You are more than the stigma imposed to you

What if you believe an unexpected fact. That is, whatever is written in our hardwire- our brain and the way we behave- cannot be deleted. Yes! Our mind has been evolved not to erase thinks that we have learned. So, the more we try to delete something, the more it comes up…

Just try this: for the next minute, you must not think about what I say. Not even for a microsecond. Don’t think about…. A brownie cake. Don’t think about the chocolate lava cake and its flavor. Don’t think about how it smells as I put it off the oven. Don’t think about how the chocolate lava melts in your mouth… do whatever you want, but don’t think of the damn brownie cake! so, how are you doing? You may for a second forget the cake or erase it completely from your mind and that’s ok, but can I ask you, why you did this? Why you tried to do something else? Not to do what?  You got it!

We cannot really control or erase thinks that have been wired in our brain.. and if we do so, we end it up with a power struggle… damn, here is the brownie cake!

Research shows that neither self-stigma (the stigma that imposed from us) nor public stigma (the stigma that is imposed from others) can be completely disappeared, simply, because people do not unlearn cultural stereotypes once they are learned. This is also the case for people with chronic pain, experiencing stigma.

What we can do to protect these people from stigmatized behaviours, either self-imposed or imposed by others?

We can learn ways to distance any stigmatizing thoughts and feelings (shame, self-evaluation, anger) so that they can have less impact on behaviours that align with their valued ways of being (active members of communities, family supporters, etc.). By doing this, enabling people with chronic pain to engage in more adaptive behaviours (values), even in the presence of stigma, can make the stigmatizers less able to detect reflections of pain, distress, and disability where they can impose stigma.

Strengthening individuals’ capacity to pursue adaptive behaviours, can then positively impact their quality of life, and even lowering the perceived stigma they feel they get from others. This appears to be an urgent action for Irish individuals with CP which present with lower Quality of life, compared to their European peers.

ASpida: Against Stigma Pain Intervention Development Approach

The ASpida is an innovative, patient-led intervention approach which attempts to stop stigma for individuals with chronic pain (CP) by incorporating key stakeholders, such as the Chronic Pain Ireland and the School of Applied Psychology, to bring individuals with CP experiences’ at every stage from co-designing to implementing the program.

A Public and patient involvement panel (PPI) will participate as co‐researchers and PPI’s participants’ role will include the following:

  • contribute to the content and usability development of the program,
  • propose solutions which will transform a theory-based concept into an operationalizing self-care program,
  • co-facilitate focus groups to better understand what needs to be delivered,
  • co-develop the content of the ASpida program,
  • facilitate the program to their local communities,
  • train others to deliver it

The program will be a one-time, ½ day, face-to-face, group-based intervention, run by trained individuals with CP. It will make use of a unified model of behaviour change, coined psychological flexibility, focusing on enhancing individuals’ strengths and capacities. The program will emphasize teaching mindfulness, self-compassion, and valued-based living practices as antidotes to stigmatized behaviours. It will also learn to individuals how to distance themselves from stigmatized behaviours.

So, you can start feeling that …. you are more than the stigma imposed to you….

You can learn to be like the blue sky… the sky doesn’t care about the weather underneath. Whether it is cloudy, stormy, or windy… the sky just observes what is happening, without reacting… be like a sky and revert your energy to things that matter to you the most.


If you want to contribute or join the ASpida group, email to Dr. Vasilis S. Vasiliou, Clinical Psychologist and Post-Doctoral Researcher at the University College Cork, School of Applied Psychology:  

Scroll to Top