1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
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New Program a few questions that I just can’t wrap my head around

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Kerrj74, Jul 20, 2017.

  1. Kerrj74

    Kerrj74 Well known member

    Alan: Thanks for doing this! I am very grateful for you. After 8 months now of chronic low back pain and reading every article, book, and audiobook on TMS and Mind-Body Syndrome, I am sure this must be TMS. I even saw “All the Rage” last night in NJ. I have had so many unexplained TMS equivalents over the years- back pain, elbowtendonitis” in both arms, “carpal tunnel syndrome” in wrist, stomach nervousness, severe chronic Anxiety and Depression, dry eyes, IBS, headaches, etc. I completely match the profile- goodist, perfectionist, worrier, overachiever, etc. Despite all of my recent back pain treatments over the past 8 months and telling myself all day long that there is nothing to fear, nothing is physically wrong, and that this will go away, I am still sitting here in 24/7 pain. No improvement.

    I have a few questions that I just can’t wrap my head around after all this time...

    1) About a month and a half ago, I did a lot of yard work one weekend, and then felt GREAT for about 5 days! I had no pain at all! It was a miracle. I had always been exercising over these 8 months (with no results), but this was the most bending and “straining” I had done up until that point. I was so happy, I thought I was all better. Then it returned and I haven’t been able to find that kind of relief again ever since. I have continued to stay active, but it hasn’t helped. What’s that all about?

    2) I had a great childhood with great parents and no trauma. Nobody yelled at me or caused any emotional or physical abuse. No bullying. So, I can’t figure out how the TMS is from repressed childhood rage? The only things that I believe could be a factor is that since early childhood, I have always been afraid to fail and always wanted control (in order to not fail!). My "success" in life since childhood was being able to control or manage my “workload” and be perfect. That allowed me not to fail, and be a "success" in everything. I think that has caused me all the chronic anxiety and pains in life. I think this is all fear of failure that has driven me in everything I do. Thoughts? Sound like TMS even though no traumatic experiences?

    3) I have read a lot about chronic pain and the neuropathways that form causing you pain. I really believe in that. Is it possible that what was originally a TMS emotional “distraction” is now a hardened neuropathic pain pathway that cannot be undone by just letting go of the fear and confronting my emotions? Is it more complicated than that?

    Thanks so much!
    Bodhigirl and Lily Rose like this.
  2. Lily Rose

    Lily Rose Beloved Grand Eagle

    My first thought about the 'reason' for this can be summed up as Expectations. Generally, when people exercise, they have specific goals, or they are doing because they 'have to'. There is an expectation of an outcome. I have always disliked the word 'exercise'. I do not exercise. I spin Poi, I dance, I practice yoga, I do what ever I am doing, and sometimes the byproduct turns out to be exercise. When I do any body motions, I am doing it because it feels good, and it is in the realm of a spiritual practice.

    Expectations can set up a cycle. "I exercise so that I will feel better, but if it didn't work last time, it might not work this time, but I will try, but I just don't know if it will, I hope it will, oh no it hurts, should I stop or push through, if I push through will it hurt worse, what if .. what if .. "

    I have seen many posts about pushing through.
    I do not. That method does not work for me.

    Instead, I teach my body that if it hurts, I will stop what I am doing and engage in soothing talk and let it know that I treasure it. I then modify what I am doing and check in to see if I feel safe. If that is working, I stay there for a little while, then s l o w l y and gently move closer to where it 'hurt' before. And I check in continually. In time, I can usually get there, and the fear is greatly diminished, and thus, the pain.

    If I push through, I feel that I am not honoring the signals that my body is sending out, which means, I am not listening.

    For me, it is about engaging in a deeply symbiotic relationship with my body, and constantly sending myself the message that I am worth this extra care. I proceed at my own pace, and eliminate expectations.

    Each person is unique, so each must try their own variations.

    You will find your own path, and it will be perfect :)

    .... with Love and Gratitude <3
    plum, Emre, MentorCoach and 3 others like this.
  3. Bodhigirl

    Bodhigirl Well known member

    Good inquiry re happy childhood, great parents and TMS. For me, I think some of us are just highly sensitive from birth. Theoretically, we are all anxious at birth, leaving the safety of mom for the world. Our baby self may surely exist within us, shocked by this life, tensing at noise, stressful things, work performance, athletics, whatever.
    I just see a million causes for anxiety in any moment and a million people wondering why? Existence is anxiety-provoking. You can rename it existential angst but it's still anxiety, which still begets TMS.
    Does that make sense or resonate?
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017
    Lauren T likes this.
  4. itmsw

    itmsw Peer Supporter

    Hi Kerrj74
    I think you are spot on in terms of the TMS being a result of needing to be perfect and fear of failure- thats a lot of pressure you put on yourself. I read that you saw the movie All the rage in NJ. I reside in NJ as well. I didnt realize the movie was out yet. If you dont mind me asking, where did you see the movie?
  5. Kerrj74

    Kerrj74 Well known member

    Thank you Lily Rose. You have an amazing attitude and perspective! I appreciate the kind words.
  6. Kerrj74

    Kerrj74 Well known member

    Yes, thank you! Great points that I never considered.
    Bodhigirl likes this.
  7. Kerrj74

    Kerrj74 Well known member

    It was in a small theater in Red Bank in Monmouth County. Just last night.
    Thanks for your reply.
  8. itmsw

    itmsw Peer Supporter

    Thank you for sharing where you saw it. That is awesome that it is out in theaters. Unfortunately, my back pain prevents me from going to the movies. I cant sit for more than twenty minutes without pain. Maybe someday Ill get there. I too reside in Monmouth county!! Hi Neighbor!
  9. Kerrj74

    Kerrj74 Well known member

    I live about 45 mins south and also have constant pain sitting, but I forced myself to go. I would imagine it will be available online at some point.
  10. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi kerrj,

    I see some of your above questions were answered already, here's my take on this one- definitely true about the neural pathways, as many of us have discussed I think this is the more accurate explanation for TMS's mechanism. Sarno's theory that TMS is a distraction implies an autonomously thinking brain...we might interpret the TMS as a distractor subjectively but really its all due to pathways and just the way the brain is set up. Alan Gordon and Howard Schubiner describe an alternate TMS theory that I like that the TMS pain is really more like a warning sign for negative and repressed emotions.

    Thankfully the brain is incredibly plastic so those pathways are by no means "hardened"! All learned behaviors and pathways can be undone...and the way to that is TMS healing, letting go of fear, confronting emotions and literally unlearning the pain pathways. It isn't more complicated than that. It might involve disassociating certain things in your mind (like actions that you have been conditioned to feel pain with). Alan's program addresses this very well.
    Kerrj74 and Lunarlass66 like this.
  11. Kerrj74

    Kerrj74 Well known member

    Thank you!
  12. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I could use some help understanding the phrase "autonomously thinking brain". Are you referring to the unconscious and unconscious thinking processes?
  13. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think its the difference between seeing the TMS paradigm as "the brain *decides* to protect you by giving you TMS pain when you have negative repressed emotions" versus "the brain is set up naturally via neural pathways to trigger a TMS pain response when there's an overflow of negative emotion." I think this is why TMS pain can continue even after you're uncovered some of the emotional sources of the pain, if the TMS symptoms are thought of more as a "warning signal" than "protection."

    As someone who studied a lot of neuroscience the 2nd is more intuitive to me. I think Sarno's theory about the brain protecting you is a good start but is possibly more an interpretation of what is going on. It relates to the psychological concept of defense mechanisms too. I see defense mechanisms as a natural consequence of how the brain is wired, rather than than your brain deciding to protect you.
    Lily Rose and Lunarlass66 like this.
  14. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

  15. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Three years ago I took a long hiatus from this forum and TMS theory because I was deeply vexed by what I called The Djinn of Pain. It was an essential aspect of the theory-as-was that never sat pretty or comfortably with me. I was beyond delighted upon returning here to see the neurological embrace which has been the saving grace for so many of us.

    In addition to the beautifully summarised response above I would like to add some words from @Forest which are taken from an email exchange between him and Alan Gordon. I shall link to the full post at the end for those interested in the context.

    "I responded as follows:
    I'm curious about your idea that the true defense is not the pain itself but rather the constant level of preoccupation. It certainly accords with my experience. I find that the easiest way to make symptoms go away is to stop caring in them (I also had tingling in my left pinky as well, for example, but I ignore it and it goes away).

    I'd like to push this explanation a little farther by offering two stories. I'm very curious, of the following two stories, which do you prefer? In both stories, Tim feels very guilty about being angry at his mother and this anger reinforces the brain's behavior of creating the TMS symptoms. However, the way that the TMS symptoms starts is different in the two cases.

    1.) When Tim realizes that he's angry at his mother, he feels guilty and gets tense/activated. Tension leads to a variety of chemical cascades and reactions which change various elements of his biology and biochemistry. One of these happens to lead to a physiological change that brings on a symptom, which distracts him from his guilt about his rage toward his mothers. This makes him feel better, so a cycle of operant conditioning begins, where his brain learns to create the precise chemical cascades and reactions that lead to the physiological changes that bring on the symptom.

    2.) Part of Tim's brain is afraid that he might realize that he's angry at his mother. This part of his brain really doesn't want this to happen because it feels that this would imply that Tim is a bad person, so it thinks about what it can do. Among the many things it knows, it is smart enough to know that if it creates a series of chemical cascades and reactions, that it will lead to a specific symptom, even though it may never have ever kicked off the series of reactions strongly enough to create the symptom before. Further, it realizes that this symptom will distract Tim from the intolerable thought. All of this is happening in a portion of Tim's brain that he can't consciously access. It is as if he has a second brain, and a very smart one at that. This second brain decides to kick off the series of reactions. This kicks off a cycle of operant conditioning, leading to more and more deeply entrenched symptoms.

    The first of these two stories seems much more of a pure operant conditioning model. Rather than presuming what practically amounts to a sentient being within our minds (i.e. the demon I mentioned in my previous email), it uses something akin to natural selection. In this story, random things happen - like random mutations happening in our genetic code. When the intolerable thought is considered, a host of different reactions occur, and most of them aren't reinforced. However, some of the things have consequences that reinforce the biological reactions that cause them. Much like a mutation that increases evolutionary fitness, these reactions get stronger because they are reinforced by protecting Tim from the intolerable thought.

    From the outside, natural selection looks a lot like there is an intelligent force guiding it. It is *as if* a very clever force were coming up with just the right mutations to speed evolution along. However, in fact, there is no intelligence at all; there is only randomness and a mechanism (natural selection) that picks out the mutations that happen to do well.
    Similarly, with the first model, there is absolutely no "demon" within our minds. It is all randomness, along with a mechanism (operant conditioning) that picks out the behaviors that happen to distract us from odious thoughts. Despite this, it *looks* like there is a very smart mind guiding it all, reinforcing exactly those physiological "behaviors" that kick off the cycle of preoccupation.

    I like this an awful lot because while I know that our brain acts as if it have spirits inside of them, the second story seems to presume a part of the brain which deliberately acts like such a spirit, which many may find hard to swallow. While it make a lot of sense to me that more primitive parts of our brains may be out of the reach of our consciousness but would still respond to operant conditioning (i.e. story 1), it's hard for me to see how we could have this second brain that can make such complicated plans (i.e. the part of story 2 before the operant conditioning). From an evolutionary perspective, it would simply require an awful lot of calorie to sustain while not really conveying much of a benefit (if any). On the other hand, older portions of the brain that responds to operant conditioning (i.e. the first story) seems much easier to swallow."

    http://www.tmswiki.org/forum/threads/behaviorism-conditioning-and-breaking-the-pain-cycle.2200/ (Behaviorism, Conditioning, and Breaking the Pain Cycle)

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