Call-in Tuesday Nov. 19, Steve Ozanich Book Chapter 15 “Conditioning: The First Cut Is the Deepest.” Many people have posted on forums saying they are in pain when they sit down at the computer. Some say the pain starts immediately, while others say it starts after 15 minutes or more. Some stand up when they work on the computer, to avoid back pain. Steve quotes Dr. Sarno as saying the pain has nothing to do with sitting. The sufferer has conditioned their mind that it is. “The process of conditioning, or programming, seems to be very important in determining when the person with TMS will have pain,” says Dr. Sarno. What happens is, “The brain makes the association between sitting and the presence of pain and that person is now programmed to expect pain while sitting. They have learned to associate activity to pain. They expect it, so it happens. That is conditioning.” Steve says sitting = pain happened to him in his own healing from back pain. He says that whenever he would sit down, the blood would withdraw and the pain would begin on his back. He began to notice that he would be in a high-tension state when he sat down. He began to realize that he had become conditioned to expect pain when he sat, and the pain came on every time he sat. “Once it’s understood that sitting can never cause pain, the brain’s conditioned response begins reversing strategy until the tactic no longer works as a distractionary technique.” Some people have a conditioned response to taking medication. They believe the medication works to reduce or stop their pain. But did that happen because the person lay down to rest after taking the medication and resting reduced or stopped their pain? Perhaps the person simply believed their doctor when he/she told them the medication would help them. Was their belief in the doctor a placebo? Steve says he has seen the same conditioning work with the use of chondroitin and glucosamine, which have been touted by pharmaceutical companies as being able to prevent back and other body aches. I’ve been taking chondroitin and glucosamine gel caps daily for years, having believed commercials on television and advertisements in magazines. But no clinical proof has ever been shown that they actually are pain relievers. Yet, if we believe they will help us, we are conditioning ourselves that they work for us, while they may just be more placebos at work. Some people may have felt pain in their back when they bend down to tie their shoe laces. All it takes is that one painful bend to condition themselves, associating the bending to tie their shoes with pain. Steve calls this “pain’s thumbprint on the brain.” The brain remembers the pain. The brain created the pain defensively from the signals it first received, and memory is born. Now you begin to expect pain because of memory. Dr. Sarno recalls a woman who cold bend over and touch the palms of her hands to the floor without pain, but always felt pain when she put her shoes on. Conditioned response can take many forms and are infinite in number. They are similar to triggers, Steve says. A trigger can be an event, place, or substance that precedes a symptom or set of symptoms. I just talked last night with Anna, a friend who is in her 50s and has bad back pain for years. She makes her living cleaning other people’s houses, but isn’t built for such strenuous labor. She’s small and thin. I hadn’t talked to her in months so I asked how she felt, and she said “I feel wonderful. No more back pain!” I asked why that miracle happened and she said she had gotten used to feeling back pain soon as she began vacuuming or dusting a house and mopping floors, requiring a lot of bending over. But she did the work while being angry about her marriage and low finances. Then Anna began to do something about those and other stresses. It involved new thinking. She finally forgave her husband Fred for his bad financial mistakes (they lost the restaurant they worked so hard for), and she decided against divorcing him for leaving her with a lot of bills including the mortgage on the beautiful new house they had built. She had gotten rid of a lot of anger and financial frustration and had decided to put all her stresses behind her and go on from there. She had made peace with her husband and herself and her life. I then told Anna about TMS and repressed emotions and she agreed that by facing them, her back pain was no more, and she felt positive and confident about today and tomorrow. Now she was conditioning her mind into staying pain free. The work cleaning houses was still hard, but she lightened it by lightening the conditioned reflexes of anger and frustration that she had carried to her work days. To some, the glass is always half empty. To me, it is half full. Steve quotes Dr. Deepak Chopra saying that the body renews itself about once a year through cell replacement, as cells continually die off and are replaced by new ones. Thus, the body is essentially a new one about every year or so. People are told this but then ask why they still have their arthritis and clogged arteries. Dr. Chopra says that conditioning patterns, the cycle of pain, and other mind body symptoms are the result of the same circle of patterned information. “Through conditioning, we generate the same impulses of information and ideas, but also the same behaviors, the same dietary habits, the same sensory experience of the world.” Steve says, “The problem is, people aren’t viewing or reviewing their lives, and so they never change. They continue on their on their same conditioned paths, resulting in the same symptoms. The surgery, injections, drugs, and therapy allow them to continue on their same conditioned paths.” As a result, we retain last year’s negative conditioned Reponses to pain. The cells in bodies have been changed, but our mindsets have remained last year’s and the years before that when we felt pain sitting down or tying our shoes. We actually begin a new physical life each year, so we should recondition our minds to get rid of last year’s pain conditioning. Dr. Chopra says. Steve ends his chapter with a discussion of pain clinics, saying “Show me a chronic pain sufferer who has been helped by a pain clinic, and I will show you a person who is under the influence of a placebo. Treating the pain is not an option for healing in the long term.” Pain clinics, says Dr. Marc Sopher, are part of the problem. “They perpetuate the belief in infirmity. Most of the patients I see who have been to pain clinics are forever lost. They have been so completely conditioned to believe they have a physical/structural problem that they cannot open their minds.” How do we change awareness of the conditioning we impose upon ourselves? Steve says, “It happens only through a deeper understanding, by breaking associations. Nothing can grow until something first dies and new soil is broken. Break the daily patterns. Change your life!” Anna changed her life. She got rid of old conditioned reflexes that caused her pain. I waited until now to tell you that she is from Croatia and her husband from Serbia. They fled to Germany when their countries were at war, of they and their two children would have been killed by either faction. A modern-day Romeo and Juliet. They fled to Germany and when their visa expired after a few years, they came to the United States. I met them when they had just arrived in Chicago and came to my garage sale in a suburb. I asked them about their accents and they told me their exodus story. They needed work here and I helped them both. Fred became a carpenter working for a construction friend of mine and Anna began cleaning houses starting with my friends'. In Germany, she had been the secretary to the president of an import-export business, but her command of English was not good enough to get her a white-collar job so she started her own house-cleaning business. A big come-down for her, and for her husband who had been a chef in Germany. They had a lot of reasons to be angry and frustrated at how life had treated them, and their dream of owning a restaurant in America was short-lived and the bad economy put them in debt. Fred is now driving a truck cross-country and Anna will continue cleaning houses. He has not yet put the hard knocks of life behind him, as she has. We both hope he will learn from her lesson. Bad conditioning can cause pain and mental anguish. Good conditioning can give us a whole new outlook on life, free of pain. We hope you will join the call-in Tuesday and share your experiences and thoughts on how conditioning can cause us pain, or make us pain-free.