10 years ago I began my journey, pioneering Pain Coaching as a solution for chronic pain. Now that we are working from home, it has come into its own. Here’s the story…
People suffering chronic pain tell me all the things that they want to be able to do. I purposely ask them the question. The limitations and the fear of further loss or less in their life dominate thinking and often start the story. As a coach, I hear them and see the needs behind what they say, but I want to guide them towards something better.
When my son started playing cricket, I dusted off my my coaching hat from when I was 18 and qualified as a cricket coach. We went down to the local cricket club for the Sunday morning sessions. It was fun, but some kids wanted to know how to play the game. Part coach, part sheep herder, I was now sporting a club shirt with ‘COACH’ printed across my back. This identifies you as someone responsible for the growth and development of someone else’s kids for a few hours.
Because I was a physio, guess what job I was immediately given? That’s right. The warm up. I was like the Pied Piper, running across the outfield being followed by sixty kids. Then I discovered that most of them would copy what I did. Whatever silly movement I made, they would mimic it. That was fun, if not wildly out of control at times. However, the lack of structure that would have been witnessed by the parents, if they looked up from their papers whilst sat in their deckchairs, was made up for by the smiles and laughter. That was the key.
I was like the Pied Piper!
However, the greatest sense of pleasure came from seeing a kid progressing from swinging an air shot to connecting with the ball, or from a throw to being able to bowl with a straight arm. Somewhere within this I started to connect what I was doing on a Sunday morning to the clinic. In both, I was helping people become better by guiding them to focus on what they wanted to achieve. I didn’t see a kid who could not hit the ball, instead a kid who would be able to hit the ball if they followed a process, and enjoyed what they were doing.
Having spent a few years with Dr Mick Thacker at KCL, who re-ignited my interest in pain, I was set up to explore the world of pain in a new depth. This somehow began to blend with coaching ideas that took off and continue to date. In this time, I have spent time with and learned from a number of super people who are immersed in coaching and performance. They are dedicated to human beings reaching their potential, the growth mindset and making a positive contribution to the planet and society. In particular, I mention here Mike Pegg. These are some of the principles of Pain Coaching.
Pain Coaching from home
Creating Pain Coaching, I had reach in mind. Somehow I needed to reach as many people as possible. I know that there are some pain-related apps now, some of which even offer ‘coaching’. For me this misses a key point. Coaching is always about human beings. There is no tech that can substitute for person first. Of course an app can reach more people than a single person, but this is not true coaching. They can provide a support to the necessary human-ness.
One of the ways I have been able to work with people who live across the UK and the world has been with Skype and Zoom. In fact, I have had regular Pain Coaching clients via the screen for some years now as it works very well. We can do all the things we need to help the person understand their pain and move on to a fulfilling life. I have also been mentoring clinicians in different countries. So, there is my reach.
When the decision was made to coach from home because of Covid-19, this way of working was familiar. I could continue working with existing clients and take on new people. The Understand Pain project also shifted easily to Skype/Zoom. I already had people from different parts of the world I was working with, so there was no significant change. The content of the programme remains the same, tailored to each person’s picture(s) of success. People are still signing up, we are collecting data and the early feedback is very positive.
Clearly there are many challenges right now and ahead. Everyone has had to adapt. The uncertainty that always was, is now brutally obvious. We were always dealing with the uncertainty of a future we can only imagine — humans are already good at this, for it is the basis of existence and time passing. No moment is the same. Life is impermanent.
The need for certainty is one that causes much suffering as we try to control the uncontrollable. Of course, what we can control right now is how we approach our own situations within the context of our global society. Re-establishing connection with what really matters, clarifying our values and working out how we can make a difference and contribute, can be a good start point.
Global suffering has reached a new level over the past weeks. Much of this is through worry, which us understandable as our thoughts wander to what may happen next. Trying to focus on now, is more important than ever. The figures are rising, yet we must keep a perspective. This is most easily maintained by checking in on reliable sources of information and perhaps restricting how much media you consume. Again, focusing and re-focusing on what is here right now and what is really important can help. We can share positive stories and encourage each other — we are seeing plenty of this community spirit.
We will come through this time and be looking back at how we stood up to the challenge. What did I do to contribute? How was I useful to my loved ones and society? Then we can act this way now. What are my strengths and how can I use them to benefit others right now? How can I prepare for new ways of working that are sustainable and meet everybody’s needs? I suspect that I will be doing a lot more Pain Coaching from home and other workspaces in the future, beyond this time. It is all in the questions we ask ourselves, as there will always be answers. And of course, this is where coaching begins, with you the coach.