What we discussed at our last meeting (20-03-17)


At the last meeting we explored mindfulness, how stress affects the body with physical symptoms, primary and secondary suffering, and what we use to help manage our pain. It was so lovely to see so many people at the group, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for making me feel so welcomed whilst my heart rate was rising at the thought of having to talk in front of you all (damn you pesky stress response!)
I would also like to extend a warm, warm welcome to all our new members, we had eight new members through the door and it was wonderful to meet you all. I hope that you enjoyed the group and found some valuable information and a slice of peace and understanding in your day. We aim to create a safe, kind, inclusive, caring, understanding, informative environment for people dealing with this invisible illness, whether you yourself have fibromyalgia or you’re supporting someone who does, you’re all very welcome.

I thought I would do a few posts with some information on what we covered in the last meeting for anyone who would be interested. I’d also like to thank the Newcastle Pain Management Team for the original information and allowing us to share their knowledge with a wider audience.

Please click on the photos to expand them, I’m not sure why they don’t fit on the page, but hey ho!


Primary and Secondary suffering.

  • There are two levels to suffering, primary and secondary suffering. Primary suffering relates to an injury or ongoing illness. Secondary suffering relates to the thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories associated with the pain (things like anxiety, depression, stress etc)
  • The Three Systems Model of emotions (Gilbert, 2010) provides a useful framework for understanding our emotions; how they arise; what they have evolved to make us think and feel; and how different emotions interact with each other.

The Drive system


  • The Drive System gives us emotions that motivate us to do what we need to do to survive and thrive. Energy, excitement, pleasure, and a sense of achievement are examples of The Drive system at work,
  • A brain chemical called dopamine is important to our drive.
  • If in balance with our other systems/emotions The Drive System can help motivate us towards our value based goals in life.
  • In depression this system in under stimulated with the loss of pleasurable feelings. If this is blocked then our Threat System can become activated.
  • Working towards value based goals can help to stimulate our Drive System and give us feelings of energy, pleasure and achievement.

The Threat System


  • The purpose of The Threat System is to give us negative emotions that help alert us to danger so that we can take action to protect ourselves.
  • This system gives rise to emotions like anxiety, anger, and disgust – the stress response.
  • Our brains can overestimate the dangers involved. For some people The Threat System can be over developed meaning that emotions such as anxiety, anger and disgust are very easily triggered.
  • The stress response is also known as fight or flight and it causes emotional, physical, mental and behavioural changes.
  • When we perceive a danger we feel the primitive emotion of fear. This would have been essential in the cave man days in order to survive, not so great in modern day life!

  • The physiological stress response is very helpful when responding to a real life or death situation, like stepping out in front of a car. But this survival response can be activated when we’re not in danger.
  • It can be much less helpful when it is activated in response to a situation that is not life or death, like not being able to do the housework.

Looking at all of the symptoms of stress how many people can recognise that they spend a lot of time in fight or flight mode? Dealing with stress can exaggerate our pain without us really realising it. So what can we do to spend less time in The Threat System?



Self-soothing, self-compassion, common humanity, and mindfulness!

The Soothing System

  • The purpose of the soothing system is to promote positive feelings and emotions that help us manage distress and promote bonding with others.
  • This system gives us emotions such as contentment, safety, and feeling connected to ourselves and others.
  • Contentment is a different type of positive emotion from the excitement produced by The Drive System or the emotions produced by low levels of threat such as boredom or emptiness.
  • Contentment is about peacefulness and a feeling of non-striving wellbeing. These types of emotions are often reported by people who practice mindfulness.
  • Brain chemicals called endorphin’s are important for contentment and a hormone called Oxytocin is involved in the feelings of social safety and bonding.There will be a few more posts to follow with more information on self soothing ideas, mindfulness, and what we discussed as a group that helped with our pain levels (our pain toolkit)I just need a little time to regain the finger strength to type it all up!