A debut book offers an unconventional approach to long-term pain management and relief.
Ennis, a psychiatrist with a 25-year career in treating chronic pain, opens his revelatory book with a stark declaration: “I am in pain every day, all day.” As the author points out, he’s able to explore the subject of long-term chronic pain from both sides of the equation: as a medical professional who continually deals with the issue and as a victim of the phenomenon itself. Therefore, he has a deep perspective on the often maddening, day-to-day reality of chronic pain sufferers, who are often forced to wonder: Must they simply resign themselves to being “burned at the stake” of their pain, or can they find a way to surmount it? In clear, accessible prose, Ennis proposes a strategy: a multistep process of self-hypnosis that he describes after grounding the narrative by telling his own story of living with chronic pain. He presents readers with comprehensive, readable histories of the study of pain and the development of the most popular weapon to address it: opioids. In his analysis of these potent drugs, Ennis remains unflinching. He rigorously examines the supposed efficacy of most opioids in alleviating chronic pain and finds them overprescribed and under-effective—and extremely risky, considering the serious nature of their side effects. Self-hypnosis, he contends repeatedly, has no side effects.
The book’s central idea—that highly stressed and sometimes desperate sufferers of chronic pain must reject their impulses to reach for chemical solutions—is so revolutionary as to seem almost counterintuitive in the current age of both unprecedented opioid prescription and unparalleled abuse of those drugs. Ennis very effectively buttresses his advocacy for a more internal, mental method by threading the whole subject through his vast personal history as both doctor and patient. As a result, the ultimate case he makes is powerfully convincing. In forceful, unambiguous prose, the author clarifies exactly what hypnosis is and isn’t and then enumerates the steps of using it as a means of pain relief in either professionally administered sessions or ones that are conducted independently. It’s difficult to argue with Ennis’ assessment of the comparative superiority of his approach to the rote prescription of opioids. But even objections that might be raised are sidelined by the indisputable fact that the core of the technique presented here—controlling breathing, cultivating inner calm, conceptualizing the pain—should help sufferers regardless of their success or failure with self-hypnosis. The book’s underlying tone is one of hope, which is something sufferers often find is in short supply when coping with their health problems. Ennis’ own story underscores the need for such hope.
A challenging and ultimately optimistic game plan for dealing with chronic pain; important reading for sufferers.