This Tuesday, October 22, the call-in discussion group will be discussing Chapter 10 (The Symptom Imperative Phenomenon) in Steve Ozanich's book The Great Pain Deception starting at 9 pm Eastern Time. It lasts an hour, sometimes a little longer. Phone lines will open half an hour early so you can talk to hosts and early callers. Here's how to join the discussion (for detailed instructions, visit http://go.tmswiki.org/connect ): · If you're connecting by phone, dial 1 (347) 817-7654 and when prompted enter the meeting number 18311499. · If you're connecting via your computer (Fuze Meeting), go to www.fuzemeeting.com/fuze/app/48fb7aa8/18311499 and follow the instructions from there. For more information, visit www.tmswiki.org/ppd/Call-In_Peer_Discussion_Group . The Symptom Imperative Phenomenon A short but significant chapter in TMS healing that involves what Dr. Sarno calls “the symptom imperative” (SI). Steve explains in this chapter that it is a psychological condition that requires “continuing symptoms.” It's all about why pain can move around from one part of our body to another. An imperative is something that demands attention or action. But our conscious mind knows that is being observed, so it changes how we react to shifting symptoms. This phenomenon should be of special interest to those who have posted on TMSWiki asking why their pain moves around their body. Steve says that as long as there is an unresolved conflict, the mind will continually shift symptoms to keep fear alive, as a purposeful distraction. The symptoms bounce around in our body to keep us feeling that we have suddenly developed a “real pain” or a “real injury.” The brain scans our body until it finds an area or system that we are most fearful about. Then it induces a symptom there and lingers, waiting for our response to it. If we don’t fear that area much or don’t pay much attention to that particular symptom, it will then shift to another area until it can grasp your attention again somewhere else. It does this to keep you from tending to your emotions. Steve calls the symptom imperative “a hunter, preying on fear.” There it stays, until you realize you’ve been fooled by your own brain. Then it quickly shifts again, repeatedly, as long as the underlying psychological conflict remains. He says most of the remaining chapters of his book, The Great Pain Deception, go into why the symptoms become imperative. He believes it all begins with early separation anxieties, and possibly later trauma or multiple “little traumas that lead to an obsessive, compulsive, intuitive, colorful, and highly creative personality.” The symptoms bounce around in our body for two reasons. One is to keep the conscious mind focused away from the threatening emotions. The second is to send messages of discontent from the unconscious mind back to the conscious mind, to be resolved. So it seems to all go back to really spending time considering what our repressed emotions are that are causing the symptoms, which may not just be pain, but pain equivalents. How do the symptom imperatives move around our body? Steve says these are some of the ways: Your hip locks up. An hour later, or even a few days later, you feel chest pains. You worry you’re having a heart attack, but the chest pain leaves and lo and behold, your elbow or shoulder locks up or “freezes.” Or, under hidden stress, you develop an ulcer, so you go to a doctor and get some medication for it. The stomach pain then goes away and you think the medication cured it. But then your blood pressure rises. When you meditate or just slow down, that goes back to normal, but your back starts to hurt. You may worry about that so you see your doctor and you wind up having an operation that you didn’t need. Or, your heart flutters then you feel like you have heartburn. Maybe you take an antacid pill and the heartburn goes away, but then you have a migraine headache. You have back pain and may get an epidural injection. The pain then shifts to a migraine or skin problem. Your back pain then returns and you get a back operation. Then your knee begins to hurt and you get knee surgery. Your doctor and hospital are getting rich with you under the knife, but none of the operations were necessary. Your brain is just making you a victim of the symptom imperative. The solution, says Dr. Sarno and Steve, is to discover what the unresolved conflict is in you… what repressed emotion. “The pain,” says Dr. Sarno, is the symptom imperative at work… an indication of the power of the unconscious conflict within.” One of the best ways to solve the mystery of that conflict is in journaling. You may have to spend some weeks or more on it, but eventually you will uncover the repressed emotion. Once you convince your unconscious mind you know what it is, or they are, you begin to heal. Maybe instantly, maybe gradually. But you heal. I hope you will join the call-in next Tuesday to share your experiences about the symptom imperative in your life.