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Suffering vs Pain: Regaining Life

Recently, I presented to a Chronic Pain Support group about what pain is and isn’t and where it is registered in the brain. If you look at the fMRI below, the location of where Pain is registered is very different where Sadness ( Suffering) is located. Now it is extremely important to note at this point the emotional component of Acute Pain is Anxiety, while the emotional component to Chronic Pain is Depression.


To understand the difference between Suffering and Pain is to first understand what is Pain. Now anyone reading this can say that they know what Pain feels like. However, what it is and why we have it is extremely important.


Pain is an indicator that your body, spirit, or energy has been injured. It is neither good nor bad. Rather it is an indicator, similar to the check light on your dashboard of your car that lights up when something is wrong. A light might go off if the door is open or you forgot to put on your safety belt on at one end of the spectrum, to your brakes are failing or your engine is over-heating at the other end. If you put your hand on a hot stove, the tissues on your hand send a signal through your nervous system to the center of your brain ( Limbic System) where the amygdala is located. The amygdala is your survival center, and it sends a signal down to your adrenal glands that are located on top of your kidneys. Once the adrenal glands are activated, it sends a signal back to your Limbic system to either Fight or Flee. In this situation, the signal is to feel pain in your hand and remove it so not to burn your hand. Pain is thus a life saving protection of your body, mind, and spirit. Once you feel the pain and the emotional reaction ( anxiety) to remove your hand. Once you have done this, you proceed to activate to stop the pain. In this case to put the hand under cold water and put Aloe on it. However, many of us ignore the cause of our acute pain, such as you over exercised and pulled muscles in your back. By doing so, the cause of the pain does not resolve and results in Chronic Pain with the emotional component ( Depression), which can and often does result into Suffering.


Suffering is not located specifically in the Limbic System, as you can see on the fMRI. Sadness is in the located in the lower Limbic System and brain stem, while depression is located in the frontal lobes. Suffering, by definition, is the state of ongoing pain, distress or hardship. Other words that mean the same are anguish, torment, ordeal, distress, just to name a few. While the definition of pain is a physiological sensation of the nervous system triggered by injury of the nervous system.

Chronic Pain and/or Chronic Illness

There are several excellent books out on how emotional trauma and suffering manifest into physiological symptoms of Chronic Pain and/or Illness. To name a few,

The Body Keeps the Score by Bessil van der Kolk; The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild; and Your Body Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro. The focus of each of these books is about Pain vs Suffering. If you are suffering and you ignore what is causing the suffering and it goes untreated, the consequences are Chronic Pain and/or Chronic Illness. Now you might take exception to what I just wrote and say that you were infected by a severe virus, or you have family genetics history of MS or you might say that you were in an auto accident and you have 6 broken ribs. You can clearly explain your acute pain.  Yet, why is the pain still lingering? Why do you now have Chronic Pain?

I know many people who have tried every method and treatment known to man and are still suffering from Chronic Pain or Chronic Illness, while others having the same conditions regain their life again. This is the focus of the various books mentioned above.

5 Prong Approach to Pain and Suffering

Over 35 years ago, I realized that the only way to address Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness was to address Suffering.

Dr. Diane's 5 Prong Approach My 5 Prong Approach  looks at each individual from the following:

  • Physical- such as injury to nervous system, brain and body. Were they infected by a bacteria, mold, virus, or fungus? Is there an immune problem?
  • Emotional- such as how the person was raised. Are there attachment issues, how did they learn to express emotions of fear, anger, joy, etc.,
  • Psychological – is there a bio-chemical imbalance in the neuro-transmitters or neuro-modulators? Is there an imbalance of the hormonal system?
  • Spiritual- Is there a loss or disconnect to the universe and/or God?
  • Energy – Is there a blockage in the energy field, chakra, meridians, or spinal column?

Once the 5 main components have been evaluated then specific treatment can be developed and provided, where by one of the members of our integrative team of experts or some combination with providers in other location locally, nationally, and even worldwide.

Treatment for Pain and Suffering

Treatment for Chronic Pain, Chronic Illness, and Suffering can be divided into Conventional, Complimentary, and Alterative based on insurance reimbursement. Almost all conventional methods of treatment, such as medication, surgery, physical therapy, and psychotherapy are covered. Note: Effectiveness is not a factor. All 3 areas are effective for various reasons. However, the insurance companies and reimbursement are not based on effectiveness.

Dealing with insurance companies and the lack of reimbursement for specific treatments induce stress and suffering that only cause the chronic pain and illness to be worse. Then once you do find a practitioner to help you, often their time is limited to 15-30 minutes a session. How often have you gone to your primary care physican (PCP), neurologist, orthopedist only to have less than 15 minutes with them? Recently, I had one patient being sent to one specialist after another and having an MRI only to have them misdiagnose the MRI. The patient’s symptoms of Chronic Pain and Illness were only heightened along with her suffering and anguish.

How often have you gone to a team of specialist only to find you are the one to communicate your results? And even if they share the same database, they have not discussed how it effects YOU as an individual, not as a part of global patients with those symptoms.

Chronic Pain and Chronic Illness:

Internal vs External forms of Treatment

What is meant here is the difference between relying on yourself for treatment and relying on outside methods.

Internal Methods for Treating Pain and Suffering

  • Hypnosis
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  •  Energy Psychology
  • Heart Rate Variability (HRV) breathing
  • Nutrition and diet
  • Water Therapy
  • Chi Gong
  • Ti Chi
  • Prayer

External Methods for Treating Pain and Suffering

  • Medication
  • Surgery
  • Physical Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Reiki
  • Biofeedback- including TENS units and CES device
  • Hypnosis
  • Bach Flowers
  • Aroma Therapy
  • Light Therapy
  • Laser Therapy
  • Sound Therapy
  • Massage

Which Treatment for Chronic Pain, Chronic Illness, and Suffering is best for You?

Along with the 5 Prong Approach, I met Len Ochs, who developed the Low Energy Neurofeedback System (LENS) Method. As part of his approach, he classifies individuals as being hearty, reactive, and/or sensitive.

Based the latter criteria along with the 5 Prong Approach, whether you prefer more external or internal treatment methods,  plus the reality of if insurance will or will not pay for specific services, then the best individualize program is developed. This is similar to going to a designer for a custom designed suit or dress. It is made to fit you perfectly, which is stark contrast to buying off the shelf and having it tailored to fit you. Once this is done, we find the appropriate clinician (s) and/or provider (s) for your needs.   When this is done properly the results are amazing, but only if the person truly wants to be free of Pain and Suffering.

Now everyone says they want to be free from their Chronic Pain, Chronic Illness, and/or Suffering, however there is a specific diagnostic code for people who either create their Pain and/or Suffering or get secondary gains from it, such as Munchausen Syndrome.  Others it is financial gain from workers compensation.

Consult for Chronic Pain, Chronic Illness, and Suffering

In a consult, your specific symptoms, history, treatments, personality and reactivity are taken into account. Then a clear understanding on the 5 Prong Approach along with what type of treatment would be effective for you is presented. Next, the selection of the specific clinician and/or provider to either work with your current medical team or in conjunction with them is designed specifically for you, not the other way around.

Nothing drives me crazier than someone giving me a dosage of a pill for an adult, which I am, but I am not the same as a 6 foot 250 lb man.  I am reactive and sensitive. If I am given that dosage I’m almost guaranteed to have every side-effect on the side of the bottle. I personally have had reaction to CT dye, MRI contrast dye, and am allergic to every antibiotic. Recently I had to have a biopsy and had reaction to Fentanyl. In my 60-mile an hour auto accident in 1990, I injured 4 cervical, 3 thoracic, 3 lumbar disc, along with injury to my jaw and knees. It took 7 years for the pain to go away without any surgery and minimal medication. However, the emotional suffering from this experience was greater than the physical pain endured.

I worked for years getting all my degrees and at the time of accident I had 3 offices, over 7 office staff, and over 12 professional providers working for me. In the practice I had over 265 patients. This loss paled compared to the loss of my being a mother.

At the time of the accident, my 3 children were 7 and 10 years old.   They loss their mother, who was not there for them 24/7 for almost 7 years, while what I loss was the adorable children who loved to be on their mother’s lap and hours of doing household chores and playing together. This loss can never be replaced.  They suffered and so did I. When I was finally able to function again, they were 14 and 17, teenagers who no longer wanted to spend endless hours with their mother. As you can gather, the physical pain of the accident was better, however not the suffering from it. It was clear that both my physical chronic pain and suffering had to be addressed. And it was using the integrative 5 Prong approach.

Recently, I had a massive tear in my rotator cuff and was told I was to have surgery. I chose not to have surgery; rather I used laser therapy along with aroma therapy. Within weeks, I had full use of my arm without any pain. My doctors are still shocked based on the extent of my injury.

Having personally gone through years of pain and suffering, I figured out the approach and treatment methods that do work and how to customize it for individual needs. From what I discovered, I brought together an integrative team of experts to help you regain your life again. If there are providers and/or clinician in your local area that can provide the recommended treatments our team will work with them. In addition, if there is a personal injury law suit, I am a forensic psychologist and can provide both cost analysis of the needed services and is an expert witness in such cases

REGAIN  YOUR  LIFE:….Schedule a Consult with Dr. Diane 

There is Help and Hope!     There is a Way!™

For more information please call (800)500-9971 or fill out our contact form.


Dr. Diane® Roberts Stoler, Ed.D.
7 Hodges Street
N. Andover, MA 01845
Phone: (800) 500-9971
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Dr. Diane is a catalyst for change

Image Credit Elaine Boucher

Within each person shines an inner light that illuminates our path and is the source of hope. Illness, trauma, suffering and grief can diminish the light and shroud hope. I am a catalyst for hope and change, offering a way to rekindle this inner light.

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