Fibromyalgia and Violence

” Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit” , Martin Luther King, Jr.

Violence can be defined in many ways. It is anger at its peak in the forms of shouting, yelling, hitting, sexual and/ or physical and /or emotional abuse, throwing things, or any other way of inducing fear  and trauma in others. Racism, sexism, homophobia, all the social injustices are a form of violence. It involves domestic violence, massacres, harassment, which plague as on a daily basis. The TV gives us shots of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya in which war violence is perpetuated . The media and movies fill our psyches with violence, and we face it personally in our own lives. It is not a kind, gentle world. Those of us with fibromyalgia have highly sensitive natures (which I have written about extensively)  and we absorb this violence regularly, to the detriment of our hyper aroused nervous systems.

A”menschenkenner” is a German word which means “someone with a knack for figuring people out, for taking their measure”. The dictionary describes this characteristic as a person who is a judge of character; a connoisseur of nature. I believe that this trait is highly developed in people with fibromyalgia and in the presence of violence or potential violence our nervous systems respond in high alert. If we sense even the potential of violence we respond as if it was imminent. Paradoxically, when I read  mystery novels which are not particularly healthy for my psyche, I find myself immersed in the inevitability of anger,rage, physical or sexual abuse. However, I continue on this path which arouses my nervous system . However, in a real life situations I am sometimes anticipating that anger could escalate to violence and my system goes into overdrive. Reality and fantasy evoke different emotions, but I have not explored  research which explains this phenomenon. What I do understand is that we people with fibromyalgia have a tendency to become fearful around those who are excessively angry people.

The question is: how do we live in a violent world and not take on the trauma associated with it? Given our highly developed characteristic of overly emphasizing with others, it is not as if we have become immune to scenes, images or sounds of violence. In fact, we can often predict when someone is about to rage and our bodies react negatively in anticipation. A simple story of someone falling, for example, can arouse in me the actual unpleasant sensation of another’s pain. Hearing a racist remark can bring tears to my eyes. Homophobic stories or jokes place me in the realm of those who are being ridiculed and my nervous system becomes highly aroused. But the more dramatic forms of potential or real anger and violence can leave me reeling for hours or days on end.

In an article by Mark Fenske in the Globe and Mail, July 7, 2011 (L6) I found answers about how we feel another’s pain. “We feel his pain. Literally” , he writes, describing a “class of brain cells called mirror neurons helps explain empathy and the contagious nature of emotions”. Further he writes” these cells are thought to “reflect” the actions and feelings of others”. For that reason, among many others, it is important to reduce our own stress and avoid situations where anger and violence are common occurrences.

 

About Barbara Keddy

I am a Professor Emeritus, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. My B.Sc.is in Nursing while my MA. and Ph.D. are in Sociology. I am married, a mother and grandmother living on the east coast of Canada. I have personally lived with fibromyalgia for about 40 years. I published a book with iUniverse in 2007. This book detailed living with this condition and allowed the voices of twenty women who have fibromyalgia to tell their stories.
This entry was posted in Fibromyalgia, mark fenske, menschenkenner, mirror neurons, the psychology of violence journal. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fibromyalgia and Violence

  1. Fergie says:

    I read in Findrxonline opiates such as vicodin and oxycodone painkillers are used to relieve backaches and pains and joints that are referred to as fibromyalgia. It is administered in lower doses that it requires and the fight against seizure to prevent pain is transmitted to the central column and eventually to the brain.

  2. Thanks Fergie for your comments. I did mention those medications in my book. I prefer now to focus on ways in which we can manage pain ourselves without opiates, but I realize that there is great suffering for many and opiates may be the first choice. It is such a dilemma and decisions are not easy ones. Kind regards, Barbara

  3. Nancy says:

    I have discovered I have no fight or flight response I just crumble and take the abuse. I also have to be very careful of what I read, watch and see. I even have to be careful of children’s shows as I always seem to find deeper meanings and find myself crying and withdrawing further in to my shell. I’m so glad I found your blog I’ve been reading through it and found I’m NOT alone. I can relate to the sensitivity of noise as I have been told that the noises I hear are in my head. Now when I hear these noises I make my carer go right out to the ‘offending’ area and sure enough he now he can hear although only just the noise which to me is deafening!

  4. Dear Nancy: You have absolutely come up with the usual stories about those of us who are so highly sensitive. By contrast I am always on high alert though and sometimes ready to fight and ohter times to flight. I startle easily; I am always hunched up in the shoulders; Loud noises are overwhelming; Crowds are too stimulating. Yet, this is an overstimulating world we live in. Please keep in touch. I wish you peace, Regards, Barbara

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