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An Instructive Experience

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by BruceMC, Apr 1, 2012.

  1. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I thought I should record something here that happened to me yesterday afternoon because it seems to illustrate some of the principles behind Dr. Sarno's TMS theory. After lifting weights at the gym during which I did a bunch of leg curls and presses (which typically makes my sciatica flare up), I decided to take a walk on a local nature preserve to push my range a bit further and see if the subsequent recovery resulted in a lessening of symptoms. I drove over there and just as I was leaving the parking lot an acquaintance from Vermont drove up and suggested we hike together. Well, the first part of the 2 mile course is a steep uphill during which my TMS and sciatic leg pain usually acts up. But as we walked along we started talking about his recent knee operation and that led to my explaining Dr. Peter Levine's theories of traumatic reenactment in his book Waking the Tiger. About half-way through our hike the heavens opened and the rain started pouring down and we walked faster and faster to get back our cars, but kept up our conversation. My focus on the conversation while trying to walk faster to avoid getting soaked distracted me from the increasing levels of pain that I usually experience while hiking that steep course, so that when we reached the parking lot, still talking all the while about Levine, I discovered I had "forgotten" the pain in my left leg. In other words, by concentrating on a rational dialog in the neo-cortex portion of my brain it seemed I had actually short-circuited the programmed pain response that I usually experienced while walking this course alone. Of course, the rain also made me pay attention to simply walking and getting back as soon as possible, so there was no mental space left over for me to obsess over the TMS pain syndrome. Directing my conversation outward toward another intelligence also distracted me from my habitual monitoring of my leg and back pain. Broke the mind-body cycle in other words. When I got back home, there was a great feeling of relaxation and absence of pain (although the left leg was still weaker than the right). Last night I also slept and had some healing dreams, but that's another story. My point is that just relaxing using Yoga, acupunture or other modalities is fine, but unless something distracts your fundamental attention from your pain symptoms, it seems that they will amplify and persist, probably due to the typical obsessive-perfectionist nature of the TMS personality type. The sudden unexpected arrival of my acquaintance from Vermont also changed the habitual patterns I had grown used to while hiking on the preserve alone at sunset. The sudden downpour and my attention on explaining Levine's theories of trauma also broke my habitual programmed responses to a typical hike I had taken many, many times.

    Anybody else had similar experiences they'd like to share? Sure sounds like breaking your habitual programmed responses to everyday repetitive activities is necessary to end the cycle of TMS pain. Easier said than done, but last night a bunch of fortunate accidents occur in the right pattern to shake me out of my mental and physical rut.
  2. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    I think the worst part of TMS and anxiety for me is that feeling of being stuck in this loop of obsession. I find if I can break the obsession by talking to someone, reading, getting really engaged in something else I can break out of it and then have the mental space to look at what might have been causing the pain. If I'm in full blown worry mode it can be hard to sit down and start journaling. Just shifting gears really helps me.
  3. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Well, tonight I again walked at dusk over another course I habitually hike on the nature preserve only this time I was alone and it didn't rain. With no one to talk, as I walked along I entered into a conversation with an old imaginary enemy (someone who had belittled me maybe 5 years ago) and I hadn't stood up to. Of course, I must have had to suppress my anger in order to do this. This argument seems to resurface quite often whenever I'm completely alone. Well, I did walk at a fairly fast pace, but it hurt a lot more than last night when I was distracted by needing to explain Levine's theories to a companion. When I got back, the sciatica did hurt more and last longer and I didn't relax afterwards the same way I did last night. I think a mental argument with an imaginary opponent often functions for me at least as a convenient outlet for my inner anger. Also a barometer of my inner anger. The bigger the internal fight, the more repressed rage beneath the surface. That's why it might be an idea to walk so fast next time that I will be working so hard I don't have any left over mental space for me to keep up the OCD syndrome. I see now where Dr. Sarno says he thinks OCD and TMS are equivalents, and now I can see why. It may be that bicycling is less painful for me than walking because the scenery going by and the mental excitement are more effective at distracting my attention away from my lower back and leg pain. Also, smoother with less impact, so it doesn't trigger the pain the same way walking and running do. Just a guess! This also seems to illustrate how selective attention operates as illustrated in the film posted by Enrique today on the The Invisible Gorilla
  4. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    MorComm, it sounds like you come back to the conflict with this person from time to time--I do that too, sometimes with people/situations from the past that I thought I was really "over." I liked how Dr. Sarno said in that sometimes we know we are angry at something but we don't realize that we're actually in a "blind rage" about it. What if you wrote or thought about this person before you did your hike--maybe some of the emotion would already be "shaken loose" and the anxiety and pain would be less while you're actually walking?
  5. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Veronica, I've done it all my life I realize: with my boss when I was 21, with an application engineer at work, with the director of field service, with anyone in fact who's picked on me and I've had to take it "to keep the peace". I'm willing to guess that each one of these mental dialogs was conditioned by my endless arguments with my late dad, who used to tell me I was worthless and had never accomplished anything on my own (the way he had evidently). IOWs: They're substitutes for the real deep nitty gritty battle with papa, evasions if you will. It is interesting to note that whenever they go away I'm usually in a much, much better place emotionally and financially. Just goes to show how fundamental to your personality those early interactions with family members are, how much they condition your reactions to others in subsequent contexts. As you suggest, V, I'll have to write a letter to one of these persona and maybe trace the conflict back to my epic struggle with my late father? Whenever I have had to confront a brutal, obtuse dumb bell I always suspect dad's lurking somewhere in the background!
  6. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Yep, that's tough. My father is the ultimate perfectionist. He's been #1 at every school he ever went to. He's chilled out a little with age but every time I talk to him I feel like I'm a little kid all over again. I find my "inner parent" voice is pretty much Dad, or more accurately, how I expect Dad would react to something.
  7. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, my father is dead (1997), but he's obtained an existence in my mind that's just as real (or more so!) than when he was alive (but I suppose that was his intention all along!). Like Alexander the Great with his Generals, some powerful figures outlast death and still issue orders to their subordinates from the grave!
  8. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    :( I can see how it would be harder in many ways if the person has passed away...they can loom large in your mind, whereas a living person changes (hopefully!) with time. Sounds like you have a good grasp on all of it though.
  9. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Like the French poet Stephane Mallarme noted, death is the ultimate idealizing agency. Sometimes people have more powerful influences after they pass than they did in life. Harder to argue with them and their achievement stands out more. I think I'm beginning to figure this stuff out, but achieving a real solution is still a hard row to how no matter how "smart" you think you are.
  10. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    If I might pop in here......MorComm: "brutal obtuse dumb bells" are humans too. If I might be so bold, I have another suggestion to add to Veronica's. Can you send them love? I know that sounds counter intuitive to working this out with conversations with them. I do this too. But I "talk in circles" when doing it. So I stop myself now and simply send them love. It makes me feel so much better, and it breaks another link in the chain.

    Do you think they intentionally hurt you? Or do you think you simply didn't have "power" in the moment in order to make these real life conversations play through in a way that didn't anger you? I've found for me, it's typically the former. Someone I'm really angry with has actually hurt me, not made me really angry. I think anger deflects from the issue. It hurts. I could be way off, but it is something I've found that resolves the conflict for me. I acknowledge that I've been hurt and send that person love.

    Also: when in the woods alone - look around. Drink it in. Check out every tree. Listen for every bird. This will distract from the pain too. If you're in a rage while walking, it would follow that you're also in pain. My anger=pain. So I try and send that person love. I mean open my heart and let go. It takes some practice. But it works.

    I live in nature too. And when my mind starts racing about all I need to do while I'm trying to enjoy my dog and my walk? I make myself stop. Look around and feel how blessed I am to be where I am.

    Listen to the trees next time. Even a slight breeze can calm your thoughts. I love being in the woods with just my dog. So peaceful and beautiful.

    And good for you - you had the strength to take the hike after a work out!! That in itself is to be celebrated.

  11. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I realize they just serve as substitutes for the arguments I used to have with Dad that usually ended in wild screaming matches. I think it's more to do with my own self-esteen issues than sending them 'Love'. If you bend over and bend over and never assert yourself because you worry about your adversary thinking you're not a "nice guy," you pay for it later on with imaginary arguments that go in circles. What's that William Blake says about "unacted desires"? They breed "hobgoblins of the mind"! It just indicates that you have typical TMS personality traits like "wanting to be liked" (goodist) when you don't stand up for yourself in the here and now. You know that a typical Alpha male construction worker would never have those sort of internal dialogues (mental gossip). He'd just tell 'em to shove it and never have a second thought.
  12. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    And herein lies the issue. You are still "running into your dad" on the streets. Once you begin to resolve the conflict you had with him that will stop. I learned this. My mother who could be so cunning with words, passed on - and I continued to attract people just like her who would send me into orbit. It's not the person who is still walking around in a body you're angry with - it's your father.

    One of my favorite types of jounraling is "dialoging". I can't remember whether or not you did Dr. Schubiner's "Unlearn Your Pain" but he has this as an exercise. I thought "how the heck is this going to work?" And it worked great. I've had some more "chats" with my mother through this style of journaling. I've learned that her abuse towards me - had nothing to do with me. I learned that she was "damaged goods" who was overcompensating. And once I had this truly set in stone with myself, not only can I send her love - but the humans that walk into my life that are just like she was I can tolerate and steer clear of.

    If you haven't tried this, I suggest you look at it MorComm. It is really powerful. And the words just come. On both sides.

    Agreed Bawbee. Completely. That's why I suggest MorComm you're not done with your dad. There is a way to resolve this, you just haven't found it yet. You and I don't have the luxury of actually sitting down with the parent that sent us in this TMS direction, but we can certainly write to the best of our ability about it. We can certainly try and either tell them how they truly steered our lives? Or we can yell at them on paper. But I agree with what Bawbee is saying. I too try and be liked by many. Not as bad as I used to be, but I catch myself now and then trying really hard because I think someone doesn't like me. When at the end of the day - their indifference to me probably has nothing to do with me.

    Yes Bawbee, he might. Or he might turn around and wonder after the "encounter" if you still liked him.

    From my experience,just because we wear a persona around in life, doesn't mean that's who we are deep down. No one knows what goes on inside us - except ourselves.

  13. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    MorComm, forgiveness and letting go and maybe even understanding the person's point of view are important, but I actually think it's more important to let yourself really feel the anger and hurt. You don't have to tell the person to shove it (although sometimes that might be in order!). I used to spend so much time understanding the other person's point of view that I didn't let myself just be really angry. Anger frightens me so I run from it.

    I often find that the people who trigger me are people who are are lazy or incompetent. It bothers me that I feel this way because my dad was the same way about lazy people. I realize I don't have to express it to the person, but I have to let myself feel pissed that the other person is being a bozo...and sometimes just acknowledging that makes me feel better. Sometimes I'll have all this anger inside and it seems so HUGE and then I'll sit down to talk about it with my boyfriend, spew it all out in 5 minutes, and I think, oh that was it? It wasn't that bad afterall.

    I have a few people from my past that I can't confront. They're still alive but we are not in contact anymore. I've done unsent letters and also just written about my feelings. I realize I will always be hurt by what happened by some people. The hurt is with me but it is in the background and not something that I have to let be a big part of my life.
  14. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    All very true, Veronica. But you have to realize too that a lot of people out there who are acting out as "Bulleys" in the office or in public are really damaged goods themselves. You buy into the conflict because you are projecting unresolved issues left over from childhood to be sure. And, yes, I've used the written dialog form productively with both of my deceased parents to good effect. You'll sure learn some things about them and yourself from doing that that you wouldn't have known otherwise. I do realize that after one of my epic conflicts with my father, for years afterwards I was having huge public confrontations with a series of surrogate father-figures, re-enacting the trauma, as Levine would have it, over and over again. If that had kept up, I might have even got myself into the judicial system! At least, I've gained enough self-knowledge to stop having those kind of public confrontations. Now they re-echo in the ghostly form of internal dialogs whenever I've stressed out emotionally or financially. Definitely unresolved stuff left over from life with dad the tyrant. You'll notice in late 19th century/early 20th century literature that there are tons of epic father-son conflicts: Turgenev, Fathers and Sons, Sir Edmond Gosse's autobiography, Playboy of the Western World by John Synge. In fact, patricide is rampant as an underlying theme during that era. But if you think about, and realize what came next, you can understand why: World War I and the trenches that destroyed forever the Victorian doctrines of progress and liberal compromise. All the young men marched off to the Somme thinking they were going to smash the old outmoded order they'd inherited by their parents. There's a psycho-historical dimension no doubt to Revolutionary Son vs. Reactionary Dad.
  15. Beach-Girl

    Beach-Girl Well known member

    Does this apply to your situation? What happened in WWI? There is peace of mind in simply "letting it go". Or as Veronica suggested, getting really angry first. But it sounds as if you've done that.

    Yet you are still conflicted. Why do you think that is Morcomm?

  16. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    The psycho-historical paradigm applied to all of us in the Western world. They don't call them War Babies for nothing!

    I got re-conflicted when I inherited my parents' house, which of course is full of psychological triggers left over from the original epic conflict twenty or so years ago. They reignited the past that I'd been able to avoid through various strategies for years. When I lived in Colorado or up in the Sierra Nevada, the Oedipal stuff was far away. Even when I had my own consulting business and worked in Palo Alto, it was still safely evaded. But when both my parents collapsed at once one evening, the whole conflicted relationship with them was back on my plate. My mother, of course, acted as a soother (as Sarno would say) until she died. Then, after years and years of evasion, I really had to face the music. That's when I went TMS symptomatic. Couldn't evade the fear and loathing generated by the original trauma of 1979-80. Now I'm finally processing it and I'm getting better. What's that they say about the 'Long journey home'? 'Exile's Return'? There's another grand theme as old as Homer and Ullyses!

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