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The Importance of Addressing Childhood Issues

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Lori, Jul 24, 2012.

  1. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Boy, can I relate to this thread. Especially you, BruceMC. Three years ago, I had a spontaneous recovery from TMS severe back pain that had started about 5 years before. This "recovery" happened after reading 2 of Dr. Sarno's books. I know now that I had sporadic outbursts of TMS beginning at the age of 2 years old. Then about a year ago, the pain returned with a vengeance. I did not at first see the pattern here. Four months ago, I experienced another almost spontaneous recovery from TMS pain and other symptoms. Only by this time I was beginning to see the pattern. The pain has not returned, but about a month ago I began to remember extremely traumatic memories from my early childhood that must have been repressed. I had always sensed that I had an unhappy childhood, but didn't remember almost any of it. I have also had terrible problems with insomnia all my life. As my pain improved, my insomnia got worse and worse. Often, I could not sleep at all. I went back on sleeping pills that I had gone off of six months earlier. That is when I began remembering all this stuff.
    1. I was physically abused by a babysitter who took care of me while my parents traveled. This happened while I was being toilet trained at 2 years of age and involved violent shaking, dragging, and being violently thrown against the back of the toilet seat each time I had an "accident". I was terrified to tell my parents. My father was an alcoholic and they had their own problems.
    2. Right after that, I started having terrible nightmares and night terrors and would wake up screaming. My mother told me I had been in pain, but I don't remember that.
    3. Then I was put in the hospital so that the doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. I remember three weeks of being wrestled down repeatedly by doctors and nurses while they did all their tests and I screamed in mortal terror and pain. My mother told me later that, when I finally got home, my arms were all swollen and black and blue, and she had counted 26 puncture wounds in my butt. They did not find anything seriously wrong with me. My mother never trusted the medical profession after that.
    4. I became afraid of everything and everyone.
    5. When I was 5, I was hit by a car while being chased by an older child. I only had bad bruises and a mild concussion, but I got up and ran and hid because I was so terrified of doctors and hospitals. It took the police and practically the whole neighborhood almost 2 hours to find me. I was taken to the emergency room, but was released later in the day. That evening, I was punished for not looking where I was going, but my mother would not let my father hit me
    6. I was constantly picked on by older children because I was so fearful. I froze like a deer in headlights.

    All this and more I repressed. I am dealing with the rest of it now. But I have no more pain. Isn't that great?
  2. Stella

    Stella Well known member

    Wow, powerful stuff.
  3. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, Stella, this whole string is filled with powerful painful emotions left over from childhood. But as far as the development of TMS is concerned, emotions left over from childhood are only 1/2 (or as Dr Sarno would say, 1/3) of the problem. TMS pain develops, I would say, very much as a process of repressing emotions in the present moment; however, painful emotional memories from childhood provide a fertile ground for that kind of repression developing, especially after some other traumatic event occurs in your life such as a traffic accident or the death of a parent or spouse. It's an incremental process that occurs when, to paraphrase Gabor Mate, your body finally starts saying NO! Just reliving painful childhood memories isn't enough to defuse the psychological process generating TMS symptoms; in fact, such reenactment can strengthen the programmed pain pathways. Again, as Dr Sarno emphasizes, it's knowledge of how the mechanism of repression works that really lets you stand outside the process and deprogram it. I guess if you want to speak philosophically, you have to fashion a new "ground" for yourself that gives you a perspective on how TMS is operating in you.
  4. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for sharing chickenbone. It sounds like you have been able to process and defuse the tension these events were generating. I was curious, what techniques did you find helpful in accessing these memories? Was it mainly journaling?

    Great point Bruce. This is something that I actually posted about recently in another thread. Past events, especially traumatic ones that Chickenbone mentioned, are going to be a major factor in why/how we develop a repressive personality. I know that the main reason I have anxiety has to do with my mother dying when I was young. At the same time, if we don't learn how to "defuse the psychological process" when we explore the past we can easily increase our anxiety and have our symptoms worsen. I find full recovery happens when we connect our childhood events with how we repress emotions in the present. If you can do that you can reduce the emotional tension building up inside of you.
    breakfree, mike2014 and BruceMC like this.
  5. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Glad you asked, Forest. I think your comments about past events are right on. The reason I chose to explore my past traumatic childhood events is because I could clearly see how they were affecting me STILL in the present. I am not generally in favor of the notion of digging up past events just for the sake of doing it. I think it should only be done when they are clearly repressed and are causing repression in the present, as in my case. For example, my husband, who had a difficult childhood, had years of CBT. His therapists decided that they would not disturb those memories, just help him deal with present issues. This approach seemed to work for him, although perhaps not completely, because he has a lot of trouble sleeping and constant unpleasant dreams.

    To answer your question, I did some journaling, but not a lot. EFT helped tremendously. I finally think that I have successfully got the TMS under control (I say under control, but I will always be prone to it) by really believing in the concept that my emotions are creating the pain, the pain is harmless no matter how the symptoms shift or how bad or scary they appear, and FEELING and ACKNOWLEDGING my feelings no matter how unacceptable they are to my conscious mind. I really had to face my "shadow" and allow it to exist, realizing that I am only human with all my faults. This is not easy to do. Perhaps I can provide a recent example. I have been pretty much pain free for the last 5 months, with the exception of some short recurrences of pain/other symptoms (the symptom imperative). These relapses would last from 15 minutes to several hours. But they always disappeared. Basically, the unconscious employs a pain strategy to distract and I have developed a conscious strategy to deal effectively with these relapses. I recently am dealing with worries about my husband's diabetes, one of my dogs was killed by a car, and my 2 other dogs are both chronically sick, mostly due to genetic problems. I also think they stress because of my emotional issues. Anyway, I had a terrifically bad relapse last week after we had to drive almost clear across Panama to meet a Costa Rican surgeon who could potentially help our one dog with a tumor in his mouth. Travel is a big stressor for me anyway. But I am please to report that the TMS attack only lasted for about a day and a half, after both back pain and allergies returned. Here is how I did it.

    I completely accept that the symptoms are TMS related and are harmless. So when they returned, I expected it because of the stress I was under. I was not at all fearful and did not look for physical causes, just told myself this was just more of the TMS. To accomplish this, the belief in the TMS origin of symptoms must be unshakable. The minute you start extrapolating the symptoms beyond the current moment or begin to feel fearful, you are starting to lose the battle. You must believe completely that, just because you are experiencing symptoms in THIS moment, the next moment/hour/day can and will be different. This belief in constant change must be unshakable. Even if you get different symptoms in the next moment/hour/day, this represents forward progress. I also needed to completely allow all of my attitudes and feelings, although extremely conflicting, to surface into consciousness and give them space. For example, part of me is saying that I will do anything, no matter how inconvenient or expensive, to save my dog and help my husband. Another part is saying that I don't need this aggravation in my life, let's just put the dog down so we don't have to deal with this and my husband is to blame for his diabetes because he won't stop eating sweets. The former, of course, is completely unacceptable to my conscious mind and would normally produce guilt, which would also be repressed. I allowed space for that too. In other words, I allowed myself all of the divergent emotions and attitudes into consciousness, looked at both the good and bad sides of me and accepted all of it. I realize that I am not a perfect being, but who ever said we were supposed to be perfect anyway. We just should do the best we can, given the flaws in our nature. I think for the first time in my life, I am really not trying to be perfect. I realize how futile that is no matter what others have to say about it. Others are not perfect either, although they may be good at deceiving themselves that they are or strive to be. The next morning, I awoke without symptoms. I noticed that I was without symptoms, instead of recreating them again by looking for them. I realized for the first time that, in the past, during periods when my TMS symptoms were bad, that I often awoke without symptoms, but didn't notice because I would always immediately bring them back by looking for them or feeling fearful that they would be back. Now I don't particularly expect them back and I don't FEAR them coming back. If they do come back, they come back as a friend, not a foe, as a warning and an opportunity for further self knowledge to happen. Either way, I am a winner. You cannot fear or deny symptoms, you must allow and work with them for the self knowledge they have to offer. If you can do this successfully, you will never fear them again.

    I still think I have a lot of emotional problems, but what has changed, because of my experience with TMS, is that now I am willing to clearly see and deal with them so that they won't ravage my body. I have probably beat the TMS, but it has taught me that there is still a lot of work to do.
    BridgetE, matamore, breakfree and 6 others like this.
  6. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    Amazing post, Chickenbone. Right on.
    Karen likes this.
  7. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    To anyone out there wondering, Chickenbone just laid out exactly what you need to do to recover.

    This was one of the best posts that I have read for sometime. I have been trying to respond for a while, but keep coming across another line or paragraph that jumps out at me as the most important thing. Some of the points you brought up resonated with me, particularly, The minute you start extrapolating the symptoms beyond the current moment or begin to feel fearful, you are starting to lose the battle.

    This reminds me of the idea Alan Gordon discussed in the last webinar about Galloping, which is simply when we let an idea (fear) or a symptom (pain) turn into an ever increasing line of anxious thoughts that keep us from allowing our current emotions and thoughts. When we gallop we repress our emotions. For me, knowing that the symptoms were not permanent allowed me to break that fear cycle, and bring my attention back to the present. This sounds like something that you were able to do as well. Knowing that the next moment/hour/day can and will be different gave me hope for the first time in a long time. Hope and confidence allow us to reduce our anxiety and stop galloping in our minds so much. This is when we can finally become allowing all of the divergent emotions and attitudes into consciousness.

    Your post is golden, and if any of you have not yet read it, I encourage you to read it again and again and again, until you get what Chickenbone is saying.

    breakfree, mike2014 and kim marie like this.
  8. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Thanks, Forest. I think that recovering from TMS (mostly there, but still have lots of issues) is the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.
  9. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    this is awesome chickenbone
    the best post I've ever read
    your an overcomer
    about another 3 months and youll be stronger
    and then progressively stronger
    stay course my friend
    Forest likes this.
  10. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Thanks, Eric, you are such a doll. I could not have done without the support of all my friends on the forum, especially you Eric because you have taken a special interest in me. I really appreciate that .Since I am sort
    of isolated here in Panama (otherwise I love it), it is really important for me to have online friends.
  11. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    Thank you I learned so much from your post. I recently had a setback. I was doing so well but I had some pain this past Sat. while I was
    looking for shoes for my wedding which is this weekend. I started to get so much pain in my sciatica. Then, Sunday I started analyzing the
    pain before I got out of bed ( which I know brings on more pain) and then I could not put pressure on my left leg when I walk. So, I have
    had trouble walking since then. This time I did not get discouraged or fearful or try to rest. I am not accepting it as a distraction. I do not
    feel nervous about getting married but maybe since I have not lived with a husband since the death of my husband 9 years ago; I think living
    with someone everyday may be something I need to examine. That unconsciously might be stressful.

    The one good thing the pain has been moving around.

    I would appreciate any suggestions?

    Chickenbone, you said you have a strategy when the symptoms come. Can you explain that? May I also ask if you did a lot of journaling?
    I really benefited from your post.
  12. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    I will be starting Dr. Scubiner's workbook. I know you wrote that post in Aug. 2012 but it really inspired me.
    Did you fine journaling and looking deeper decreased your symptoms? I have not really been consistent in journaling
    at all? My work is a lot less the next four months so I am going to really immerse myself in journaling. I been procrastinating
    doing it. I think I do not want to take a look at different seasons of my life that were difficult; like my childhood and my marriage.
    I think I am ready.
    Thank You,
  13. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    GR, I first went through the SEP followed by Schubiner's Unlearn Your Pain workbook starting in March 2012, and both of those courses contain sections involving journaling about past traumatic events. However, I have slowly and gradually been getting better ever since I read Dr Sarno's book maybe 3 or 4 years ago at the time of my TMS relapse. IOWs: Journaling and meditation certainly helped me to recovery faster, but they helped me go in a direction I was already headed, so I can't say they were central to my TMS recovery. Now it's more a matter of reading books and studying case histories both on and off this Forum that seem to be helping me along a path I was already headed. Mostly I think it's not obsessing about my symptoms and not paying attention to them that's signaled my improvement. The old pain locations are still there, but they're like 'ghosts' of their old distracting selves. I seem to be more in touch with my emotions so the pain is no longer necessary to distract me from painful thoughts and memories I'm trying to ignore and/or forget.
  14. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    Thank you. I have been reading this book called The Anatomy of a Miracle by James Richards. It has really been helping me.
    May I ask what is IOW's? I find also that when I do not fear the symptoms or pay attention to them has really helped me in my

    My daughter and my fiance do not understand why I don't go to the doctor. Last night, they both were expressing I should see
    a doctor or chiropracter and still do the TMS strategies. I try to explain to them but they are not getting it but it took me a long
    time for the TMS strategies to really sink in.

    I am going to start the Schubiner's workbook.
    Thank you,
  15. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    IOWs = In other words. email/texting acronym.

  16. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Hi GR, I am not at all surprised that you had a relapse of symptoms right before your wedding. However, it might be helpful if you could try to touch on these feelings and physical sensations in order to make friends with them, because that is what they are. You are being offered a whole new and refreshing way to experience yourself. Try to just notice them without fear, analysis or judgment and believe that the next moment could be totally different. Although we generally think of weddings as joyful events, they are also right up there on the list of stressors and anxiety provokers. You probably have a lot of conflicting emotions and thoughts at this time and that is perfectly normal. You should make a special effort to very kind to yourself at this time. My first husband also passed away at 32. Five years later I remarried and I probably even had repressed feelings of guilt for marrying another man. As much as I love my current husband, I think I never really got over the death of my first husband.

    To answer your question, the strategy I have developed involves getting in touch with my emotional feelings while staying firmly anchored in the present moment. Let's say for example, if I was facing what you are about to face like getting married, I would first of all identify my "feeling state". Let's say that my mind has labeled it as "anxiety". Remember that all feeling emotions are basically unconscious (and possibly repressed) physical sensations. Our minds sense this jumble of physical sensations that we call feelings and place a thought or label on them, such as "I am experiencing anxiety". I believe that we do not need to analyze why, for what reason, we are experiencing these at this moment. That is often obvious if you are about to be married. These feeling sensations only want expression in consciousness so I give them that by focusing totally, in a quiet place, on what is happening internally in my body while I am experiencing this anxiety. I do this because I know that by allowing their full expression, they will cease to bother me, if I recoil from them, they will bother me more. For example, in my case, I can sense and feel the actions of my CNS. I can usually feel that there is a tightening or knot, even a slight panicky feeling in my gut. From here, I begin to be aware that my heart is pumping a little faster and this extra volume of blood is coursing through my veins. I am aware of some fullness in my chest as well as some readiness and flexing of my muscles as if getting ready for fight, flight or freeze. It is hard to explain, but I trace these feeling states to uncomfortable and often alien to my conscious mind, physical sensations generated unconsciously by my CNS. At first, this is very hard to do because we are so accustomed to being completely unaware of them. However, my firm anchor in the present prevents these physical sensations from overwhelming me or causing me to act on these sensations like running around the room. While doing these exercises, I do not focus on the pain or TMS symptoms if I am having them. I only notice them and that is it. Sometimes I become aware of another emotion, such as fear or anger that needs addressing. Again, I go through the exercise of touching and directing focused awareness at these uncomfortable physical sensations until I have achieved some comfort level with them. In my case, usually the TMS symptoms will disappear almost without notice.

    I have often been able to relieve my chronic insomnia using these exercises of discovery of where in my body uncomfortable sensations are coming from and to quiet them using soothing music or meditations. This usually involves discovering the sensation through focused awareness, bringing it into consciousness, and then doing whatever it seems to be asking for relief, all the while staying planted firmly in the present moment.
    I believe that, in this way, these unconscious sensations do not build up and cause chronic pain. So far this strategy has worked quite successfully for me.

    I read several books during my TMS recovery journey. The 2 that helped me the most were Dr. James Alexander's book "The Hidden Psychology of Pain", and Dr. Peter Levine's book, "In an Unspoken Voice, How the Body Releases trauma and Restores Goodness". Of course, I also read all of Dr. Sarno's books in the beginning. These were instrumental in developing my firm belief that I had TMS. I modeled my exercises after the ones suggested by Dr. Levine.
    hecate105, Forest, G.R. and 1 other person like this.
  17. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Another great point, chickenbone. I have also found that my body is a great signal that I may have emotions trying to escape very helpful. I seem to be able to notice when my heart rate increases and my ANS is activated easier then knowing when I am being anxious or angry about something. As you mentioned, so much progress can be made by simply allowing these feelings to be present. You may not need to figure out why you have these emotions. Allowing and being present with them can be enough.
  18. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Forest, You understand exactly what I am saying. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
    Forest likes this.
  19. PeterO

    PeterO Peer Supporter


    V.helpful advice.

    A bit like re-tracking the pain symptom along
    the pathways from which it came, right back
    to it's emotional core. Just doing this now, I can
    feel a (physical) tension release of all that which I
    have inadvertently involved in the pain response.

    I can feel a real letting go.

    Much thanks.

  20. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    Thank you for taking the time to really explain. I want to make sure I understand what you are saying.
    What you do when you start to get a pain or anxious or fear; you stay in the present and go to a quiet place
    where you acknowledge your physical symptoms such as heart racing... Then, I am not sure what you do after
    this. Would you mind explaining it again? I am so sorry.

    I was really doing so well. Then about three weeks before my wedding, I started to get back pain and burning in my legs. In Nov.
    it was sciatica pain. I guess it is good it is moving around. I am definitely now seeing the connection between emotions and
    the pain. I am going away this weekend to a graduation and I have a lot of pain now.. I think I am not staying in the present
    and am concerned about the walking and what if I cannot keep up with everyone. Does anyone have some advice?
    Chickenbone, how would you handle this?

    I have found just by expressing myself in this post the pain has definitely decreased.

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