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The Purpose of Pain

Truth be told each of us spends a great deal of time and energy avoiding pain.  We may do this through procrastination; postponing dealing with the inevitable. A second form of avoidance is denial, or pretending that whatever is causing the pain isn’t real or doesn’t need to be addressed.  We may try to avoid pain through escapism; engaging in behaviors that “Band-Aid” the pain temporarily, and avoid addressing the source of the pain.  These diversionary tactics can easily become larger problems in and of themselves such as gambling, compulsive shopping or substance abuse.

No one will deny that most pain is, in its mildest form, uncomfortable and in it’s extreme form, crippling.  Here are some major sources of human pain:

  • Pain of Accomplishment:  This pain can be physical, e.g. joint aches following a strenuous workout.  It can also be emotional, such as the angst that accompanies preparation for a major exam.  This type of pain is probably the easiest to bear because we know it signifies our efforts to reach a goal or to better ourselves.  It reminds us that we humans are capable of growth and change.
  • Pain of Loss:  All loss triggers grief.  Although grieving is a healing process it is, none-the-less, painful.  This fact is patently evident when we lose a loved one through death.  Even when we consciously choose to let go of something important to us, a stressful job for example, we suffer the pain of grief.
  • Pain as an Early Warning System:  Physical pain attempts to get our attention; to tell us that something is wrong, physiologically.  The issue may be as simple as a pulled muscle or a bug bite but pain can also signal a more serious ailment that needs attention.  Similarly, emotional discomfort attempts to let us know when we are in an emotionally unsafe relationship or situation.
  • Pain of Poor Decisions:  Every day we make choices, large and small.  When our decisions are poor ones eventually emotional (and sometimes physical) pain is the consequence. As humans we can’t avoid this kind of pain; we all make poor decisions from time to time.  A larger problem develops when we continue to make the same poor choice and expect a different result, e.g. when we keep going back to an abusive partner or continue to drink and drive.

So although pain gets a bum rap from humankind, in many cases it serves a positive purpose:  To inform us that something needs our attention.  Rather than ignoring pain how can we use it to our advantage?

  • First and foremost don’t ignore or deny your discomfort.
  • Figure out what your pain – be it physical, emotional, or both – is trying to tell you.
  • Vow to address the problem or see an expert who can help you fix or change it.
  • Understand that if you don’t address the cause of the pain it is likely to come back and/or get worse.

Let’s face it; we human beings are creatures of habit.  We’d prefer to keep doing what’s familiar, even if it hurts, rather than trying something new that might actually relieve our pain.  It’s never too late, however, to become more evolved and use your pain as an opportunity to grow and change.  In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “Those things that hurt, instruct”.  More simply said, no pain no gain.




August 4, 2011   No Comments

Innovative Collaboration Provides Better Care for People in the Darien Area

Maud Purcell: Executive Director, The Life Solution Center of Darien / 203.636.0080 / mpurcell@thelifesolutioncenter.net


Innovative Collaboration Provides Better Care for People in the Darien Area

May 11, 2011 – Darien, CT – The Life Solution Center of Darien and Contemporary Care of Greenwich are delighted to announce that on Thursday May 19, 2011 they will be co-hosting a cocktail party with the Darien Chamber of Commerce to celebrate their one-of-a-kind collaboration. The gathering will take place from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at The Life Solution Center of Darien, 36 Old King’s Highway South, Suite 210. The festivities, open to the public, will provide the opportunity to meet the professionals from these unique practices and to learn more about their ground-breaking treatment options.

Working together, these organizations will provide more comprehensive, cutting-edge care to people in the Darien area, as they both apply forward-thinking treatment solutions to very common problems.

The Life Solution Center of Darien was founded in 2009 by Executive Director Maud Purcell. She created the center to address clients’ needs holistically, not just psychologically. By bringing together over 20 partners with businesses ranging from legal and medical practices to home management and image consultation, Purcell has created a space where clients can meet all their needs under one roof.

Contemporary Care provides broad-based, cutting-edge treatments for an array of psychiatric disorders under the direction of Tarique Perera, MD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University, a brain-researcher, and a graduate of Harvard Medical School. Contemporary Care’s team of highly-skilled health professionals delivers comprehensive treatment plans customized to clients’ individual needs. The practice employs psychotherapy and psychopharmacology as well as a number of contemporary treatment options including Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), which uses short pulses of magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in one of the areas of the brain thought to control mood.

TMS is a ground-breaking, non-medication approach to the treatment of depression and research has repeatedly confirmed its durability and effectiveness. It is being used by major hospitals including The Mayo Clinic and Walter Reed Hospital. Although it is FDA-approved for depression, ongoing studies support its efficacy in the treatment of a wide range of other brain related disorders including but not limited to chronic pain, migraine headache, Parkinson’s Disease and autistic-spectrum disorders. Additionally, Contemporary Care and The Life Solution Center of Darien will be the only practices using MRI-Guided TMS, which allows for far greater precision in the treatment of these illnesses.

“Though it is the most obvious aspect of his work, Dr. Perera’s practice is impressive entirely beyond his innovative, contemporary, approach,” says Maud. “His caring clinical manner and medical acumen enable him to build the relationships necessary to provide the best care for his patients. Our collaboration is indicative of this.”

Dr. Perera’s and Purcell’s collaboration benefits clientele of both The Life Solution Center and Contemporary Care – as well as the community at large – by providing yet another space in which to administer TMS, right in downtown Darien. The joint-venture speaks to Contemporary Care’s belief that optimizing general health – physically, mentally, and emotionally – is crucial for successful and durable treatment. The availability and array of professionals at the Life Solution Center gives patients receiving TMS treatment there access to all these professional services, with the convenience of going to one location and the reassurance that they are working with a team of well-vetted professionals.

May 13, 2011   No Comments

Hope and Help for Mood Disorders

Have you channel-surfed lately?  If so, you’ve likely seen the plethora of advertisements for anti-depressant medication.  The good news is that these ads increase our awareness of anxiety disorders and depressive illness.

The bad news, however, is that according to the National Institutes of Mental Health, 14.8 million American adults or 6.7% of the population age 18 and older suffers from depression in a given year.  Additionally, 40 million Americans 18 and older or about 18.1% of our population suffers from anxiety disorders.

Given these statistics chances are good that you or someone you care about is currently suffering from anxiety or depression.  Since it’s normal to have down days and to worry about unresolved situations, how do we know if mood changes warrant professional help?  Asking the following questions can aid you or a loved one in sorting out whether professional is warranted:

  • Could your mood changes be due to an underlying medical issue?  If you’re overdue for a physical exam you might want to get on your doctor’s calendar.  Depression or anxiety can be symptoms of other underlying medical conditions such as Lyme Disease or Thyroid Disease.  They can also be caused by the hormonal changes that accompany menopause. So before pursuing psychotherapy or psychotropic medication you might want to rule out other possible causes for your emotional upset.


  • Is there a situation that may have triggered your anxiety or depression?  If so, does your emotional roller coaster begin to even out as the situation in question rights itself?  If the answer to this question is yes, you were merely having a normal reaction to circumstances, and no professional intervention is required.


  • Are you grieving the loss of a loved one, or the fact that your last child is about to leave the nest?  Maybe you are experiencing a more subtle kind of loss. What no one teaches us is that any change can trigger a grieving process, even changes we choose, e.g. accepting a better job, or choosing to move.


If there is no apparent cause for your anxiety or depression, and your symptoms last for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek professional help.  The good news is that there are many new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of depression and anxiety, and here are some of them:

  • We now have access to new and better anti-depressant medications; ones with fewer side-effects, and which better address one or more of the brain chemicals involved in mood regulation.


  • One of the difficulties with prescribing anti-depressant medication is that there hasn’t been a way to determine which medication might be most effective for a given patient, at what dosage, and with the least likelihood of side effects.  Fortunately, a company called Genomas has developed a DNA-guided blood test that takes some of the guess work out of prescribing anti-depressants.


  • There is a new, non-medication approach to treating depression called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS.  It is an FDA-approved, non-invasive procedure which uses highly-focused magnetic pulses to stimulate nerve cells in the brain. It’s administered on an outpatient basis, and research conducted into the efficacy of TMS is highly promising.


  • There are always new psychotherapeutic approaches to treating anxiety and depression.  One of the most interesting is called “Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy”.  It blends features of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with ancient mindfulness techniques, such as using one’s own breathing to help regulate and calm emotions by staying focused in the present.


If anxiety or depression are “knocking at your door”, there’s no need to despair.  Surely one of the many innovations in the treatment of mood disorders can provide you with hope and help.

June 24, 2010   1 Comment

Alone Doesn’t Mean Lonely

The fear of being alone is probably innate.  I’ll bet you can recall a time from your childhood when you got separated from your mom in a public place.  As a teen perhaps you can remember feeling horribly lonely when you either couldn’t get a date for, or an invitation to, a school dance.  The strength of these memories, and the intense loneliness still associated with them may surprise you.

But that was then, and this is now.  As a young person you couldn’t possibly have understood the difference between loneliness, aloneness and solitude.  Even as adults we tend, mistakenly, to use these words interchangeably.  According to Webster’s, solitude is “the quality or state of being alone, or remote from society”.  Notice that there is no negative connotation attached to the definition for solitude.  Loneliness, on the other hand, implies feelings of despair and unhappiness as a result of being alone.

Learning that you can survive and even thrive while alone is one of life’s greatest lessons.  Daily, people talk with me about their fears of being abandoned due to an impending divorce or death of a loved one.  What you may not yet know is that learning to be alone is very much like first realizing that there is no “boogeyman” under the bed:  Once you begin to spend some time alone, you’ll understand that there was never anything to fear in the first place.

Creative people quickly learn that their work necessitates solitude.  Beatrix Potter, noted author and illustrator of children’s books (“The Tales of Peter Rabbit”), spent much of her life in solitude.  What can we learn from Beatrix Potter, Ludwig von Beethoven and others who have not only endured solitude, but have reveled in it?  If we could speak with them today, this is what they would likely tell us:  Time spent alone affords us opportunities that might otherwise elude us.  These opportunities include time for:

  • Rejuvenation: Alone time provides the chance to relax and to recharge our batteries, returning to our daily routines renewed and refreshed.
  • Creative Thinking: Solitude allows creativity to flourish.  During and after alone time, solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems may emerge.
  • Restoring Integrity: Being alone encourages us to reflect on our actions and how they may conflict with our values and beliefs.  Constant activity affords us an unhealthy escape from this kind of self-reflection.
  • Healing from Loss: Any kind of loss, such as a change in residence, loss of a job, or loved one’s death, triggers a necessary grieving process.  Solitude forces us to face the grief head on, allowing us to heal.
  • Developing Spirituality: Solitude provides the chance to connect with a higher power.  Spirituality helps us find inner peace and strength, despite the uncertainties of life.
  • Reconnecting with Nature: In today’s face-paced, technological world it is all too easy to avoid seeing a sunrise or smelling a flower.  Alone time can be spent while soaking in our natural environment.  Doing this helps us to put our problems into perspective and restores a sense of inner calm.

“These opportunities all sound great, but how do I find solitude”, you might ask.

It is harder than ever to find quiet time and space, with blackberries, cell phones and e-mail.  Therefore, it will take determination to create alone time.  It’s not necessary to be alone for hours.  In fact, solitude is best experienced for 20 to 30 minutes each day.  It should be a time for being, not doing.  You might try yoga, meditation, prayer of quiet reflection; whatever provides you with the greatest sense of calm and relaxation.  You will need to enlist the cooperation of loved ones as you institute your new habit of daily solitude.

Go ahead and look under the bed; there’s no boogeyman!  And there is no reason to fear solitude, either.  Take the plunge and experience alone time.  Once you try it you’ll be amazed at how you begin to crave it.

April 13, 2010   No Comments