1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
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New Program Day 2: The Nature of Pain

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Alan Gordon LCSW, Jul 12, 2017.

  1. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    Thank you Alan - it's a real blessing to have you here and designing this course - I'm sure I'll learn a lot.

    There's just something that I thought I understood, but now realized it doesn't really sit well in my mind - and can perhaps block my recovery...
    At the risk of being a pain (pun intended), is there any evolutionary advantage for this scrambling of danger signals i.e. responding with pain to a danger other than actual physical injury? Even when we fear the bear chasing us - having a severe pain lowers our chances of escape and survival.

    I may have misunderstood the TMS theory that pain is a protective response telling us to get out of a dangerous situation (sure, can work sometimes as an excuse for not doing something that we *should* but don't want to do, but I don't see many other examples).
    Which brings the question - is the chronic pain really our friend with a message we should understand (like feeling our feelings) or just a malfunction of certain part of our nervous system?
    Lily Rose, Everly and Penny2007 like this.
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Ollin, that is a brilliant question, and shows the grasp you have on this concept. TMS pain can certainly be taken as a message. Truly, it is a signal that our brain is sensing some psychological threat. Maybe you're putting too much pressure on yourself, maybe you're repressing an emotion; but on a biological level, TMS is simply the collateral damage of imperfect software.

    There is no evolutionary advantage to the scrambling of signals, rather, there's simply not enough of an advantage to have developed a system that could perfectly distinguish between danger signals. Neurological systems require energy, energy requires food. So for a new system to develop, it needs to be advantageous enough to outweigh the additional energy it would require to fuel it.

    For most of human history, there was probably little consequence to having an imperfect danger-distinguishing system. Only recently, with people living in environments that we weren't necessarily wired for, has this system become a problem.

    About 6 or 7 years ago, Dr. Sarno told me, "If we were still living in indigenous tribes, I don't think TMS would even exist."

    I'm sure he's right.
  3. Ollin

    Ollin Peer Supporter

    Well, that makes perfect sense: as a civilization disease, we didn't have enough time to develop natural protection from TMS.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
    Tilli likes this.
  4. lupercmda

    lupercmda Peer Supporter

    Plum gave you're one of the greatest examples of soothing that I have read. I had these same thoughts about wondering what self soothing was. In my therapy with Daniel Lyman at the Pain Psychology Center I learned how to do this and my pain went away. I had never thought one kind thought about myself and learned how to change my self talk to being kind to myself. I would constantly think of one of the kindest people I know which was my mom saying to me that it is ok that everything was ok. I would just say this over and over and put my name in there. I would say in my head it is ok Donnie everything is ok and there is nothing to fear and try to hear it in my mothers voice. You can think of a kind person who is that way yourself. And I would also say it out loud.
    And you have to learn to laugh at your brain. I had such bad leg and butt pain I could not walk up the stairs. And you will learn what a conditioned response is and how to say to your brain that you know what is going on. I would just tell myself there is nothing wrong with me and it is my brain causing all this. And as I did my pain went away. Re wiring the brain. And the brain will fight back and pain may get worse for a bit but you will learn to laugh at your pain. Now and then I get twinges but look at what is going on psychologically and feel my emotions. And it goes away. I run and walk 5 miles a day now and no pain. And play golf all the time. Do not give up. Alan will give you some great stuff and realize it is not hocus pocus but is backed up by neurobiology. Hang in there and you will get better.
  5. grateful_mama

    grateful_mama Peer Supporter

    Thanks, Alan, for offering this program. I've started the other programs but haven't worked that far through any of them, for one reason or another (Time! My new baby!). But I'm going to try my damnedest to stick to this program in real-time. I find that my healing path (my whole life) is a series of steps forward and back. Certain pains linger, or come and go. I think I was raised in an environment where it wasn't safe to be myself. There wasn't physical danger...and it seems awkward to "blame" my parents, as we have a very loving relationship now...but it was emotionally turbulent. Anger, yelling, walking on eggshells. Also very religious. So...yeah. It wasn't ok to go against the church. And then some traumatic experiences in my teen years that left me very shaken and with OCD (and probably undiagnosed PTSD) for a while. BUT it seems that time, and my journey with self help, meditation, etc. over the past few years have really brought me a long way. Though my personality and history always sneaks back in. I've been trying lately to be very aware of my specific fears...which, when I examine them, are so numerous it's laughable. Whenever I get a pit in my stomach or feel some resistance...I know it's fear of something, whether big or miniscule. I've been trying to name it. And then go even deeper. For example: maybe I'm resisting doing XYZ. Why? I'm nervous/afraid of what people will think. But WHY? Fear of not being Enough. Good enough. Strong enough. Pretty enough. Fast enough. Healthy enough. Professional enough. Friendly enough. Creative enough. Perfect enough (ha!) And on and on. It has started to be helpful to remind myself frequently that "I am enough." I wonder what it will take to really get that message deep into my inner knowing.
  6. Penny2007

    Penny2007 formerly Pain2007

    Is this where the regression of our feelings comes into play? If we don't allow ourselves to feel the appropriate emotional danger signals like shame, anger, sadness (btw, what would sadness be a danger signal for?) then our mind flips a different (and wrong) danger switch, being physical pain?
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  7. thecomputer

    thecomputer Well known member

    Thanks Alan for the post, I'm looking forward to something new to read each day!

    I do have some questions, and I may we be wrong, but I'm trying to wrap my head around this. This new way of describing TMS is quite a departure from Sarnos theories, even though in a way it can sit alongside.

    You mention the various danger signals : hunger, fatigue, pain etc.

    Your example of the job interview doesn't seem to me like confusing one danger signal for another, just one situation with another. Surely the modern day version of a bear is something like a job interview? The sub conscious doesn't know the difference. But essentially both a threat to our lives, resulting in the fear response....not hunger, not tiredness, not pain.

    But if what you say is true why would it always be a case of fear and anxiety getting substituted for pain, not for hunger for instance or for tiredness? I know that some people do get extreme fatigue for 'no reason', or chronic fatigue, but I rarely hear of anyone being chronically hungry when they have eaten.

    I know often on these forums people's say 'dont worry about the details' but I think naturally the deeper you get into explaining it the more questions will arise.

    Thanks again for doing all this :)
    nowtimecoach and Penny2007 like this.
  8. thecomputer

    thecomputer Well known member

    And one more thing....

    Have we really discovered the boundaries of the universe?!?
    grateful_mama, Ellen and plum like this.
  9. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    I believe Sarno is 100% right and in time neuropsychologists will come to understand this. For the moment we shall lay our political hats down and continue to watch this dynamic play out in the tensions between urban and rural people. Interestingly Mark Sisson, a pioneer of Primal health speaks much on this and is a gentle advocate of Sarno. I await the day these truths come together.

    More immediately relevant to TMS and the psychology behind it is that the casual factor is our alienation from Nature (from which we bloom and blossom) and the resultant remove from natural cycles. Death is the biggest elephant in the room and our fear of it has led to deeply troubling treatments of our elderly, our sick and our dying.

    Surely our next stage of evolution must embrace our instinct, our inherent hard-wired relationship to our planet and a fierce connection to our natural cycles be these of the body or the beauty of birth through to death.

    Will we choose transhumanism and digital immortality? Or the messy life well-lived as a wild and natural human being?

    Someone on the forum quoted from the following poem and it is a poem I love. It speaks particularly well to the TMS sufferer:

    You do not have to be good.
    You do not have to walk on your knees
    for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
    You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.
    Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
    Meanwhile the world goes on.
    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
    Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
    the world offers itself to your imagination,
    calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
    over and over announcing your place
    In the family of things.

    ~ Mary Oliver
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  10. James59

    James59 Well known member

    Plum, that's a wonderful poem.
    caligirlgonegreen and plum like this.
  11. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    Truly it is. Nature patiently offers her warm lap for us to cuddle into; our ever-loving, forever there Mother.
    Miss Metta and Penny2007 like this.
  12. Penny2007

    Penny2007 formerly Pain2007

    Beautiful poem.

    These lines made me sad because I realized how much of life is passing me by without my appreciation and awareness because of my fixation on my pain.

    Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.
    Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
    are heading home again.
  13. plum

    plum Beloved Grand Eagle

    My love, go to Nature where you can and when you can't give your tears and smiles to the sky. Cloud-watch, moon bathe...small moments of reconnection to the home and healing that is your birthright. You will recover.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2017
  14. CarboNeVo

    CarboNeVo Well known member

    Not that it matters in recovery (the obsessing with the purpose of TMS) but I'm a bit lost in this TMS dilemma now.
    For years TMS has been considered as a distraction mechanism. Especially the fear and preoccupation that the pain creates were the purpose of TMS as distraction for the person from his unconscious negative emotions.
    If I remember correctly Alan Gordon even talked about it in his article about breaking the pain cycle.
    Has this understanding changed now? is TMS no more a distraction mechanism but rather a danger signal?
    What does this mean for TMS sufferers?
    @Alan Gordon LCSW .. ?
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  15. Penny2007

    Penny2007 formerly Pain2007

    @CarboNeVo - good question. Seems to me that if we don't allow ourselves to feel the appropriate emotional danger signal like shame, anger etc, then our mind flips on a different (and wrong) danger switch, being physical pain. But you are right that it is being described as a danger signal and not a distraction as Dr. Sarno used to describe it.
    CarboNeVo likes this.
  16. Kat

    Kat Peer Supporter

    [QUOTE="Alan Gordon LCSW

    For most of human history, there was probably little consequence to having an imperfect danger-distinguishing system. Only recently, with people living in environments that we weren't necessarily wired for, has this system become a problem.

    I wonder if you could say a little more about how the environment we live in isn't the one we were wired for? As it seems we have replaced the fear of predators with other fears (such as job interviews, etc). If we have just replaced one set of fears with another, then why does this cause us so many problems? So many people now live in constant stress, but how is this different from some animals in nature, for example squirrels, who seem constantly on high alert to any noise or movement. How are these animals able to cope with constant stress, whereas we can't?

    I also had a question about safety - and have read some of the other posts with interest, as I too, have had experiences in my childhood which have left me with constant anxiety and on high alert, which now seems part of my nervous system. It's hard to believe that this can be changed, as I have tried many kinds of therapy for most of my life. Though I would very much like to change this! I have never felt safe my entire life, and don't even know what this would feel like.

    I look forward to your next post, and really hope that this system can help.
  17. CarboNeVo

    CarboNeVo Well known member

    Another question came across mind right now:
    Considering TMS pain is danger signal and basically "a barometer how the primitive brain feels" as you told me once, why do I get tms pain when sitting in the office doing my job and it completely disappears when climbing mountains and standing on a cliff two feet from a certain death? or it completely disappears during flights (flights creep the hell out of me btw ).
    The office is much safer environment than on the cliff or in the airplane, yet still I experience the pain more often at work. How is the danger signal working in these cases?
    @Alan Gordon LCSW
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  18. nowtimecoach

    nowtimecoach Well known member

  19. Bodhigirl

    Bodhigirl Well known member

    My mantra has been "Hold the baby safe." It helps.
    Disarming our anxiety is one of my favorite cognitive shifts. The fear that I have overdone it, especially in athletics, has been with me since my 20's when I fell off a bike and started in with back pain - literally copying the symptoms a co-worker had... my unconscious followed eagerly in her footsteps.
    I medicated fear and anxiety through my 20's and thought I was fearless. Really.
    Upon discovering my truly anxious, traumatized "baby self" I began to have amazing pain ...usually erupting from pushing too hard at yoga, running, weights... always with the classic TMS "pop" followed by panic that I had gone too far.
    Now, when the hear a pop I smile, say aloud "TMS" and keep going. I have not sprained anything, I am just sitting atop grief, fear or anger.
    I love how this new program is unfolding... thank you!
  20. MentorCoach

    MentorCoach Peer Supporter

    Donnie, I am just now seeing your response to my post. What a great response you gave as well. Thank you SO MUCH for the encouragement AND the great suggestions on how to love myself and feel safe in the process...and heal in the process. MUCH appreciated, my friend! :)

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