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Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Everly, Nov 21, 2017.

  1. Everly

    Everly Peer Supporter

    I am currently reading Fred Luskin's book "Forgive for good" where I read that couple of studies have shown that if you often recall or dwell on a past situation that angered you your brain takes it at face value and your nervous system and body reacts as if the situation was occurring and angering you now. Therefore, its better not to do it and forgive, etc. This strikes me as somewhat opposite of what we are doing, Sarno said to concentrate on anger, journaling concentrates on anger, there are anger expression mediation etc, its all about not suppressing anger etc. I realize I am being a bit simplistic here and there is a middle ground and often anger is not even the issue anymore and its more about fear. But still how do we find the balance? Allow anger for a while and then let go, right? How do we know when it its letting go and when it is suppressing?
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Elina,

    You're confusing anger with rage. Dr. Sarno talked about rage, which is the deep rage of the subconscious mind, having to do with your true identity, or perhaps with your primitive brain's perception of your survival. I think it can be different things, but it's still going on at a deeper level than your subconscious brain wants you to see.

    Anger is the shallow emotion that masks what is really going on in your subconscious.

    Example: someone cuts you off in traffic and you're furious. The question is: why are you so angry at that other driver? The answer has to do with the much deeper threat to your inner self, as perceived by your primitive brain. The other driver is irrelevant.

    To do this work, you need to figure out what your deeper self is fearing and feeling.
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  3. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Anger is an aggressive emotion energized by firing up of the sympathetic nervous system. If the firing up lasts too long or happens too repeatedly, that produces TMS. Why? I think it is because a fired up sympathetic nervous system produces stress chemicals such as adrenalin, cortisol, and substance p. The brain interprets the high level of stress chemicals to indicate you are in danger and creates pain. (Remember Alan Gordon's Recovery Program Day 2 lesson: Pain = Danger, or as I would put it Danger = Pain.)

    Conscious as well as unconscious anger can fire up the sympathetic nervous system to produce stress chemicals. If I understand Fred Luskin correctly, forgiveness does not mean you accept or disregard what someone one did to you in the past. It just means you get over it sufficiently so that thinking about it does not fire up your sympathetic nervous system. How do you do that? Here are two of Luskin's points:
    1. Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better. Forgiveness is for you and not for anyone else.
    2. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciliation with the person that hurt you, or condoning of their action. What you are after is to find peace. Forgiveness can be defined as the “peace and understanding that come from blaming that which has hurt you less, taking the life experience less personally, and changing your grievance story.”
    A catchy way of putting forgiveness, even though it is somewhat off-putting, is that you need to give up all hope of a better past.

    I'll begin with a theoretical point: Anger and fear are not necessarily separate. Why do we repress anger? In Healing Back Pain Sarno tells the story of a mother who stopped the temper tantrums of her fifteen month old by splashing ice water in his face when he started to have a tantrum. She only had to do it once, and he never had another tantrum. Sarno wrote: "At the ripe age of fifteen months he had learned the technique of repression. He had been programmed to repress anger because it produced very unpleasant consequences, and he would carry that dubious talent with him throughout his life. Now when confronted with the multitude of frustrating, annoying, sometimes enraging things that happen to people every day, this man automatically internalizes his natural anger, and when that anger collects and builds up, he will have TMS or some such physical reaction in response to it." In short, we repress anger because we learned early in life to fear that experiencing it will produce very unpleasant consequences. The fifteen month old learned that experiencing anger disrupted the bond with his mother, and according to Dr. John Bowlby a secure attachment bond with one's early caregiver is of innate and utmost importance to infants and young children. The fifteen month old will similarly repress anger at loved ones as an adult because, unconsciously, that anger resembles the childhood anger at mother. All this happens unconsciously; the adult will be aware of neither the anger nor the fear of experiencing it. Both are repressed from conscious awareness--not by pain (I don't disagree with Sarno on much but I do on this) but instead by a myriad of psychological defense mechanism learned in childhood.

    (To digress, a person who knew Sarno once indicated to me that the fifteen month old in the story was actually none other than little John Sarno.)

    Now to the more practical: I believe it is important in one's psychological thinking (or journaling if one is into that) to focus on what Sarno calls "the multitude of frustrating, annoying, sometimes enraging things that happen to people every day" and not dwell on the past. There is plenty in one's current life that can fire up the sympathetic nervous system and produce TMS. Some of our biggest (unconscious) fears involve fear of experiencing anger at people we are close regarding the frustrating, annoying, or sometimes enraging things they do.
  4. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Elina, on reflection what I was trying to say in my last post but maybe did not make clear is that I do not see any incompatibility between Sarno (property understood) and Luskin.

    To elaborate on Sarno (properly understood), here is another passage from Healing Back Pain:

    "I do that a lot [repress anger]. I have learned that heartburn means that I'm angry about something and don't know it. So I think about what might be causing the condition, and when I come up with the answer the heartburn disappears. It is remarkable how well buried the anger usually is. Generally for me it is something about which I am annoyed but have no idea how much it has angered me."
    As I understand this passage, when Sarno says "I think about what might be causing the condition," he does not mean some long-ago hurt that angered him. That anger probably is not "well buried." He thinks about what is going on currently in his life that annoys him and has no idea he is actually angry about it. He has no idea because he learned as child to repress anger to avoid very unpleasant consequences from experiencing it.

    I encourage you to continue with both Sarno (properly understood) and Luskin.
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  5. Everly

    Everly Peer Supporter

    Thank you for the answer, I agree on all accounts, I think by now I am pretty good with recognizing anger, I see how little things annoy me because they remind me of some childhood hurts (for example how even the most trivial social rejection hurts me because of childhood rejection issues etc, I see the patterns quite clearly). But I still have the question - what do I do with this information? Where is the difference between allowing myself to feel it and unhealthy ruminating? And what I asked before, what is the difference between repressing and letting go? I suppose that is something that must be felt and cant really be explained?
  6. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    I am tempted to write a long, technical answer based on neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux's work, but that would take me at least several hours to compose my thoughts and write them out, and I don't have the time now. Besides, most people would find what I write about that pretty esoteric and boring. Instead, I recommend to you the discussion of anger in When the Body Says No by Dr. Gabor Maté; it is in his chapter titled "The Seven A's of Healing." Here is a snippet:

    "First and foremost, it [anger] is a physiological process to be experienced. Second, it has cognitive value--it provides essential information. . . . If I feel anger it must be in response to some perception on my part. It may be a response to loss or the threat of it in a personal relationship, or it may signal a real or threatened invasion of my boundaries. I am greatly empowered without harming anyone if I permit myself to experience the anger and to contemplate what my have triggered it. Depending on circumstances, I may choose to manifest the anger in some way or to let go of it. . . . Healthy anger leaves the individual, not the unbridled emotion, in charge."
    With respect to unhealthy ruminating (not letting go of anger), ISTDP therapist Jon Frederickson's concept of turd hunting comes to mind. When a turd hunter encounters dog feces on the sidewalk, he does not keep walking. Instead he picks it up, sniffs it, and puts it in his pocket. Frederickson's point is that a turd hunter thinks bad things are happening to him when in fact he is hunting for bad things to fixate on, and a turd hunter can stop doing that if he realizes what he is doing and makes up his mind to stop.
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2017
  7. Everly

    Everly Peer Supporter

    Thank you so much for this answer. I was planning on buying Mate's book anyways, but now I will order it asap. That turd hunter reference is exactly what I needed and to realize that , that I have a choice in this. I realize now that before I kinda forced myself to sniff it in hopes of that sniffing it will relieve my symptoms. So yeah, thank you for typing that out, I think I have my answer now!​
  8. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Nice discussion!

    It is the moment-to-moment stimuli and our reactions (often based on our personality types) which create deep responses which we may not be aware of. Dr. Sarno suggested "Use your imagination to ascertain how your Inner Child is feeling about _____________." Surface annoyance and anger -in response to events, can point to deeper rage too. I think the point is to tell yourself you are willing to know and feel what is going on down below, rather than needing symptoms to mask your awareness. A regular application of "thinking psychologically" goes deep in time.

    The typical way personalities work is to suppress or act out anger, so your question is one we all grapple with! The work of a lifetime for most of us is to "simply feel" and accept anger. Like any feeling, the more we think about it, figure out a way that things could work in the world so that we don't have to feel it, try not to feel it, attack ourselves for feeling it ---all the stuff we lay on top of the feeling, including thinking that it is "bad for my nervous system," the more "sticky" the experience is. Any feeling felt fully will naturally dissipate on its own in short order. This takes practice including mindfulness and work with the Inner Critic. And can't be done perfectly!

    Andy B
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