Your Cart

Get free shipping on orders over {{threshold}}!

How I Cultivated an Ownership Mindset to Manage My Chronic Pain

Roderick McMullen


You Manage Your Pain. It Doesn't Manage You. Part I

This is the first post in Rick's series on managing his own chronic pain condition.

  1. You Manage Your Pain I: How I Cultivated an Ownership Mindset to Manage My Chronic Pain (this post)
  2. You Manage Your Pain II: The Three Tools I Use to Manage My Chronic Pain
  3. How I Stay out of the Chronic Pain Cycle (coming soon)
  4. More to come!

Hi! I’m Rick, co-founder of Alleviate. I’m starting a series of posts that I’m really excited about - I’m going to share my own story of reclaiming my life from chronic pain. My hope is that the methodology I’ve learned to use will help others in similar situations do the same.

I was on a college hockey team when I had a knee injury that ended up becoming chronic. I used to let my pain manage me. Now, it’s the other way around. I manage my pain. It’s an empowering feeling: I don’t ignore pain, but I no longer feel that pain is dictating how I live my life.

It took me more than 10 years of trial, error, and eventual success to take back control of my life from chronic knee pain. The injury is still there, and I’m not always pain-free. But the pain doesn’t dictate what I do every day. I do.

This has been a powerful shift from where I was. In this series, I’ll share how I moved from a “Victim Mindset” to an “Ownership Mindset.” This mindset has been incredibly useful in managing my long-term injury and pain, and I believe it can be useful to you, too.

In this first post, I’ll describe what being in the Victim Mindset was like for me, and outline the three key things that helped me adopt the Ownership Mindset: Mental Models, Beliefs, and Recipes. In the next post, I’ll dive deeper into what they are and how they work together to keep me in the Ownership Mindset.

Disclaimer 1: This isn’t medical advice. I’m not a doctor and I’m not telling you what to do - I’m sharing my own experience. To keep it advice-free, I write about myself, my experience, how I think and what I do. I hope that it is useful to others who, like me, want to be as self-reliant as possible. I have chronic pain; I’m highly engaged in my own care and I relentlessly educate myself about physiology, injury and rehab; but I’m definitely not a doctor.

Disclaimer 2: The techniques discussed here do NOT apply equally to all chronic pain conditions, or even all cases of the same condition. I’ll touch on this in later posts, but when self-management isn’t getting you where you need to be, lean on your doctor or physical therapist!

Okay, with the disclaimers out of the way, let’s go.

Okay, with the disclaimers out of the way, let’s go.

Victim Mindset vs. Ownership Mindset in chronic pain management

I never set out to be educated about injury. I had to, after a knee injury from college sports ended up becoming a source of chronic issues. In my twenties and early thirties, without my realizing it, knee pain started to manage my life. I gave up activities I loved. I started to overthink how I moved to avoid pain. Maybe worst of all – I slowly started to accept that I was “broken.”

This had an impact on my physical body – I was less active, weaker, more prone to weight gain, and very limited in terms of what I felt I could participate in.

The effect it had on my mind was just as profound. I stopped thinking of myself as athletic and lost confidence. I started to notice it seeping into non-physical realms of life, like work and relationships. I honestly felt bad for myself for ever having gotten hurt. I adopted a Victim Mindset.

My Victim Mindset did not serve me well - and today, I am glad to be rid of it.

Granted, I still have underlying damage to my knee, and I still have to manage knee pain. I always will. But today, I do whatever activities I want. I am strong and I feel strong. I feel in control. My body works for me, not the other way around. I call this my Ownership Mindset. This mindset helps me live my life the way I want, and I think most people in comparable situations can build it.

So what changed?

How I cultivated an Ownership Mindset to manage chronic pain

In order for me to actively manage my Injury, I had to learn three key things and practice applying them - a lot:

  1. Embrace Mental Models
    A Mental Model is a useful simplification of a complex reality that aids in learning. Good ones drive positive action. In the context of chronic pain, a mental model simplifies your understanding of the physiology of your injury and mechanisms of interventions.

  2. Adopt Foundational Beliefs
    A Belief is a conviction or acceptance that something is true or exists, sometimes before you see proof.

  3. Practice Action Recipes
    A Recipe is a structured step-by-step guide to achieve a desired outcome or solution.

These three things build on each other. Every Mental Model, Belief, and Recipe is independently useful. When combined, they create a virtuous cycle that is critical to my current Ownership Mindset.

Behavioral scientist Devorah Klein developed the concept of Adherence Loop , where patients who 1) believe a treatment will improve their condition, 2) understand how the treatment works, 3) know exactly how to use the treatment, and 4) see the positive results from it are more likely to stick to the treatment regimen than patients who lack some or all of these attributes - and consequently, have better outcomes.

Mental Models, Beliefs, and Action Recipes work together and reinforce each other in similar ways. And my approach to these tools are heavily informed by the Adherence Loop concept.

To give more credit where it’s due, most of the specific Beliefs, Mental Models, and Recipes that have helped me break out of the Victim Mindset are adapted from the clinical practice of Luke Ferdinands - my physical therapist, as well as my Alleviate Co-Founder.

Why Mindsets are powerful - and what they aren’t

So, in summary, this is about transitioning from a state where pain controlled my life and limited my choices to one where I actively manage my pain. I achieved the mindset shift through the application of tools to put the mindset into action: simple Mental Models, empowering Beliefs, and practical Recipes.

It’s often underappreciated that managing a long-term injury is both a physical game and a mental one. The Ownership Mindset is a structured way to have a strong mental game. With a resilient mindset, I believe many of you can also reclaim control over your favorite activities and reduce the impact of pain on your daily life, relationships, and overall well-being.

To be clear, the Ownership Mindset is not about ignoring pain or willing yourself to push through it. It’s about being able to take an active role in recognizing, managing, and preventing pain. When I break down the Mental Models, Beliefs, and Recipes in the next post, I think the distinction will become even clearer.

To your health till then,


Help me help you & stay in the loop

If you can spare a minute, let me know what you're most interested in, so I can prioritize what posts come out next. Drop your email, and our team will keep you in the loop.