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Black Duck Moments

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There is a psychologist, named Bruce Singer, in Connecticut who works with people who have chronic pain and other problems, using a type of therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). He tells a story that goes something like this: Once upon a time, people believed all ducks were white. All of the ducks they saw were white, so naturally they believed all ducks were white. Then a peasant saw a bird that was black, and recognized it as a duck! The news spread, and people were no longer able to believe that all ducks were white.

Lovely story, but why is it in a blog that is supposed to be about chronic pain? Here’s the thing – people with chronic pain often believe that they have always have pain, their pain is always severe, they are never going to be any better, the only thing that helps is narcotic pain medications, and lots of other “always,” “nevers,” and “onlys.” It’s like believing all ducks are white. The point of the story is about “black duck moments.” The moments, when you are laughing with friends, when you lose yourself in a movie, when you see your grandchild, whatever, when you forget, maybe just for an instant, that you have pain. If you recognize the black duck, you can no longer go on believing that all ducks are white. If you recognize the moments when you forget you have pain, you can no longer go on believing that you always have pain.

Back to the people in the story: once they knew about black ducks, there were more and more sightings. The people got better and better at spotting black ducks. Some people even started raising black ducks! Can you find a black duck moment? Can you create your own black duck moments?


At North Shore Pain Management we provide advanced, evidence based, multidisciplinary and cost effective pain management. Our goal is to improve your ability to return to the activities you have been missing as well as provide a meaningful reduction in pain.

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