide:

Take the Risk of Diving Into Your Fears or Pain

Dr. Larry Berkelhammer

Dr. Berkelhammer is a retired mind-body medicine psychologist. He writes about mindfulness-based practices with a unique emphasis on optimization of wellbeing and health. Dr. Berkelhammer also lectures at San Francisco State University and UC San Francisco, and is currently teaching a class in Marin County through College of Marin. He is the author of the book "In Your Own Hands; New Hope for People with Chronic Medical Conditions".

See his extensive website:

In Your Own Hands: Mindfulness-Based Practices to Optimize Wellbeing - College of Marin Community Education

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APA Reference
Berkelhammer, D. (2018). Take the Risk of Diving Into Your Fears or Pain. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2018
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