A REVOLUTION without Us versus Them?

By Jill Fancher, PhD

As a pain psychologist and person with pain I get to straddle both worlds of patient and provider. I hear the talk on both sides - actually I sometimes probably incite the talk on both sides. But, the kind of talk I try to incite is not divisive. Nor, is it a Pollyanna view of how things work. The reality is that a divide currently exists between the person with pain and the medical community. While some regions are better than others, generally, most people with pain can tell you that when they interact with members of the medical community they feel patronized, dismissed, invalidated, psychologized, treated as a "drug seeker," treated like a second class citizen, and overall, stigmatized because of the condition they live with everyday. It would be "easy" to turn to negative and hateful tactics of shaming and blaming the medical community, creating a deeper divide in an ill-fated effort to demand change. But, that is NOT THE ANSWER TO THE PROBLEM! Divides don't end through hate, they grow in hate. Through understanding both sides we can make a real change. Through mutual compassion we can make a real change. While we, as people with pain, deserve and will continue to advocate fiercely to change the cultural stigma of pain, the change must come from mutually held values. At the Mastering Pain Institute we use the acronym "VECTOR" to communicate our values. VECTOR is a mathematical term that means both direction and magnitude. It is also an acronym.


  • VALIDATING: We strive to begin and maintain every relationship with validation of the experiences and needs of the other person. Ensuring they feel understood and that all members of our team have an accurate conceptualization of the expressed needs and experiences.
  • EMPOWERING: We strive to empower others to develop skills, relationships, meaning, attitudes, and knowledge to grow personal strength, resiliency, and reduce stress.
  • CURIOUS: It is critical, as good scientists, that we demonstrate curiosity about the cause, the course, and effectiveness of treatments for each individual's concerns. 
  • TEACHING: We strive to teach the community about the advances in the physical basis of pain and pain treatment.
  • OUTCOMES DRIVEN: We focus on coaching others to meet the realistic goals they have established. There is no one-sized-fits-all approach; its about trying new approaches and measuring the outcomes to determine fit for the individual.  
  • RESPECTING: We strive to show respect and compassion to all individuals, building strength in rapport and relationships. 

Applying the concepts of CURIOSITY lead me to the blog of Dr. Lamberts where he explains what its like as a medical provider working with chronic conditions.  

Take a look. Hearing his take on things is certainly eye-opening for many with pain. I appreciate that he does not defend "jerks." Medical providers, like all people, have a range of personalities, some you will click with and some you won't.