Pulling splinters – Pain and the primitive mind

Yesterday morning my 6 year old couldn’t do anything to help me get him ready for school (nothing unusual here).  This particular day however, he was complaining about a pain in his hand. Sure enough there was the remains of a small splinter in his palm, and it looked a bit sore.

It had to be taken out and cleaned to make sure that it wouldn’t become infected. He looked at me sideways. I gave it a little squeeze to see if it would come easy.

Huge wail. Oh dear. Accusing eyes through big tears.

Feeling pain instantly engages the primitive mind. In this state of mind anxiety increases and children, let alone adults, do not like feeling this way.

Time for some Solution Focused fathering. Big cuddle and apology turns into tickles and laughter.

Laughter, nature’s painkiller


Now, once someone is smiling and laughing you can be sure that they are engaging the left prefrontal cortex – the intellectual mind – and coming away from the anxiety associated with the primitive mind.

I explained to him that pain is just the way that the mind gets  our body to run away.

“Imagine that you are walking through the jungle and a tiger sneaks up behind you and bites you on the bum!” (More smiles)

“Your brain screams in pain and you run fast without even thinking about it. Phew! You’ve escaped”

I explain that this reaction is good for tigers but isn’t going to help him get the splinter out. We need to do this so that he can play games at school and avoid getting an infection and stop the pain getting worse.

I ask him to shut his eyes and feel the breath come in and out of his body, see if he can feel it go down as far as his toes. I ask him to feel how big his whole body is and how small the pain is. He keeps his eyes closed, smiles and nods.

I ask him to keep doing this if I can give his hand another squeeze. He keeps his eyes closed and nods.

I tell him that all he has to do is say “stop” if it gets too much again.

I squeeze the hand, and squeeze a bit more. Once a little drip of clear fluid appears he calmly says “stop”.

It isn’t out. “Try again Dad”. Deep breath

One quick squeeze, one well aimed tweeze and the splinter is out. No tears.

He looks at me with a huge grin and pride written all over him. He washes his hands and tells me that he knows how to be brave now.

Our primitive minds are so important to our survival, they have helped our species to survive and become the people we are today (there are a lot of tigers out there!)

If I had been stuck in my primitive mind that morning and been grumpy, rushing, late for school dad, I may have ignored the wails and forced the splinter out; causing untold anxiety. Luckily my hypnotherapy training provided a solution and we were both able to get to school on time, with two working hands each, no tiger bites and big grins.

You can overcome persistent pain


It is not only acute pain that can be beaten with our knowledge of the brain. Persistent pain is a feedback loop between the primitive mind and the area of your body where there is a problem.

If you think about the times when your persistent pain does not bother you, you’ll realise it’s usually when you are using the faculties of the intellectual mind; the creative, happy, forward thinking part of you.

Solution focused hypnotherapy can help you to access that part of your mind more so that you can leave the negative, emotional thinking surrounding persistent pain behind.

If you would like some help, or to find out more about these issues, please get in touch with me today.