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New Program Day 10: Somatic Tracking II: Anxiety Strikes Back

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Alan Gordon LCSW, Jul 21, 2017.

  1. Christie Uipi MSW

    Christie Uipi MSW TMS Therapist

    There are a couple of great questions here. The first is some confusion around the difference between tracking anxiety sensations and tracking pain sensations. The short answer is: there is no difference.

    Here's the long answer. Both pain and anxiety are danger signals, as we learned earlier on in the program. When we are sensing danger, the result in our bodies can be either anxiety or pain. Both anxiety and pain are physical sensations. Pain, of course, feels like...pain. It can burn, ache, throb, stab, etc. Anxiety can feel like lots of different sensations. It can feel like tightness in the chest, butterflies in the stomach, a tension in the shoulders or neck, etc. Whether you're feeling anxiety sensations or TMS pain sensations essentially does not make a difference - they are serving the same purpose. What sensation you feel (burning, throbbing, tightness, tension) doesn't make a difference. Where you feel it in your body doesn't make a difference.

    Here's what does make a difference: being able to attend to that sensation without fear. For some people, attending to the physical sensations of their anxiety can be a little easier than attending to the physical sensation of their TMS pain, because there is more inherent fear attached to the TMS pain (namely, because it hurts). Take a listen to Libby's clip again to hear that play out. But the ultimate goal is to be able to attend to all of these sensations in the same way -- objectively noticing and attending to them, without running from them, and without fear.

    The second question here is how somatic tracking is different from preoccupying over our symptoms, because we have all learned that preoccupation will perpetuate our symptoms. GREAT question. Preoccupation is a form of fear (i.e., "Is my pain going to get better in the next half hour?" or, "Why is it worse now than it was this morning?!). Somatic tracking is paying attention to these sensations without fear. Somatic tracking is essentially learning to notice these sensations without preoccupying over them at all -- noticing them objectively, confronting them confidently, and knowing that it is safe to do so. So, while preoccupying and somatic tracking may seem similar at first glance...they are actually almost complete opposites.

    To take this even a step further, I believe that the pressure we put on ourselves "not to preoccupy" over the symptoms sometimes gets confused with this notion that we must "ignore" our symptoms. I don't know about all of you, but when I was in daily and near constant pain, there was no way that I could ignore that physical sensation. IT HURT! And putting pressure on myself to ignore the sensation only made me feel like I was failing, which scared me ten times over. Pressuring myself to "ignore" the sensation was actually just preoccupation sneaking up on me in a new form, because "trying to ignore" the pain was a full-time (and virtually impossible) job. In my tremendous efforts "not to preoccupy," ALL I WAS DOING WAS PREOCCUPYING!

    Teaching myself the technique of objectively noticing the sensation without fear, while telling myself that I knew exactly what that sensation was, and that it was safe and okay to notice it, was a gigantic relief. It takes practice, but I know you guys can do it :)
    Katya, momx2, nowa and 41 others like this.
  2. itmsw

    itmsw Peer Supporter

    Thank you christieuipi- if we practice somatic tracking by lying down 10-20 min a day. How do we then apply these principles when we are up and about doing the normal day to day activities?
  3. itmsw

    itmsw Peer Supporter

    Alan, I guess my question is how does one attend to oneself every second while typing, while driving, while talking, while reading, etc.
  4. Emre

    Emre Peer Supporter

    woaw that was an amazing "reply"!!
    Soo helpful and mind opening for me thank you so much!
    I am not going to ask you if you are totally pain free now
    Shells, Benjuwa and Christie Uipi MSW like this.
  5. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    I am not speaking for Alan neither. But I am guessing it is similar to Mindfulness. When you brush your teeth, you know you're brushing your teeth. You pay attention at the stroke, the brushing up and down, left and right. You feel the teeth getting cleaner, you feel the water rinsing your mouth ... When you driving you know you're driving. When you eat, you know you're eating. When a part of your body is in pain, you know you're in pain... Mindfully doing everything all day long. Being an observer without any emotional reaction to what is going on. Mindfully doing thing. Focus on the task at hand. Don't let our mind jumping here and there. Don't be busy cleaning the house while thinking about what happened at work earlier.
    Be mindful. Gentle with your mind. It work too much already, let it slow down and relax.
  6. Kerrj74

    Kerrj74 Well known member

    Thank you Christie. Very well said and received.
  7. Mooreck

    Mooreck New Member

    Thank you those explanations are really helpful.
    Christie Uipi MSW likes this.
  8. Emre

    Emre Peer Supporter

    Hi all
    Its great to tms with you guys;)

    So is the main problem to repress rage (like Sarno says) or is it to percieve many things as danger and have fear all the time???
    MentorCoach likes this.
  9. shmps

    shmps Peer Supporter

    Alan, when you say Unlearning Fear.. but the way to unlearn is by somatic tracking (feeling the bodily sensations of anxiety). How is fear and anxiety related? You could be having fear thoughts related to pain or any other life event unrelated to pain, how feeling the anxiety sensations will reduce the fear thoughts?
  10. jdb49

    jdb49 New Member

    Bodhigirl, I find your reply very helpful--especially the part about keeping the ego from having control over our pain/anxiety. This fits right in with what spiritual teachers such as Eckhart Tolle ("The Power of Now") have to say about replacing the ego with the deeper level of our true Self, which is pure awareness. The ego wants to avoid confronting pain at all costs, and that is the opposite of what is needed to move through it.
    Right now I am exploring a book by Les Fehmi called "The Open Focus Brain." And he has a guided "meditation" available at his website--www.openfocus.com--that I believe might be very helpful to anyone suffering from TMS. I think you have to sign on for emails to access the free guided program. Hope someone finds this helpful, just as I have found your post so helpful. Bests. Jim
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
    Shells and Bodhigirl like this.
  11. Kat

    Kat Peer Supporter

    Hi itmsw,
    I would recommend writing a list of questions for the pain doctor (ie what is the success rate, what are the possible complications, etc) for the next time you go in, and then tell him you have some questions at the beginning of the appointment. You are within your rights to ask for more time to consider whether or not you want to have this done. Once the pain doctor has answered any questions you might have, you will probably want some more time to go away and think about it, rather than being able to give him your answer straight away, so perhaps you could ask him to schedule another appointment again in a few weeks' time. I considered having this done a while back, but decided against it, as my pain doctor wasn't too keen - but it might be worth a try, if nothing else is helping - but perhaps best to exhaust all other options first. I also had a denervation (think this is the same as nerve ablation?) that made my pain much worse after! And I never got better from that either, my pain stayed at the new level from then on. Although I have found that this has happened to me with almost every operation and procedure I've had. It even got worse from a steroid injection in a different part of my back. I've worked out (took me a while!) that my body really doesn't like operations/procedures, so now I try and stay away from traditional medicine, apart from taking pain meds. The thing that has helped me the most has been craniosacral therapy. I think with our heightened nervous systems (that most of us on this forum seem to have) can mean that when our bodies are in short-term pain from a procedure, being anxious and tense about this new pain can sometimes cause it to stay long-term, and thus make our regular pain even worse – at least for me this has happened, and it's the only explanation I can come up with!

    Don't forget, you can always ask your GP to refer you to another pain doctor if you feel this one isn't helping. There are also other things that some pain clinics do, such as electr0-acupuncture, which helped me in the past, so you'd need to do some research on which pain clinics in your area can do this.
    Good luck!
    Toonces likes this.
  12. nightcountry

    nightcountry New Member

    Hey Christie
    I get the idea of not trying to just ignore the pain symptoms but when we talk about outcome independent activities such as in Allen's example of his daily walks, isn't that exactly the strategy being utilized so that you don't care if you have pain or not ? And if so then how do I reconcile the two strategies between outcome independence and somatic tracking ? I think you would reply that both strategies Comprise a freedom from fear. I suppose I am struggling with the idea as you said that it's almost impossible to ignore because it hurts so damn much so how do you get to a place of b objectivity and dispassionate curiosity when the pain is so overwhelming
    Penny2007 and MentorCoach like this.
  13. rbmunkin

    rbmunkin Peer Supporter

    I certainly wouldn't go back to that doctor!
    caligirlgonegreen likes this.
  14. Artscout

    Artscout New Member

    "You do not feel hopeless because of your physical problems, you have physical problems because you feel hopeless."

    I'm not sure this quote I found on this site will be helpful to you but reading your post it kept surfacing in my mind so I hope it resonates for you. If you're stuck in the pain it's VERY difficult to see this truth but when you can and you do "think psychologically" it can be a portal to healing. Addressing the hopelessness can possibly create a road to travel out of the pain. Again...

    "You do not feel hopeless because of your physical problems, you have physical problems because you feel hopeless."

    P.S. I also have to say I'm assuming what you're going through is TMS and my comment only makes sense in that context. These is no mention that you have or accept that diagnosis which I'm guessing is why you're pursuing surgeries for your pain. Anyhow, beware, I'm just some guy with a keyboard. Best of luck to you.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2017
    caligirlgonegreen likes this.
  15. Artscout

    Artscout New Member

    I'm going to jump in with what works for me. You're right that when suffering pain it seems almost impossible to "track" it and be removed or unaffected by it. In my case most if not all of my initial progress occurred when I was not in pain. When not in pain through somatic tracking I found I did not know my body and the way it processed emotions. Upon further contemplation I discovered my thoughts were triggering body anxiety which ultimately led to excruciating pain. Before I was aware of this I considered my self a person who did not suffer from anxiety. Wow was I wrong! In one way it was true that I didn't suffer from the anxiety because I stuffed the anxiety down so hard it manifested itself as the aforementioned excruciating pain. Eventually I was able to "drag" my knowledge from my non painful realizations into the times I was very much having pain. That's when a more rapid progress began for me.
  16. James59

    James59 Well known member

    From what you described, this pain doctor strikes me as an example of what is wrong with the medical industrial complex. IMHO, I think that implanting a gadget isn't going to solve the root problem, it'll just put a mask over it. The underlying psychological cause of the pain will still be there, hidden for a time, but most likely will just re-emerge in some other physical form out of the gadget's reach.

    And I've experienced family pressure similar to what you described. The idea that the mind can affect one's health still hasn't sunk into mainstream thought even though the concept has been around since the mid 19th Century. For most people it's still "physical symptoms, physical cause, physical cure."

    A few years ago I was under a lot of pressure from both my wife and my sister (who lives in another state) to find the right doctor who will turn the right screw and make everything hunky-dory. Never mind that I had already spent thousands of dollars over almost three years on a string of doctors and therapists who just made things worse if they did anything at all. At one point my sister said I "wouldn't be in the mess" I am now if I "had just done what the doctors said." I had to send her a lengthy e-mail detailing what every doctor said and how I dutifully followed their instructions (except for one who wanted to load me up with potent drugs). Finally she said "Oh, I didn't realize you had done all of those things."

    My wife now seems to understand the concept of a psychological cause for pain, but it took quite a bit of explaining in small nuggets over time. But I've had to distance myself from my sister somewhat as she has a tendency to dispense unsolicited medical advice based on what she reads in popular health magazines.

    The bottom line is that it's your mind and your body so you, and nobody else but you, has the final word on what course of treatment is appropriate.
    caligirlgonegreen and Kat like this.
  17. James59

    James59 Well known member

    I can't speak for Alan, but I don't think it is possible to observe every sensation every second. But as I go about my activities my mind will periodically become more consciously aware of my symptoms than usual. At those moments one can just say "Oh, that's what is happening now. OK, that's interesting." Then I can go back and concentrate on the task at hand.
    chemgirl likes this.
  18. Christie Uipi MSW

    Christie Uipi MSW TMS Therapist

    Hey! Another good question, and I understand the confusion.

    I encourage everyone to use all these new strategies as different ways to be kind and good to themselves. So, somatic tracking can be done, as Alan describes, as a way of attending to oneself and honing a sense of safety. Somatic tracking shouldn't be done to "make the pain or anxiety go away," -- if that's the energy with which we approach this technique, we are not only pressuring ourselves, but we are also leaving the concept of outcome independence behind.

    If you can learn to attend to yourself and be kind to yourself, then that's the win in and of itself, regardless of whether you experience a symptom decrease or increase. In fact, whatever increase or decrease you notice is just further opportunity to practice the skill of noticing the changes in symptoms neutrally/without fear. With this in mind, remaining outcome independent falls right in line with the goal.

    And for everyone thinking "But I really want my symptoms to go down!!!" -- I want that for you, too. But working the fear behind the symptoms and learning attend to that fear (and ultimately, to yourself) is the only way out. So just try to keep trusting the process :)
    chemgirl, schnurma, westb and 6 others like this.
  19. birdsetfree

    birdsetfree Well known member

    Here is a link to a meditation on somatic tracking that I use/used to overcome my pain:

    http://www.mindfulness-solution.com...ons - MP3 Files/Separating the Two Arrows.mp3

    The first part of it gets you to follow your breath. That usually did it for me. He then gets you to focus on the pain with curiosity and relax into it and to separate your thoughts from the physical sensations themselves. I still use this as a tool for staying calm and indifferent to any pain I may experience and it dispels it very quickly. This method is another tool to take back control of your mind body.
  20. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    There are a lot of great questions here. First off, I suggest that every go to the bottom of the comments section on page 1, and read Christie's response. It's a very important piece of the puzzle.
    Yes! If you have the time, that's a great idea. If it ever gets to a point where you're feeling like it's a chore or you're feeling pressure, just scale it back. It isn't always the amount of time that we practice, but the way we feel about practicing.
    This is a big part of overcoming pain, yes. I'll be covering other components of recovery in the coming days.
    Oh my god, I think I confused Nathaniel Branden for David Burns! Thank you for pointing this out...I may have to change that in the post. And thank you for the rest of your post, I'm a big fan of Peter Levine's work.
    Very insightful question! Outcome independence doesn't involve ignoring the pain either, simply not letting it determine your outlook. In fact, practicing somatic tracking is a way of practicing of outcome independence: feeling what you feel, not from a place of fear or despair, but assessing it objectively.
    Shells, Penny2007, Lauren T and 2 others like this.

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