Shift Your Perspective, Change Your Life?

This month is Migraine & Headache Awareness month. As in past years, we writers here at Migraine.com are tackling the Migraine & Headache Awareness Month Blog Challenge prompts. Today’s MHAM Blog Challenge prompt is to discuss Rory Sutherland’s TED talk “Perspective is everything.”

In the talk, Sutherland makes a powerful argument that the reality of our situations isn’t as important to our happiness as how we view our situations, particularly with regard to our perspective on how much control we have over our circumstances. For instance, in the talk, he discusses a rather famous (in psychological and behavioral science fields, anyway) experiment on “learned helplessness” conducted by Martin Seligman and Steven Maier.

Without going into too much detail, the experiment’s main conclusion was that animals who believed they had a sense of control over an adverse situation recovered from the situation when it ended, whereas animals who believed they had no sense of control over an adverse situation were unable to recover from the situation after it was over – even if it was the exact same situation as that endured by the other animals. Instead, the animals who believed they had no control over their circumstances became so depressed they even stopped trying to escape the adverse situation.

For migraineurs, this may seem unhelpful. After all, we can’t control our migraines. We can’t cure them. We can’t stop them. At best, we can merely reduce their frequency and intensity for a particular period of time. Still, we can control how we feel about migraine disease and its affects on our lives, and that I think speaks to Sutherland’s point: The reality of life with migraine isn’t as important as how we think about it.

Migraine.com writer Kerrie Smyres has written about this many times (most recently in “Acceptance, Not Resignation”), as have I (both for Migraine.com and in my book, “Finding Happiness with Migraines: A Do It Yourself Guide”). Both Kerrie and I have had long struggles with daily migraine and headache, yet we have both come to the same realization: Accepting our lives as they are enables us to enjoy them as they are, migraines and all. Without acceptance, the joy is hard to find.

Of course, I’m not saying – and I don’t think Kerrie is either – that a migraine-filled life is easy or simple or continually joyful. It’s frustrating and painful, and there will always be days when the grief, anger, and never-ending symptoms override our ability to fully appreciate the good moments, the everyday joys, that all lives – even lives with chronic migraine – give us.

The truth is: Some days are terrible, but that doesn’t mean our lives have to be terrible. It doesn’t mean they’re hopeless. And – this is important – it certainly doesn’t mean we are helpless.

We’re not helpless. There’s always something we can control, there’s always something we can feel good about. The change comes when we decide to focus on these things, small as they may be, rather than on the other things, the worse things, the hard things. The change comes when we decide to take control over our perspective. Until there’s a cure for migraine, that may be the best news we’ve got.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (8)
  • Paintchip
    5 years ago

    Thanks Sarah for an insightful article and for your “happiness perspective” article!

    ~Cindy

  • thisisendless
    5 years ago

    It is so hard for me to do this. I started a new medicine which I thought was working because I had like 3 or 4 weeks straight with nothing over a 3, and those only once or twice a week. “Have I finally found it?” I thought. But now, again, out of the last 6 days, 4 of those have been migraine days, and today is the worst one I have had in awhile. (Still I should be grateful it is only about a 6 or 7. This in combination with the three other chronic pain issues that come and go and I don’t know how I can get through another day. I don’t know how to enjoy life when something hurts, almost every day.

    Thanks for letting me rant a bit. I am sure my boyfriend is tired of hearing it. 🙂

  • Paintchip
    5 years ago

    Sending hugs and healing thoughts your way. I do hope you are having a better day today!

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Finding a treatment that works – or keeps working – is very tough for some of us. I’m right there with you. I just try to find happiness where I can, especially when the pain is at its worst. This is not always so easy, I know, and on some days it feels downright impossible. At least we know we’re not alone. Here’s hoping you find relief soon. <3

  • mrst53
    5 years ago

    I believe that the man who gave the TED talk, never had migraines in his life. Yes, we adjust, but it is frustrating that no new types of medication are on market, just more of the same old stuff in the same family. That doesn’t help those of us, that the same old stuff either doesn’t work, or we can’t take. I am frustrated, I want new meds that work for migraines that occur when the temperature changes cause them. This has been around for years and nothing has been done. Take control of my perspective, that’s hard to do, when your head feels like it is going to explode.

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    I understand completely. Current drugs don’t work well for me either, and I’m holding out hope for some new treatments. This gives me hope: http://migraine.com/blog/promising-new-migraine-drugs-target-cgrp/.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    5 years ago

    Hi Sarah, thanks for this post 🙂

    Honestly, my favorite part is where they discussed people eating yummy snacks or… radishes. The radish eaters gave up. Something so simple changed how they lived that part of the test. WOW. If radishes can make that much difference in someone who doesn’t have to eat them every day, think of what chronic illness and the pain of Migraine could do if we don’t take the reins?!

  • Sarah Hackley author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for reading, Ellen. And, yes, I found that interesting too. 🙂

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