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Do Support Fibromyalgia Support Groups Do More Harm Than Good?

Vincent Harris

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After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1997, it was suggested to me that I might benefit from joining a fibromyalgia support group. My first and only experience with a support group was a jaw dropping experience; I realized immediately that this was not the place for me, and that those who were present at this meeting worked very hard at validating each others perceived disabilities.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, the pain of fibromyalgia is real, very real indeed. I’ve had tears pouring down my cheeks, as I struggled to make it from the bed to a scalding hot shower. But ten years later, I have long since recovered, and live a very active and physical life with minimal interference from this neurological quirk.

Researchers have recently discovered something that hints at what I felt intuitionally at that fibromyalgia support group meeting so many years ago.

Dr. Jeffrey Mogil, of the University of McGill has concluded that mice have the ability to show empathy. In their study at the Pain Genetics Lab at McGill University, they discovered that mice that were allowed to see other mice in pain, later tested as being more sensitive to pain than the mice that had not.

Now, this is a breakthrough for researchers studying empathy, simply because even though it has long been suspected to be felt by the higher primates, it had still remained unproven. These findings have other implications as well.

Let me ask you, if you are already in pain, do you want to become even more sensitive to pain? Of course not, right? But that’s exactly what the research is telling us; when you are around others who are in pain, there’s a very good chance that you too, will develop amplified pain signals.

In the numerous one on one session’s I’ve had with people who were suffering from chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, teaching them leading edge strategies for effectively managing their discomfort, I’ve had the opportunity to ask all of them about their experiences with support groups.

Never, not even once, has someone told me that they had attended a support group meeting where they were told, “Okay, as bad as it may suck right now, the fact is, you are currently suffering from fibromyalgia. While for some of you the pain may be inevitable, you had better understand one thing…the suffering is optional; we will not tolerate complaining and whining about how bad you have it. We will work with one another, sharing things that are making us feel better, knowing that we are all striving for the same goal…to feel better, but that won’t happen if all we do is talk about every ache and pain, and how bad we feel. "

One of my clients even told me that the support group they had belonged to had one major purpose, to push for men and women with fibromyalgia to be able to more easily and quickly get disability benefits. Psychologically, this mind set spells doom and gloom, and a future of suffering.

Think about this for a moment, if my primary thrust is to be able to qualify for disability, then I have already accepted as my reality, that I will be incapacitated by fibromyalgia the rest of my life. I don’t know about you, but that is simply not a belief that I want to settle down with.

Fair or not, I have always been extremely reluctant to work with anyone as a client who was receiving disability benefits. This almost always creates a very tricky situation, one that can be difficult at best to overcome. What you have, is someone who is in pain, and has a good portion of their bills paid each month by the disability payments. You’re saying to them, “I can help you get back to the point where you have to work again, and pay your bills with the money you earn after a 40 hour work week. " As you might have guessed, most people dig their heels in deep when it comes to giving up free money, even if it means they might be pain free.

My advice is always the same; find out for yourself. If you’ve been thinking about a support group, then by all means go, and perhaps you’ll be fortunate enough to find a different group than most. If so, I’d love to hear about how the meetings are orchestrated. If however, you find that you’ve stepped into a den of pathetic complaining people, with no sense of direction or outcomes for their future, then run or walk as fast as you can, and know that feeling better is almost certainly a possibility.

Therapist and Author Paul Watzlawick once said, “The person that commits suicide arrives at the conclusion that what he is seeking does not exist; the seeker concludes that what he has not yet looked in the right place. "

Know in your heart that the wisdom of Watzlawick is your truth, things can get better, no matter what you are facing in life. Stay away from those who only complain and talk about how bad things are, and what they can’t do. Even if you currently struggle just to make it through each day, and are dealing with unthinkable tragedies in your life, seek out those who look to the future; find those that are there for you, but that who refuse to condone your acceptance of misery as a way of life.

© Copyright 2007, Vincent Harris-All Rights Reserved.

Vincent Harris is a professional speaker, trainer, and consultant. He is an expert on the new science of happiness, positive psychology, and teaches others how to become the kind of speaker that can leave the audience spellbound. Join his Free weekly Newsletter today, a $97 value and a Free ebook " A Step by Step System for Achieving Any Goal" , a $29 value, and a Special Report, " How to Stop Offending People Unconsciously, and Win Them Over in Record Time" Just visit or


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