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Can I be indifferent to pain?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Care Less, May 10, 2017.

  1. Care Less

    Care Less Newcomer

    I've always been a very emotional person. For years I've suffered from free-range, roaming, ever changing back, neck and shoulder pain. After going through all the typical (physical) procedures to address the pain, my husband found Dr. Sarno's book, "Healing Back Pain". I've suffered about every pain he describes from TMJ, to IBS to neck and back pain. Through the pain, I've remained active and healthy. I've recently retired from teaching and have a fairly stress free life. I can't help but believe that my pain continues due to my emotionality and, therefore, I'm blaming myself for my pain. I'd love to hear from people in my similar situation and what they've tried to become indifferent to pain. Thanks!
  2. MindBodyPT

    MindBodyPT Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Care Less,

    Welcome to the forums! First of all- I know it's hard but don't blame yourself. TMS is a universal phenomenon, we all get it to a greater and lesser extent, its not your fault! It's just how we're wired as humans.

    Second of all, there are generally thought to be three factors that contribute to TMS pain: personality characteristic, past stressors and current stressors. Any and all of these may be contributing.

    At the end of the day, TMS healing is all about re-wiring your brain. I took a course from Howard Schubiner and Alan Gordon this past weekend that was amazing, and one of the central messages was that the brain is not good at distinguishing between physical and psychological threats...and can create pain when it detects either. If you have emotions and stressors the brain has detected, pain will occur. This is not your fault!

    I recommend doing the SEP, getting in touch with your emotions (feeling your feelings), educating yourself more on TMS, and also doing meditation. Meditation can help sense the pain as "just a feeling in the body" and become less threatening. It helped me a lot and is a good adjunct to the other TMS methods.
    Care Less likes this.
  3. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    From what I read on Wikipedia (don't knock it; it's not always wrong), outcome independence has become a mainstay of self-improvement psychology. I see that psychologist Alan Gordon recommends it for dealing with TMS. He explains it with an example from a movie where a student with a crush on a girl finally works up the courage to ask her out. She says no, and her boyfriend punches him in the eye. But he is really happy because he had the courage to ask. Perhaps not coincidentally, outcome independence is reportedly part of the repertoire of the PUA (pick-up artist) who boldly asks out every woman he sees in a bar or at a social gathering. I guess the theory is that if you don't care whether they say no, you will have the courage to ask and won't tense up and get tongue tied. Perhaps the theory as to TMS is that if you don't care if you are in pain, you won't get the muscle tension that causes TMS. I have no experience with that because I don't try to practice outcome independence. I have my doubts about it as a way to overcome TMS based on recent neuroscience research I have read, but that is not the point I want to make here.

    The point I want to make is that I don't think Sarno teaches outcome independence as a way to treat TMS. Consider, for example, the twelve Daily Reminders on page 82 of Healing Back Pain. Reminders 6 through 9 are:
    • Since my back is basically normal there is nothing to fear.
    • Therefore, physical activity is not dangerous.
    • And I must resume all normal physical activity.
    • I will not be concerned or intimidated by the pain.
    In short, don't fear physical activity and don't fear pain from resuming normal physical activity. But that is far different from not caring whether you have TMS pain. The whole point of Sarno's daily reminders is to prevent TMS pain from occurring and to stop it if it does occur. When Sarno says not to fear that physical activity will result in TMS pain, I think he is referring mainly to conditioning--which leads me to my next point.

    While Sarno writes at length about the role of repressed emotions in causing TMS pain, he also recognizes the important role of conditioning. For example, on pages 21-23 of Healing Back Pain, he illustrates conditioning with the famous example of Pavlov's dogs that were conditioned to associate the sound of a bell with being fed, so whenever he rang the bell they began to salivate. Sarno goes on to explain that if a person has (mis)learned to associate sitting in a car seat or bending over at the waist with back pain, she will get back pain whenever she sits in a car seat or bends at the waist. Sarno says on page 22: "One cannot overemphasize the importance of conditioning in TMS for it explains many of the reactions that patients don't understand." Similarly, he writes in The Divided Mind at page 127: "One of the prime characteristics of TMS is that the pattern of symptoms will develop as a result of Pavlovian conditioning. People will experience the kind of symptoms they have learned to expect to experience, just as Pavlov's dogs learned to associate the presentation of food with the ringing of a bell. . . .[T]hese are programmed responses that bear no relationship to anything beyond what the patient is conditioned to expect." (Emphasis added.) In short, TMS pain can occur that bears no relationship to a currently repressed emotion; it is simply a product of conditioning.

    When I overcame more than two decades of low back pain with the help of Healing Back Pain, I first had to learn to become aware of repressing anger (usually at my spouse), but to fully rid myself of back pain I also had to learn to overcome the effects of conditioning so that I did not get pain when I sat in a car seat, slept on a soft mattress, etc.
    Jules likes this.
  4. Care Less

    Care Less Newcomer

    Thank you so much for your feedback. Thank you for reminding me that"the work" is in re-wiring the brain, not trying to be unemotional. I have started deep breathing/meditation and find it to be not only relaxing, but freeing. The pain is "just a feeling in the body" and doesn't require a fear response or my undivided attention. I appreciate your help.
    fredb likes this.
  5. Care Less

    Care Less Newcomer

    Thank you so much for reminding me of information in Dr. Sarno's books that I've lost sight of. I've read both Healing Back Pain and The Divided Mind and rereading excerpts is very helpful. My pain is conditioned to certain activities or times of day and re-wiring my brain's conditioned response is my renewed focus. While I had resumed all physical activity, I was still concerned and intimidated by my pain and blaming myself for failing. I'm still a work in progress, but my approach to my pain is getting back on track, now that I've gotten some insightful feedback. I appreciate it very much. Thank you.
  6. Baseball65

    Baseball65 Beloved Grand Eagle

    might as well blame yourself for what color your hair is... we just simply 'are'.

    HBP was a lot easier for me. The divided mind was great info, but I felt like HBP was a more A.B.C. linear instructive piece. Each one of those conditioned pains ought to be recognized and dealt with. E.g. Long after I was 'recovered' I noticed I got a 5-10 minute sciatica attack whenever I got in my car after a 12 hour work day pain free. I knew it was tms but I was too mentally tired to 'deal' with it......I finally grew weary of it and 'talked to it' as It came ...each time telling it I no longer needed it's assistance. It left and never returned.
    You don't need to change your nature (emotional)...if anything, you're acknowledgement of it is an asset. You will get rid of all these little nuisances
  7. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, Dr. Sarno's great contribution to the science of psychosomatic medicine is that TMS pain is a PROTECTOR and not a punisher, as others had theorized. The subconscious is giving us pain as a psychological defense mechanism, deciding for us that the physical pain is preferable to dealing head-on with the emotional pain.

    Remembering his TWELVE DAILY REMINDERS is a good way of reconditioning the mind to be consciously in the present.

    Use Affirmations
    Many people have reported how helpful affirmations are in recovering.This essentially involves talking to your brain. While it may feel slightly odd to talk to yourself, people have reported that it allows them to gain control over their thoughts and take a more active role in their recovery. To learn more about affirmations and self talk visit the page: Affirmations.

    Dr. Sarno has also listed 12 Daily Reminders for people to review throughout their recovery. These can serve as a form of affirmations to be reviewed once a day. They are:

    1. The pain is due to TMS, not to structural abnormalities​
    2. The direct reason for the pain is mild oxygen deprivation​
    3. TMS is a harmless condition, caused by my repressed emotions​
    4. The principle emotion is my repressed anger​
    5. TMS exists only to distract my attention 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 physical activity​
    9. I will not be concerned or intimidated by the pain​
    10. I will shift my attention from the pain to emotional issues​
    11. I intend to be in control - not my subconscious mind​
    12. I must think psychological at all times, not physical.​
    Last edited: May 14, 2017
    Care Less likes this.
  8. Care Less

    Care Less Newcomer

    Thank you so much for responding. You recommended the Affirmations and using them as I talk to my brain. I'm heading over to the Affirmations link right now. Thank you!

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