Why pain and a symphony orchestra don't differ so much from each other

Why pain and a symphony orchestra don't differ so much from each other

7 min. reading time


Louis Zantema

5 January 2020

Louis is a GZ-Psychologist with a great passion for gaming. For him, a game training that offers therapy is the most valuable thing you can develop: especially for pain complaints, which are on the interesting intersection of body and mind. His aim is to make himself dispensable as a therapist.

If something's hard to predict, it's long-lasting pain. Mostly pain that has lasted longer than three months. One day you can exert yourself well and it doesn't seem to worsen the pain, the next day you can't do anything. Sometimes you have a lot of pain after a certain activity, at other times it doesn't seem that bad. How is this possible?

What we have found out by now is that there can be a lot of reasons that can cause the pain to occur at unpredictable moments. A certain memory, thought, activity or even smell can make your pain system (over)active!

Meet the orchestra

A comparison that can give more insight into this is that of the symphony orchestra. If the orchestra practises a melody often, it gets better and better at this. All members of the orchestra practice the piece so often that they can almost dream of it. The sheet music is almost no longer needed and the whole orchestra can play the piece in a more beautiful and exciting way.

In each of our brains there is also a kind of 'symphony orchestra'. When we cycle the orchestra plays the bicycle melody, when we work the work melody and when we sleep the sleep melody. When we are in pain, the orchestra plays the pain melody.

Every time you get hurt, the orchestra plays the pain melody and it gets better at playing that melody! So good, in fact, that just the triangle has to sound and the rest of the orchestra already picks up the melody. And so the figurative triangle can be compared to, for example, a negative thought about pain ('As long as it doesn't get worse when I do...').

Teaching the orchestra other melodies

The longer we have pain, the better the orchestra learns to play the pain symphony. In order to reduce pain, we will have to teach the orchestra to play other melodies!

Suggesting that your orchestra plays the pain symphony (again) is a good first step. Think about which melody you want your orchestra to play in order to suppress the painful melody! That works best when:

The other activity requires a lot of attention from you

Your other activity gives you pleasure

You have to get in motion before the other activity, or is very creative

In short, to teach your orchestra the pain symphony, it helps to get in motion or to pick up a (creative) hobby. If you enjoy it, the orchestra will be even faster with learning the new melody! And the longer the orchestra can't practise the pain symphony, the worse they get at playing it. Which in turn has a positive influence on your pain.


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