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Andrew Miller's Short and Sweet TMS Healing

Discussion in 'Success Stories Subforum' started by Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021), Nov 2, 2013.

  1. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Short and Sweet TMS Pain-free Techniques

    Anyone who has pain of any kind, and even those whose pain has subsided or gone completely away, would benefit a lot from watching a video interview Forest had with Andrew Miller last June. Miller is a marriage and family therapist (MFT) intern working with TMS patients in the Los Angeles area.

    Miller is very personable. Easy-going and straight-talking. No scientific mumbo jumbo most of us don’t understand.

    What a TMS pain relief success story he tells in the video interview. I won’t repeat everything he says in this post, but urge you to go to and watch the full 45-minute interview at the bottom of this thread.

    Miller introduces himself saying: “I'm an MFT-I intern with 5-plus years of practice in the field. I've been working with TMS patients on-and-off for 10-plus years as a coach and then as a therapist.

    “As far as TMS approaches go, I share many similarities with my colleagues on this board [the TMSWiki forum] and think that all the resources (including Alan Gordon’s new [pain relief] program) are phenomenal.

    “I'd say my focus as a TMS therapist is on mindfulnesspractice, and recognition and metabolization of emotions through psycho dramatic practice.

    “Recently I've been focusing on a holistic approach to TMS, making sure we look at it in context of a person's whole life and whole relational world. What I mean by that is, we address change people want in their lives (even though it may be hard) and allow those actions to reverberate (and many times reduce) TMS symptoms.”

    Miller says his physical pain began about nine years ago. He was working in the film industry, writing but not acting, and was very active in sports. He developed carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder, back, and leg pain and saw doctors and physical therapists, had acupuncture. He got some temporary relief, but the pain would return.

    A friend recommended he read Dr. John Sarno’s book, Healing Back Pain. He read it and says “Fifty percent of my pain left me.”

    That led Miller to do a lot of TMS thinking and journaling. “TMS opened up a whole new world to me,” he says in the interview. He began to realize his pains had emotional causes. “I began to relate to myself. I realized I had a perfectionist personality.” That is typical of those with TMS symptoms, as we who have the same perfectionism know well. He put a lot of pressure on himself to do everything the best, as many of us do.

    “I began to consider my TMS symptoms as a gift,” Miller says. “It opened my eyes. I began a serious process of applying TMS to my life. A lot of our pain symptoms come from how we deal with our lives.”

    He says that during his healing, he got a lot of helpful support from Forest and others on the TMSWiki forums.

    In therapy sessions with his TMS patients, Miller says he has found “psycho drama” very helpful to them. They act out childhood-remembered traumas and even talk to those who gave them stress, such as parents or siblings. Some patients prefer writing down the traumatic scenes, talking to the stressors on paper.

    “Awareness is a large part of the puzzle” of treating TMS symptoms, he says. “Become aware of the life pressures you have, as well as the traumas of our youth. Learn how it is we relate to ourselves.
    “Another is mindfulness. Become aware of what you are doing when you suffer a TMS symptom.” It may be that the sudden pain is from something in past was triggered by something in the present.”

    Close friends divorced and it triggered memories of a TMS sufferer’s parents’ divorce when he was a boy, causing him feeling of abandonment. He was like a part of his friends’ family, so their divorce rekindled feelings of his childhood abandonment.

    TMS sufferers may have low-self esteem and feel they are not good enough. That may stem from having been sexually abused by a relative or friend. Miller says that being mindful of the trauma can help a person to better look at the pain, take it with them, and as he says, “go forth.”

    Miller says he looks at TMS as a gift. It helped him to look inside himself to learn repressed emotional reasons he was in pain and that it was not caused by anything physical. “It also led me to be there for others in pain.”

    Part of his TMS pain came from realizing he was not happy in his work in the film industry. He decided a complete change of career was necessary, and that led him to becoming a marriage and family therapist and TMS practitioner. He says a change is not always necessary in TMS healing, and a major change like a different career can be stressful, but it has helped some of his patients.

    Some people can work too hard and steady at TMS healing. Miller recommends: “Take a day or weekend off. Just accept your symptoms. They can be like being on a merry-go-round. Unplug yourself from the merry-go-round. Try some pleasant distraction… watch a movie or television show. Treat yourself to some Ben and Jerry.”

    Journaling is one of the most recommended techniques for TMS healing, as we learn more about repressed emotions that cause us pain. But some people may try too hard to uncover those symptoms and that can cause more stress and pain. Miller suggests not to look for a deep dark secret in our lives. “Journal for its own sake,” he says. Along the way of remembering the past, we may unconsciously come upon a major psychological cause of our pain.

    Miller also talks about short-term psychosomatic practices among groups of his TM S patients. When people are together, acting out scenes from their childhood, they help each other to deal with a repressed emotion. Patients talk to their parent, sibling, or other person who gave them childhood trauma. They say words to the person who angered them, getting off their chest what they could not tell them when they were a child.

    Another important TMS healing technique Miller uses with patients is visualization.” It’s a great way to talk to the child in us,” he says. We can visualize ourselves being a child again and tell our self, “It’s okay to have a temper tantrum. It’s okay to cry.”

    If TMS techniques don’t heal us and the pain is too much, it’s okay to take medication, says Miller. He has done that, especially when he developed insomnia. He said he could bare physical pain but it was unable to sleep some nights so he took a sleeping pill. He said it’s also okay if we’re in physical pain, but not to depend on medication to heal us. We must keep reminding our unconscious mind that our pain is TMS – psychological – and not structural.

    It’s important for us to have compassion for ourselves, Miller says. Then we can be more compassionate to others, which can help both ourselves and them.

    Some people practicing the TMS techniques become frustrated if they are not pain-free as fast as they hoped. “They may feel stalled in their timeline for healing. But pain is there for a reason. It may be no fun to delve into what that may be,” but it is worth discovering. It can free us of “falling down a rabbit hole” of despair.

    “TMS is a journey,” Miller concludes. “It has its ups and downs. It’s like a movie or a stage play when everything looks bad in the second act. But then a space ship comes along and blows up the Death Star.”

    Take your time in TMS healing, he suggests. “Go at the pace you can go at. That pace is probably the pace you need to go at.”

    Miller’s video interview generated enthusiastic replies from TMSWiki forum posters including GailNYC who wrote, “Really one of the most helpful interviews about TMS I’ve seen.” YB44 wrote, “I thought I would catch just a bit of it but was compelled to watch the whole interview.” (It lasts about 45 minutes and is packed with helpful information and encouragement.)
    Another TMSWiki poster and peer supporter, trypp, asked how Miller’s approach differed as a coach and as a therapist, and “Do you find that your approach as a therapist is any different because you had experience as a coach?”

    Miller replied: “I think my approach as a therapist and coach differed only in what I understand about the cognitive-emotional world and treatment in general. As a coach I relied much more heavily on my personal experience to help guide those I was working with.

    “As a therapist, I have a much broader perspective, acknowledging that there may be some guiding principles that we all should take into account when dealing with PPD but that each individual's journey is different and - often - their treatment must be individualized for them and their emotional-cognitive dynamics. That might be a convoluted way of saying, what works for me doesn't necessarily work for you.” (PPD stands for Psychophysiologic Disorder and is another word for TMS (Tension Myositsis Syndrome).)

    That drew a post from another TMSWiki watcher: “It sounds like you are saying that changing places where you are "stuck" in your life can really be helpful in TMS healing. I can see how this would be very helpful, but do you think that it is necessary? In my life there are some big things that I don't think I can change, and I derive hope from being able to adapt to them on the inside. I have great faith in the power of the human spirit to adapt to loss.”

    That person asked Miller: “Do you think that those ideas are compatible? A belief in adaptation AND a belief in the healing power of making necessary changes?

    Miller replied: “I do think the ideas of change and acceptance are compatible, but it does take some work on our parts as clinicians and patients to synthesize an understanding. I would encourage you to make it a point of conversation with many professionals about the compatibility of the two. Many practitioners have similar views, some differing, but all worth exploring.

    “What I'll ultimately say about the compatibility is this: for many of us, the healing act is to accept the things we cannot change, while having the courage to change the things we can.

    “If that sounds familiar, it's because it's from the serenity prayer, something used far and wide in the addiction field.”

    The prayer teaches us to live in the present moment, a major TMS healing technique.

    For those who don’t know it or need to be reminded of it, here is the Serenity Prayer:

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    Living one day at a time;
    enjoying one moment at a time;
    accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
    taking, as He did, this sinful world
    as it is, not as I would have it;
    trusting that He will make all things right
    if I surrender to His Will;
    that I may be reasonably happy in this life
    and supremely happy with Him
    forever in the next.

    The Serenity Prayer is the common name for an originally untitled prayer by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971), and has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. It’s interesting that Dr. John Sarno’s blueprint for TMS healing is a twelve-step program. For those who dodn’t know it or need to be reminded of it, Dr. Sarno’s 12 Daily Reminders are:

    1.The pain is due to TMS, not to a structural abnormality
    2.The direct reason for the pain is mild oxygen deprivation
    3.TMS is a harmless condition caused by my repressed emotions
    4.The principal emotion is my repressed ANGER
    5.TMS exists only to distract my attentions from the emotions
    6.Since my back is basically normal there is nothing to fear
    7.Therefore,physical activity is not dangerous
    8.And I MUST resume all normal physical activity
    9.I will not be concerned or intimidated by the pain
    10.I will shift my attention from pain to the emotional issues
    11.I intend to be in control-NOT my subconscious mind
    12.I must think Psychological at all times, NOT physical.

    Dr. Sarno’s 12 Daily Reminders and the Serenity Prayer fit so well into what Andrew Miller was talking about regarding TMS. Especially “living one day at a time,” which is one of the most recommended ways to heal our pain.

    Now back to Miller: “Navigating a world of acceptance AND change is the journey for many people who suffer from PPD. Refining what we accept and what we want to change is a life-long process. It can have a profound affect on PPD, but more importantly, it can have a profound affect on our own personhood.”

    Miller added, “Oh, and a follow-up. I do think changing situations, altering our actions and patterns of behavior can have a significant effect on PPD symptoms -- especially if they follow a pattern of developing congruency between who we are, what we feel and what we do. That being said, it's not necessarily a cure-all (though you can always learn more about your relationship to PPD from change).

    “The benefit is, regardless of what happens to your PPD symptoms, affecting that sort of change can provide a myriad of benefits to your life outside of symptom reduction. And that can be an amazing thing.”

    Responding to that, trypp wrote to Miller: “That makes a lot of sense. And I know what you mean about change not being a cure-all. Sometimes I feel that my life could change dramatically, but it wouldn't necessarily exorcise my demons. For that I'm going to have to learn how to reframe the way that I think about things. Thanks for the help.”

    Then trypp asked a big one: “If you don't mind another question, I'm just curious, what did you find most helpful with your own TMS?”

    “Not a problem: Just off the top of my head, these things helped me:

    1) Not focusing on the symptoms.
    2) Developing self-compassion.
    3) Processing and feeling emotions
    4) Self-talk ( both in reminding myself what the symptoms are and directing my attention to the emotional).

    “And I'd say that the number one thing that I did in relation to those was -- and this is a continuing thing, I had to remind myself of this yesterday -- is realize that all these issues listed above are a process. They are not events. They don't just happen. They're not static. When I can accept that, it opens the door to self-compassion, not focusing on the symptoms, gaining more access to my feelings, and new avenues of self-talk.”

    Miller then added: “By the way, I'd like to give a unsolicited recommendation to look through Alan Gordon's Treatment Program that he just posted on here because I think it really does such an amazing job illuminating those "’principles’ that should guide PPD treatment.”

    He then wrote, “Oh, and I'd like to include one other piece. I'd highly encourage everyone to check out some form of mindfulness practice to include in their lives. Meditation has been an integral part of my life since discovering PPD. I find that it goes a long way in separating myself from the internal dialogue of self-judgment that comes with the personality closely associated with PPD.”

    We at the TMSWiki forums thank Andrew Miller for his interview and believe it bears repeating since it ran last June, with the additional comments from Forest and other forum members. We hope Miller writes a book about his journey in TMS. Meanwhile, his video interview can serve as a quick and effective course in TMS healing.

    You can watch the video in its entirety here:
    (PPD stands for Psychophysiologic Disorder and is another word for TMS.)​
    MontanaMom, Forest and Birdie like this.
  2. AndrewMillerMFT

    AndrewMillerMFT Well known member

    Thanks for the kind words, Walt! I wanted to add something to Walt's post but it's incredibly extensive, I'm not sure what I can say to add more at this time.... Well - one thing - success stories are a wonderful tool to use in your recovery. Often, as TMS sufferers, our ability to hope for a better outcome in our symptoms has been severely compromised by numerous failed attempts at getting better. That's why during the TMS healing process, a process that is almost guaranteed to have it's ups and downs and not progress steadily, it's helpful to visit and revisit (watch out it doesn't become too obsessive!) success stories that replenish hope.

    I welcome being a resource to people on the wiki and look forward to posting a little more frequently in the coming weeks. Additionally, I will be around the wiki more during the holiday time to hopefully provide support for those that may have triggers come up around family, friends and large events.


    MontanaMom and Forest like this.
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Andrew. I appreciate your kind words. Forest asks me at times to write a summary of a thread like your video interview
    and I feel like I'm in deep water paraphrasing or summarizing because I'm not that knowledgeable in some TMS subjects.

    I really enjoyed watching your video interview and Forest is posting my summary and at the bottom the URL to the video.
    I think you explain everything great. I also like your easygoing manner. But get rid of the goatee. You look better clean-shaven.

    I am a former Chicago Tribune reporter and feature writer (7 years back in the 1970s). I got tired of writing about crime and violence
    so I left and became a magazine editor of upbeat stories. Three years of that and I realize it would be more satisfying to write articles and books
    on upbeat and helpful subjects, so I became a fulltime freelance writer. I'm still at it, 40 years later (I'm a very young, healthy, and energetic-creative guy who is 83 and healed my back pain a year ago after reading Sarno and learning about TMS. I discovered I had many repressed emotions,
    from my parents divorcing when I was about seven. And I grew up during the 1930s Great Depression so I knew all about poverty.

    Yes, reading TMS success stories can be very helpful.

    I'm replying to posts from people in pain and suggesting some techniques for healing. If you have time, a fellow named Pilot in Pain has been posting in a thread called "Is Repetition A Cure for TMS?" He and Anne exchange views on that, and if you read their stories, you most likely would have some great advice for them. It would be wonderful if you could give them any advice and encouragement.
    MontanaMom likes this.
  4. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Walt, thanks so much for the summary and the link. I will watch this later today. I just love your heart to help others. And I love that you're such a great writer too! (I'm a freelancer myself though not nearly as experienced as you!)

    And Andrew...thank you for your work too!
  5. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you for writing your terrific original post, Walt. Andrew Miller has that rare combination of someone who has been through TMS themselves, coached other people, and then backed it up by getting a graduate degree and working towards his Marriage and Family Therapist accreditation. He's warm, authentic, and has a level of emotional intelligence that seems to me to be better even than most other therapists.

    We are very lucky to have him on the forum. I know that he is tremendously busy, so I don't know how often he'll be able to post here on the forum. Those whom he is able to respond to on the forum, I think, are very lucky and should definitely heed his advice.

    I think it would be wonderful if Pilot would have the opportunity to work with a TMS therapist. The sense that I get from most TMS therapists, Andrew Miller included, is that they have very busy practices and are unable to contact people offline. There are a number of TMS therapists, Andrew included, who provide coaching sessions via telephone and/or skype. They are listed on our practitioner directory at www.tmswiki.org/ppd/Find_a_TMS_Doctor_or_Therapist#Via_Internet_or_Telephone .

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