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Day 1 Beginning TMS work again

Discussion in 'Structured Educational Program' started by dh627, Apr 13, 2023.

  1. dh627

    dh627 New Member

    I have been suffering for 5 years, and I discovered TMS in December 2021. My symptoms alleviated when I discovered and read about TMS. My symptoms move around. I therefore believe my symptoms are a mind body problem, they come and go and vary in intensity, they are here almost 24/7 and are chronic. I have had a bad habit of looking at TMS work whenever my symptoms have flared up to intolerable levels, and once I read about TMS & the forums, my pain subsides a bit to a tolerable level and I leave TMS work again for another few weeks or months, until I get intolerable levels again...and the cycle repeats. However, as the cycle does repeat, I get more and more frustrated and fed up of my symptoms and exhausted with going through these cycles of hope, only for my pain to come back and for me to be all the more frustrated and disappointed. This time I really want to actually do the work and stick to it properly. Before, I had looked at Alan Gordon's program, but this time I am doing the SEP and am much more committed - I want to stick with focusing on TMS on a daily basis - no giving up if my symptoms get better a few days in or half way through. I have also seen TMS therapists before, but have usually only ever had a session or two due to not being able to afford it, or I stop once my symptoms go away for a few weeks...but they always come back, and my reactions to them are always the same3.

    So I do believe - but I am not sure if I believe the 'distraction from feeling emotions' bit - this is because I find it to be in contrast with other theories that I've read. My pain did arise from very difficult and traumatising experiences and have resulted in severe and debilitating tension throughout my torso and a very messed up nervous system. I would not be surprised if I have PTSD. Lots of PTSD theories I have read said have said that PTSD can cause pain, and this pain is caused because we went into a fight or flight state but never completed the fight or flight component of this and did not discharge the energy, and it became trapped in our body. Does anyone have any thoughts on this? This seems to be in contrast to the TMS theories as to why pain is caused.

    There is a noticeable correlation for me when I am in stressful or overwhelming situations and my pain/tension increasing. As if my body has learnt to respond to these situations by producing pain. However, it's very difficult to understand what thoughts or emotions are causing this, as it all feels so very sub or unconscious. From this perspective, the TMS theory that my body is sending me pain to prevent me from feeling an emotion does seem like it could be true - but what is the underlying emotion, and what do I do with it if I unpick it?
  2. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    However, it's very difficult to understand what thoughts or emotions are causing this, as it all feels so very sub or unconscious.
    It IS subconscious, and that is what TMS work is all about. Your resistance is simply another TMS symptom: the fear of looking inward. Your subconscious doesn’t want to give up the control it has exerted over you. Ah, my mind is so similar with the “what ifs” - it likes those. So I fed it more “what ifs”. What if I feel so much better discovering myself? What if what I used to believe is not true? What if I learn what IS true? What if I am a good ___ “fill in the blank with what you believed you were not so good at/with/being). What if I am truly committed to doing this program.
    I’m proud of you for starting again!
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Excellent. Most of us have discovered that it takes doing the work for the skills to come into play more quickly and more naturally, if not almost automatically. Don't beat yourself up for having avoided this previously - you're in good company.

    Don't go into this already overthinking it. Doing the work brings your own unique understanding. After all, we're dealing with the human brain, and there's just nothing black or white about why we suffer physically when the source of the pain is emotional. There is no clear linear path, no one-size-fits-all reason for why this occurs and why it's so unique to every individual. Reading one person's theories (even Dr. Sarno's) is going to be limited by their personal experiences and outlook, which is why we appreciate this forum with its many contributors and points of view. All points of view are valid to some, but never to all.

    There are common truths that are well-known and accepted, even by traditional medical and psychological professionals. We know that trauma often creates physical symptoms. We know that anxiety can create physical symptoms, and also that anxiety can be passed on by an anxious parent or parents. Demanding or controlling parents can cause anxiety and a form of childhood trauma, but not in any way that can be measured and predicted with certainty. Then there's the whole range of childhood adversity which includes outright neglect, physical or emotional abuse, isolation, or, sadly, abandonment due to various reasons including death. These are know to result in physical suffering during adulthood. There's fetal alcohol effects, bipolar disorder, and autism, any of which can cause serious coping trauma (and symptoms) in individuals as they do their best to function in a society that has little support for mental disorders. And then there is the institutional and generational trauma caused by racism, as well as other forms of religious or nationalistic bigotry - again, known and accepted to cause physical suffering.

    Some of us are simply anxious from birth. I know where mine came from. Have you ever come across the ACEs "test"? ACEs is Adverse Childhood Experiences, and you can read about them and answer the questions here. My ACEs score is technically zero, but there was a short period of time when I was about 4 to 8, when there were two, and then three younger siblings, probably two in diapers at once for a while, and I was kind of isolated and left to my own resources quite a bit (having had my excellent parents all to myself for two whole years). My mother made it up to me later by treating me to special outings and other things, so it was short-lived and really doesn't fit the "adversity" profile at all - but I had never thought about those years until I remembered the isolation when I was doing the SEP and listening to Alan's live webinars back in the day (they are still on the forum, the links are in the list of forum resources on my profile). There is no doubt that the anxiety I was probably born with (another factor of being the first child of an older mother, plus she'd had a miscarriage) was not helped by those years. I actually managed for six decades with mild TMS symptoms that came and went - then it all came to a crisis point when I hit 60, in 2011. When I thankfully discovered Dr. Sarno.

    Anyway, this is all just to say that (severe childhood trauma aside) most of us have never thought about what might have been emotionally significant to us as very young children, Ultimately, doing the work with honesty and integrity can uncover all kinds of memories which are not earth-shattering, but which can be very revealing. That being said, you've stated that you probably have PTSD - if it's from childhood, definitely answer the ACEs questions. If it's from something more recent, you might check out the work of Dr. Peter Levine regarding somatic work to release trauma ((lots of YT videos, and a number of books, he's an excellent writer).

    At the same time, it's important not to overthink it or try to analyze it to death. The fact is that our psyches are fragile, I think because they really weren't designed for today's world and for our long lives with all of the planning for and worrying about the future that we engage in - never mind the technology and information overload we've been subjected to for the last thirty years. We know that the brain of homo sapiens is still quite primitive, and it turns out that the TMS mechanism is nothing more than a survival mechanism designed only to keep us alive long enough to breed and partially raise the next generation of sapiens. That wasn't very long back then. The problem is that "keeping us alive" translates to keeping us worried, on edge, and always scanning the horizon for sabre-tooth tigers. This actually works for shit in today's world, where most of us are lucky enough to be physically very safe and to expect very long lives - while being bombarded with innumerable stressors almost from the day we are born. Our TMS survival brains literally don't know the difference between a sabre tooth tiger waiting behind the next rock, vs our complicated relationships, job pressures, financial concerns, or the asshole who just cut us off in traffic, never mind growing world dysfunction which is creating an existential mental health crisis.

    Doing this work requires abandoning perfection and expectations. Do not look for black&white guidelines - they do not exist. Don't expect a straight path with clearly-defined and measurable goals - you will be disappointed. Abandon calendar-watching and time-keeping - those activites are distractions which will keep you stuck (right where your TMS brain wants you to be). Do NOT let your brain talk you into rushing through the lessons, or skipping something because it "seems" unimportant or not relevant. And if your symptoms actually increase (or you get new ones, or your anxiety ramps up) while you're doing the work, it's time to rejoice - because that's proof of the TMS mechanism at work, trying to scare you into giving up. It also means you're actually doing the work.

    Good luck!
    Ellen likes this.
  4. dh627

    dh627 New Member

    Thank you both so much for your replies. Jan, always so helpful!
  5. dh627

    dh627 New Member

    Which part are you saying is my resistance exactly? The bit of mine that you've quoted? If so, thank you for your insight, I had not considered that this is potentially just another form of me resisting my emotions before, it's very helpful and gives me a good lead for where to go next.
  6. dh627

    dh627 New Member

    Thank you for your reply Jan. I am actually listening to the audiobook of Waking the Tiger by Levine and that's what actually made me bring up the PTSD. Levine suggests that the physical pain symptoms from PTSD are caused by energy being trapped in our body and not being discharged - this feels like a bit of a contrast to the way TMS defines the pain, that the pain comes about as a distraction from our emotions - what do you think about this? Do you see what I mean?
  7. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    What I see is simply another way to understand and visualize the mindbody connection, and a different approach to harness that understanding in order to recover. If I were reading that I would be curious, and thinking about how it relates to the self-talk and self-calming techniques that I use along with therapeutic breathing.

    But the thing about me is that I've understood and believed in the MBC and in the power of self-healing for decades - long before I discovered Dr Sarno (who helped me solve a lot of missing pieces of the puzzle). So I guess that I've long had a rather fluid acceptance of the many different ways the MBC manifests as well as the many different ways to address it when the mind starts to negatively affect the body. Which is one of the things I was trying to get across in my earlier post.

    Also, neuroscience has come a long way in the last decade - look at the latest from Dr Schubiner and Alan Gordon who have given mindbody practice even more tools and possible paths to recovery.

    But here's the other thing, and I think it's crucial: it's pretty easy for me to say and practice a lot of this because I do not have past trauma. More crucially for you, in understanding Dr Sarno's work and what he accomplished, you need to know that his typical patients did not suffer from trauma! They were, in fact, screened in advance of being accepted into his program, based on his assessment that they would be able to incorporate the concepts and achieve significant recovery very quickly.

    People with past trauma really struggle to achieve significant recovery with TMS self-help resources - I've seen it too often in my twelve years on this forum. My sense is that the TMS mechanism in their brains is incredibly resistant to recovery techniques, and that skilled therapeutic intervention may be required. Dr Sarno essentially said the same thing.

    I want to go back to your question, "Do you see what I mean?"

    What I see is that the TMS mechanism in your (possibly resistant) brain is distracting you with a dichotomy that, to someone like me, is either irrelevant or non-existant.

    For better or worse, there is no one way to do the work. I wish there was.
  8. dh627

    dh627 New Member

    Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately I do have a bit of trauma - however, I would say that it is fairly recent (2016-2019) from a very difficult and nasty relationship and an illness (kidney stone for 2 months) - and that's where my symptoms from trauma all began. I do also have a lot of back pain which i've had for years, but I'd say that doesn't come from trauma.

    I didn't realise that the typical TMS patient didn't suffer from trauma. In that case, I'm not really sure where to go from here. I have attempted TMS recovery many times but usually I feel better for the first few weeks and my symptoms dramatically reduce to the point where it's not debilitating (and sometimes they disappear entirely for a week or two) then I end up stopping TMS work, and then weeks or months later my symptoms escalate to the point that they cannot be ignored and that it's debilitating - so I have previously never really properly committed to it and am just going around in circles (perhaps this is also a form of resistance, and it's very characteristic of many other things in my life) - I would say that I am indeed resistant to the recovery techniques. I know that in a lot of TMS literature it says that TMS'ers have a tendency to think 'but my pain is really different' - but tbh this does actually feel like the case for me and I have really struggled to get anywhere with it. For me my symptoms feel very much related to anxiety and nervousness and feels very very directly related to my emotional state, whereas my back pain doesn't. I also see a somatic therapist but he is not familiar with TMS. I find that yoga or therapeutic breathing has not really done much for me either :(
  9. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    OMG, @dh627 - you are WAY overthinking and overanalyzing this! What this looks like from where I'm at is someone trying to fit a bunch of individual square pegs into a predetermined set of round holes in order to gain some sense of control and certainty over your suffering. The fact is that the influence of our brains over our bodies is forever shifting, while our bodies are made up of a bunch of interrelated systems that depend on each other to work, but which are always changing and shifting in order to meet a constant stream of new input and demands from the outside world, from what we hear, see, smell, and ingest, to how we feel about people, places, news, and our pasts and futures.

    First, please be assured that this is mostly unconscious behavior - THIS is exactly the kind of thing that the TMS mechanism does so, and it does it very skillfully for such a primitive mechanism.

    Or, as I've been known to say (perhaps too much): THIS is your brain on TMS.

    Also, don't lose sight of the fact that although Dr. Sarno seemed to indicate that TMS is a condition that can be "cured", he was practicing in a different era, and today, most of us do not believe that. Today, we understand that the TMS mechanism exists in every human brain, and that recently, and most especially in the last four or five years (including a f***ing worldwide pandemic, for god's sake) it has gone into overdrive for many people - thus the worldwide mental health crisis that we have been hearing about since 2020.

    So, TMS is a normal, albeit very primitive, brain mechanism, designed to keep us alive in the primitive world. And it works for shit in the modern world. In any case, it can't be eliminated or cured - but we also believe (and experience the fact) that it can be controlled. We just have to learn how to do so, finding the right combination of knowledge and methods that suit our individual personalities. And this takes time and effort.

    You intially reported that you've been suffering with symptoms for five years (heh, I had to go back to find that - and it pretty well matches my timeline of increasing world dysfunction) - but if you will actually buckle down and do the exercises recommended in the SEP, you will probably discover that you had signs of TMS long before 2019. It took doing the SEP for me to put everything together and make sense of my lifetime of random symptoms that doctors chalked up to anxiety. I was 60 when I found Dr Sarno and this work, back in 2011. I started suffering minor setbacks before 2019, thanks to the existential distress of world disorder, and the pandemic was a major setback (long story, I've written about it elsewhere) but I've been regrouping thanks to my skills and to eliminating sources of stress, and I'm doing much better again, at 72!

    Anyways - I think that focusing on your trauma is probably quite irrelevant (ie: it's a TMS distraction). Let's look at what you just said (which is actually a repeat of your intial post:

    And so ....????

    And there it is.

    You're so incredibly close to getting it, my friend - but each time you get too close, your brain shuts you down, and offers you negative and irrational fears and doubts to keep you where it wants you - spinning your wheels in doubt and uncertainty, beating yourself up for somehow not getting it. Your brain needs you to remain fearful so that you won't get eaten by a tiger - which in today's world, is totally irrational. It's a skilled mechanism at achieving its original purpose, but that purpose is long gone, and it doesn't realize that.

    Just do the work. Do it honestly, do not rush through it, and be prepared for your symptoms to get worse before they get better. This is a good sign that you are on the right path - the path that your fearful brain does not want you to take. Take a break if you need to - but do something constructive to take the place of the time you might have spent on the SEP that day - look into self-compassion meditations, for example, or maybe just some therapeutic breathing techniques. Or force yourself (with compassion!) to do something you've been afraid to do because of your symptoms.

    You CAN do this.


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