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New Program Day 12: Cognitive Soothing

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Alan Gordon LCSW, Jul 22, 2017.

  1. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Day 12: Cognitive Soothing

    Of Two Minds

    Over the past eight days, I’ve talked a lot about the importance of teaching your brain that it’s safe. You may have wondered, “How can I teach my brain anything, isn’t my brain me?”

    Yes and no.

    In the 1970s, physicians started conducting an experimental brain surgery on epileptic patients. They found that if they cut the nerve fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain, they could significantly reduce the patients' seizures.

    But then these patients started developing some bizarre side effects. One man tried to light up a cigarette, and his left hand – acting entirely on its own – knocked it out of his mouth. A different man had to restrain one of his hands from trying to strangle his wife. Another woman woke up to someone slapping her across the face. It was her own right hand...she’d overslept.

    These cases led to whole new branch of neuroscience.

    It turns out that the right hemisphere of the brain controls the left half of the body, and vice versa. So when the lines of communication were cut, the patients found that each half of their body started acting independently from the other!

    Studying these “split-brain” patients gave us a new understanding of the brain. Researchers found that within each of us, there are two separate minds: there is the “us” that we identify with, and there is a more primitive part of our brains that’s beneath the surface.

    Learning Fear

    These experiments help explain why our fear can be so persistent.

    If you grew up in an environment where you didn't feel entirely safe, the primitive part of your brain could have learned and remembered that fear...so that even if it’s 30 years later, your primitive brain doesn’t know that you’re out of danger.

    The following clip is a great example of this. Marge Simpson has a fear of flying, and her therapist is exploring her past to find the root of that fear:

    Even if logically you know that you're safe, your primitive brain may not. But it can learn.

    Fostering a Sense of Safety

    Imagine you have a child who can’t fall asleep because he’s scared there’s a monster under his bed. You’d do everything possible to soothe his fears - you’d talk in a calm voice, you’d show him that he’s safe, and you’d put his mind at ease.


    There’s a part of your brain that, like a scared child, lives in fear. But you have the ability to calm those fears.

    One way to communicate a message of safety is through Cognitive Soothing. Cognitive Soothing simply involves giving our brains the message that we’re safe.

    In the following clip, Mandi uses Cognitive Soothing to disarm her fear:

    Click here to download the mp3 audio

    "It’s going to be okay. You’re safe. These feelings will pass. You are okay." The more we give ourselves this message – when we’re in pain, when we feel fear, even when we’re doing okay – the more we’re able to internalize it.

    While Somatic Tracking communicates a message of safety through a physiological channel (the body), Cognitive Soothing conveys the same message through a different channel (the mind.)

    And you can let your brain know that it’s safe through multiple channels simultaneously.

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2017
  2. Lunarlass66

    Lunarlass66 Well known member

    Without getting too psychoanalytic, I believe a vast majority of people who suffer with TMS symptoms possess a sensitive temperament. If those people also grew up without being comforted by a parent or lived in a tense, disrupted or disfunctional household, it just feels like the mold or cast was set for chronic pain to ensue.
    I suppose my question is if a person has been exposed to extreme stress or "perceived" extreme stress for say more than 40 yrs.. (yup, I'm old! Turned 51 10 days ago..) is it too late to learn to "self soothe" or create new neural pathways and push those pain pathways back into dormancy? I've been at this now for almost 3 years and it seems much worse than the last long term issue I had over 20 years ago. I was successful then, and it took about 2 yrs and a multifaceted approach. Counseling, good personal support, a short term course of antidepressants...
    I'm very worried maybe this time it's just too much and I won't make it out. I might add that I still think some of my pain issues might be age related. It's just so hard to know for sure.
    Also, I want to say thank you to Alan Gordon (and the many other kind experts who give so much of their expertise and time..) for his dedication to helping those of us who otherwise wouldn't have the support or hope we so desperately need. P. S.. The Simpsons clip brought back a lot of good memories! ... Unreal that the Simpsons is the longest running animated program.. Ever! I think more than 20 years. :)
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  3. Bodhigirl

    Bodhigirl Well known member

    Seeking safety, a sense of being home, is perhaps the most basic human need.
    This practice of self-soothing is something that has only begun to work for me when I was committed to sitting in meditation and then moving - with kindness - in yoga - while reparenting my inner infant.
    Years of work...
    After listening to today's recording of the session with Alan, I was in meditation and I took a myofasial release tool and placed it in the place where I most apt to hurt, way inside my lower back/gluteal area. I breathe in and immediately saw a critical moment between my mother and me that I have not been able to relate to my TMS until today.
    I was five or six. I was in my amazing cowgirl outfit with red boots, a red skirt with fringe and a vest. And a wonderful gun. I was simply all-powerful! I got a stick of gum from a friend. I rolled it into a cigarette (both parents smoked back then, very sophisticated and cool) and I strode from the front yard into the house, across the living room and into the kitchen to show my mom how amazing I was, smoking my 'cigarette'. I leaned on the doorjamb, I said, "Howdy, partner." My mom looked up, yelled and grabbed me by the arm, pulling me off the ground and began spanking me without warning. When she set me back down she pointed at the living room carpet. I had tracked dog-pooh across the living room on my amazing red boots! My mom was not a yeller, or a spanker-for-no-reason, she was soothing, kind and patient. But not that day.
    In the moment of connecting the spanking, hot gluteal place and the bewildered and shamed little girl, I was able to have me, the grownup, walk into the scene, lift little me up, set me on the couch and pull my boots off, looking up at my mom, I said, "It's okay mom. I got this."
    I got the boots off and took them outside, assuring Little Me that we would get the cleaned up good as new, that mom made a mistake, that I was safe and loved and that the gum-cigarette was a very cool, cowgirl thing to do...
    I just had to share that. It felt so very dear. So very new. I have visited many places where there was "empathic failure" by my parents and done lots of self-soothing work around it, mostly in hypnotic work, since trance and memory dance so beautifully together. It was solely from participating and listening to these past two weeks on TMS-wiki and I only hope to remember this and keep smiling as I am now.
  4. Emre

    Emre Peer Supporter

    This is a phenomenal course!!
    It started to change my life!!
    Today i caught myself with so many fear thoughts all the time: in the pool "this chlor stuff is not good for me i should go out", ..."i should change my swimsuit because its wet or else...", after taking a shower "i must dry my hair or else i'll get a headache", sitting at lunch "whops its windy here, i better close one of the doors or else..." Etc... Each time i laughed at the fear thought and did just the opposite of what i used to do! Didnt leave the pool, didnt change my swimsuit, didnt close the doors, didnt dry my hair!!
    I quickly did a somatic tracking and i did tell myself that i am all ok.;)
    I already loved this course and i thank you Alan and Forest and Christie and everyone involved
  5. MKMissy

    MKMissy New Member

    Just wanted to say thanks so much, Alan, for putting this course together. The whole thing so far has been really helpful. I did your Recovery Program a year ago, when I had just finished reading Healing Back Pain, and had no idea how to get help with what I knew must be TMS. Thankfully I found this site, which has been a huge source of encouragement for me. I recognise some if the clips from then in this new program, and it's great to be reminded of them. I did actually put your suggestion in today's clip into practise last year when working through my list of difficult incidents in my childhood, and went back and soothed little me. It's a very powerful tool and it has helped me let go and move on. Thanks again!
  6. Dahlia

    Dahlia Well known member

    Amazing, wonderful course, Alan. Thank you!
    Lily Rose and plum like this.
  7. Mimsy

    Mimsy New Member

    Thank you Alan! I hope you will have some information to help my sensitive 10 and 12 year old daughters to not take on my patterns. They both have already started these bad habits of finding things to worry about. I trust that as I heal myself they will too, but any specifics for how to coach my dear daughters would be greatly appreciated, especially as they are dealing with my husband and I getting a divorce. Thanks for all you do!
    kim marie and UnknownStuntman like this.
  8. LEW

    LEW Peer Supporter

    Wow! Wow! Wow! This hit home. Alan, you are remarkable! Listening to this recording is just what I needed to listen to.
    kim marie and Lunarlass66 like this.
  9. LEW

    LEW Peer Supporter

    I'm older than you are. It is not age-related....its TMS. Believe it! My path has been similar to yours. This time, it all makes so much sense. It just takes a while to convince yourself. Self-soothing is hard.....but possible. Be patient as well (by taking care of yourself, with no too much pressure)!!!! And most of all good luck!
  10. Qigongangel

    Qigongangel New Member

    This is excellent! The audio's help so much. Thank you.
    kim marie and plum like this.
  11. Artscout

    Artscout New Member

    I agree with others here that age is irrelevant. I'm in my mid 60's and after a decade of severe pain I have had great success with Sarnos ideas. Regarding your mentioning a need to "create new neural pathways". That sounds like TMS speaking to me. That is an insurmountable task to take on. What you can do is in this moment right now offer yourself comfort and a haven via Alan's soothing yourself as a child technique. Yes the pain will return but that soothing you achieved for a minute is accumulative. Rejoice later on when you get another respite. Those times when you are pain free or at least suffering at a lesser level scan your body for the joy and wonderfulness that being pain free affords. Yes, of course the pain will return again. Eventually your mind will link all these small victories and you start to see the patterns that give you your pain and the patterns that lead you away from your suffering. Once you see the path it becomes easier to take it to your destination.
    P.S. These lessons of Alan's are brilliant! The specificity of these ideas are incredibly helpful. I spent about 7 years cobbling together some similar ideas from a dozen books and articles. Many of my concepts are still quite ragged and sometime contradictory or unproductive. These posts are so clear and for me a gift of thousands of hours of brilliant thinking condensed in an easy to follow narrative. Thank You Alan.
  12. hsbarry

    hsbarry Peer Supporter

    I agree. My daughter is 13. I want her to understand these concepts. I don't want her to be as old as me and not know these ideas. They aren't things you easily pick up from family or society.
    kim marie, MentorCoach and Mimsy like this.
  13. itmsw

    itmsw Peer Supporter

    Thank you for sharing this Bodhigirl. I think it is wonderful that you were able to connect that gluteal pain to the cowgirl incident. What a sweet memory of your innocence and Im so glad that you were able to have your adult me care for the cowgirl and put your mother's frustrations at bay. I think it was ingenious of that cowgirl to figure out how to make a cigarette out of a stick of gum- it was very cool!! I agree the no warning of a spanking was certainly traumatizing and filled with shame as you were proud of yourself but that got taken from you. And I really love the term empathic failure. My dad also hit my butt out of the blue for me, but he had a reason lol - I have to practice reparenting myself. that is something needed but im not comfortable doing it and dont remember that i should do it. Hopefully this will be a start.
    butterfly_queen and Bodhigirl like this.
  14. itmsw

    itmsw Peer Supporter

    I also want to thank Alan, Forrest, and Christie for all the hard work in putting together this wonderful teaching material. I agree that they are relayed in such a way that it is easy to follow and understand and if one does have a question, this is a wonderful forum to pose it and receive answers. I truly appreciate Alan, Forrest and Christie for taking the time to read all of these posts and trying to answer as many of our questions as possible. I have been encourage to reparent myself over the years and at first had no clue what that entailed and then received some guidance about remembering situations and rewriting history. So, I want to thank Alan for posting that audio as it is really helpful in understand how to soothe yourself and reparent and why it is so needed. It was really clear and for me examples make learning much easier. And thank you for everyone on this website for sharing and their words of wisdom and what has worked for them. :happy:
    MCO, kim marie, HeleneCured and 3 others like this.
  15. editrix

    editrix New Member

    Listening to the clip, I remembered when I was 6, and my 2-year-old brother died of leukemia. My mother received a crank phone call--I was standing listening from the doorway--and she cried into the phone, "I buried my son today!" I was devastated by his death, too, and I spent many nights lying in bed trying to imagine being dead ... forever and ever ... but I couldn't get to the end of forever. I also couldn't imagine "living" under the ground. At his funeral, we had to leave the church before everyone else, and I thought all the people were laughing at me because I was crying. I have no memory of my mother or father soothing me or explaining anything about death... or God, or heaven. (Years later, I learned that my father had cried to my mother, "Why did it have to be my son?" Seven months later, he became disabled with multiple sclerosis. When he came home after an extended stay at the VA hospital, I didn't recognize him [inwardly] as my father, and I "hated" him until he died 15 years later. But that's another story! [all connected, obviously].) Anyway, I started to cry when Alan told Mandi about going back in time and soothing the little girl she had been. The image that came to me was being held and rocked by my favorite aunt, Aunt Dagmar. I don't think this ever happened in real life, but it was indeed soothing to imagine what a comfort that would have been. It's helping me to remember these life events and to write about them.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  16. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    It's never too late. I don't think the amount of time matters all that much, actually. If you've been exposed to stress for 3 months or 30 years, either way, the neural pathways have been established. And the brain is so malleable, that we can change our neural pathways in a relatively short amount of time.
    That's so great to hear, Emre! Keep it up.
    Modeling feeling safe and secure is the best thing that you can do. And please don't put too much pressure on yourself to do things perfectly. Kids are resilient, they'll find their own way.
    ter456, suky, Rachel110885 and 7 others like this.
  17. itmsw

    itmsw Peer Supporter

    Hi Editrix, Im soo sorry you experienced the loss of your brother at such a very tender age. At six years old there is no way that you could really understand what sickness and death is all about. I was in my forties when my dad died and have a hard time think of him being in the ground, so I cant imagine the fear and confusion you must have felt at such a young age. I am glad that you are able to soothe that sweet six year old inside of you! Be gentle and loving to yourself as you deserve it!!
  18. Mimsy

    Mimsy New Member

  19. editrix

    editrix New Member

    Thank you so much, itmsw. It's very generous of you to respond with such compassion.
    HeleneCured and Mimsy like this.
  20. grateful_mama

    grateful_mama Peer Supporter

    I've always been a "sensitive soul," as someone once called me. It rang true, and it seems I'm drawn to "kindred spirits" (Anne of Green Gables, anyone?) and other sensitive souls as friends. But it seems like so many of us have TMS symptoms or are struggling with food-related sensitivities. I suspect this may have something to do with Sarno's suggestion that TMS symptoms can creep in as the new "en vogue" thing. Gluten sensitivity? Food allergies? Maybe? Could it be related to TMS? Or maybe since TMSers are extra sensitive, any actual physical effects from various foods are felt more acutely by us. Alan, I think you said you'd address food fears. I hope so. I spent a few years "testing" and "discovering" foods that I'm sensitive to...but after discovering Sarno and TMS, I just started to wonder if it's all self-generated. Or if it can be reversed. Have I just been teaching my brain to fear certain benign foods? How to know for sure?

    Anyway. Thanks again for this program. I like to try and focus on the positive aspects of being a sensitive soul. I know I'm a caring, empathetic friend, and intuitive loving mama, at the very least :)

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