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New Program Day 4: Breaking the Pain Cycle

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Alan Gordon LCSW, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Day 4: Breaking the Pain Cycle

    My two-year-old niece is incredibly rambunctious. The day she learned how to walk, she learned how to run, and ever since then, she runs everywhere. She is the Forest Gump of toddlers.

    But because her ambition exceeds her level of coordination, she falls often. And there’s a moment just after she falls, when she looks at you and waits to see how you react, before determining how she feels.

    If you run over to her, concerned, worried, frantically asking if she’s okay, she’ll start crying...convinced that she must have taken quite a spill. If instead, you calmly say, “Hey, it looks like you took a little stumble,” she’s back up and running before you even finish your sentence.

    The way you react will either reinforce a sense of danger or a sense of safety.

    The Fear Behind the Pain

    Pain is a danger signal. And in the case of neural pathway pain, the way we react determines whether this signal stays on or switches off. When we react to pain with fear, it reinforces a sense of danger, and the pain persists.

    Fear is the fuel for the pain.

    If you overcome your fear, it deactivates your danger signals and the pain stops. So in truth, this is not a pain problem you have, it’s a fear problem. The pain is just the consequence.

    Of course, overcoming the fear of your pain is easier said than done. It's hard not to be afraid of something that is so inherently scary. But that’s the goal, and it’s one of the things we’re going to be working toward for the next few weeks.

    A couple months ago, Howard Schubiner and I did a training in Michigan. We wanted to do a live demonstration with someone to show the relationship between pain and fear. A nurse practitioner named Felicia volunteered. Felicia had had chronic neck pain for 20 years, and for 20 years she’d interpreted that pain as dangerous. Over the course of several minutes, Felicia was able to eliminate her fear around the pain, and the pain went away.

    Here’s a video of the live demo:

    Assuming you have neural pathway pain, if you overcome you fear, the pain will disappear. It may not happen immediately, but it will eventually fade, as you've cut off its fuel source.

    The Subtle Forms of Fear

    What if you're not actually scared of your pain...what if it's more frustration or despair?

    These feelings seem like they’re different than fear, but they’re actually under the same umbrella. Fear is a feeling induced by perceived danger, and it gives us the desire to escape. Frustration and despair lead to a desire to escape from our current situation...

    Subtle as they may be – frustration and despair are forms of fear, and can keep our danger signals activated.

    So when we talk about overcoming fear, we're including frustration, despair, anguish, irritation, annoyance, vexation, and anything else that communicates the message, "This is a bad thing that I want get away from."

    Outcome Independence

    In the earlier clip, Felicia was able to eliminate her fear around the pain by being outcome independent. Outcome independence means your definition of success isn't tied to a specific result.

    I came upon outcome independence by accident. In 2004, I had chronic back pain, and I would take long walks every night.

    I would constantly monitor my symptoms: How soon would the pain start? How quickly would it intensify? How bad was it when I got home?

    If I had a “good” walk, I’d feel confident, hopeful, and good about myself. If I had a “bad” walk, I’d feel scared, frustrated, and despairing. This went on for two years.

    Finally one day, I’d had enough. I was sick and tired of my mood, my outlook on life, and my feelings about the future being so dependent on the pain.

    And I was done.

    I changed my definition of success. A “good” walk was no longer one with less pain, it was one where I felt okay regardless of the pain. I took pride in my growing ability to determine my own mood. I celebrated the accomplishment of feeling good about myself even when the pain was bad. I broke free from the prison of fear.

    And much to my surprise, within a couple months, my walks were pain-free. Without even knowing what I was doing, I eliminated the pain’s fuel source: fear.

    Outcome independence is not something that comes easily. It’s hard to change deeply ingrained habits, and you’ll falter often. But with practice and discipline, with exposure and repetition, you can get there.

    And it all starts with a single decision: I’m done being afraid.

    Last edited: Sep 3, 2017
    Sweetdaisy, Cece, DonnaH and 27 others like this.
  2. Lily Rose

    Lily Rose Beloved Grand Eagle

    Albert Einstein said that the definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple. This concept of overcoming fear to shed pain and strange symptoms is an example of consolidating a problem into a single goal. It is a simple, and perfect answer.

    The reality, however, and the practice of shedding this fear, is where the complexity arises. Overcoming the fear of the pain is the foundation in which to open the door to deeper awareness of the layers of fears we have lurking in so many dark, secret places.

    I see many posts about what to do, but less posts about how to go about achieving these goals. How do we achieve a new mind-set? Each person processes information in a unique manner, and finding the pattern of words that opens comprehension and that 'ohhh, I get it' moment can be a challenge.

    Words have power, and this power resonates in the body. The word 'fear' or 'afraid' used in a sentence has an emotional response, even if barely recognize or felt. To say "I am done being afraid" sounds completely reasonable. But it carries the toxic word within the affirmation. To say something like "I am strong, and I am powerful, and I am radiating with energy and light .. " all those words are non-toxic. They do not awaken that quiver of negative energy.

    For me, to say "I am not afraid" was also a mode of denial, which is already too prevalent. I do not wish to encourage more denial in my body. I am afraid. But ............ I am also strong and powerful and radiating with light ...

    And when I recite that, when I shift my focus from the toxic words to the glowing words, the toxic words begin to diminish. I do not deny my fear. I let it wither from lack of attention.

    Where we are today IS the result of every thought and every action we have ever taken. And each person, each beautiful soul, has the power to make new choices and take new actions. Follow your intuition. Listen deeply. Breathe even more deeply. Engage all your senses. Step into the embrace of Nature and be soothed.

    I feel such gratitude for this site, and all the supportive members ... thank you all!

    .... with Love and Compassion<3
    RobOptimist, hjlboai, Nzl and 41 others like this.
  3. Alchimehd

    Alchimehd New Member

    Great post ! I am however confused at the mechanics behind TMS. Is it :
    • A danger signal mistakenly activated in response to a psychological threat ;
    • A mistaken assumption that there is a structural damage ;
    • A diversion from strong, hidden emotions.
    On another subject, I think labelling this a syndrome or giving it a name does as much damage as saying it's structural. I don't know but I believe it's just how the brain works and everyone of us at one point in his life experienced some of the symptoms. It's just that others have been lucky enough to not overthink/fear it.
    Emre, Lunarlass66, CarboNeVo and 3 others like this.
  4. NicoleB34

    NicoleB34 Well known member

    Yes there are quite a few people here that went the "repressed emotion route" rather than the fear route to get better. There seems to be a few different schools of thought to TMS. Either way, the fear thing really speaks to me. My whole life revolves around "what if?"
    I wake up every morning wondering "will this be one of my better days, or a terrible day?" and your walks are the same as my bike rides (yes i try to ride bikes with pudendal neuragia, a big no-no). i'm so obsessed with good ride/ bad ride and how TMS will affect my future. I also have constant fear like "will anyone ever love somebody with pelvic pain? i'll never have a normal relationship, i'm broken" This is my life.
    hjlboai, Joro, westb and 11 others like this.
  5. MicheleRenee

    MicheleRenee Peer Supporter

    i think it all comes down to belief if youll get better or something is working yhen you lose your fear. ex. another girl intalked to has pn but she truly believed it was structural and went to PT and got better because she believed in it. she still gets flares but goes to pt and is quickly resolved. so if u believe it is repressed emotions and exploring those will heal you. you will heal. for me at the beginning i completely believed that and went tht route and was quite better. but then fear kicked in. so now exploring emotions wont work vecause at this point i know its just fear and obsession w healing. which is a double edged sword
    Ren, Ababy, Amatxu and 3 others like this.
  6. MentorCoach

    MentorCoach Peer Supporter

    Now I'm beginning to believe that repressed, unbearable emotions was what first set off my pain, but is not what has sustained it. I believe that was just the catalyst. Now, it is my fear that keeps the pain perpetuated.
    RobOptimist, Cece, Catred and 20 others like this.
  7. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    Your repressed, unbearable emotions was the initial danger. The pain, the tms symptoms is now the second danger. Even if the initial danger is long gone, if you still afraid of your second danger you will continue to have tms.
    No fear, no pain.
  8. Lauren T

    Lauren T Peer Supporter

    I'm very happy to read these posts and grateful for the program. Overcoming fear - not letting it dominate me is the key for any success I've had with overcoming pain. Tinnitus has become a huge issue for me and when I think it will drive me insane I say I'm indifferent to it. Not true necessarily at that moment, but I've decided to say it anyway and it always gives me some relief as I feel more outcome independant.

    THANK YOU for this course, site, and posts! They all help!
    Amatxu and Forest like this.
  9. Lauren T

    Lauren T Peer Supporter

    Very helpful and incited Lily Rose.
    Lily Rose likes this.
  10. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    Some people would say by doing this then instead of being in denial now we lie to ourselves because obviously we are not yet: strong and powerful and radiating with light.

    I find that it will work either way for me and many others that I know of as long as we believe in it or make our mind believe in it.
    BinLA likes this.
  11. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I am one of those that has had difficulty with the concept that the fear of the pain is what is perpetuating it, since it isn't consistent with my personal experience. I wasn't consciously aware of having any fear of my pain during my decades long experience of it. With the help of drugs, I was able to function fairly normally, and do most things I wanted to do. I maintained full time employment throughout and accomplished many things. I knew I could function and that the symptoms weren't killing me. My relationship with the pain was more one of dread, intolerance, non-acceptance, resistance, and feeling victimized by it. These were the thoughts and feelings I believe perpetuated my pain cycle.

    I am huge proponent of outcome independence, as I feel it is the crux of overcoming TMS.

    From Alan's post above:

    "I changed my definition of success. A “good” walk was no longer one with less pain, it was one where I felt okay regardless of the pain. I took pride in my growing ability to determine my own mood. I celebrated the accomplishment of feeling good about myself even when the pain was bad. I broke free from the prison of fear, hopelessness, and despair.

    And much to my surprise, within a month, my walks were pain-free. Without even knowing what I was doing, I undermined the pain’s fuel source: fear."

    This example of outcome independence is very similar to my experience applying the concept. However, for me it wasn't that I broke free from fear, but of resistance. I became mindful and vigilant about my thinking. My thoughts frequently consisted of "this sucks, this shouldn't be happening to me, why is my life so difficult, etc." or variations on that theme. Instead, when I became aware of my negative, judgmental thoughts, I started shifting my attention outside myself, to nature, to animals, to music, to my senses like the feel of the earth beneath my feet as I walked, to other people, to absorbing tasks---to being in the present moment. How I felt was no longer the focus of my attention. Nor was my focus on my judgement of whether I, my body, my life, life in general was good or bad. So for me outcome independence is about acceptance, non-resistance, and non-judgment.

    My recovery from TMS has been about re-training my mind in this way. I am pain free now, except for the occasional brief relapse. But I have learned that I can still be miserable if I let my thinking go back to it's old negative, judgmental, resistant ways. Suffering can infect us in many ways besides physical pain. So this practice of re-training the mind is never really done.
    Colly, JoeM, BinLA and 21 others like this.
  12. NicoleB34

    NicoleB34 Well known member

    to the woman who talked about Tinnitus. I had that for two years. First, it drove me mad, because i'm prone to insomnia, and you cant sleep with that ringing in your ears! eventually i got used to it, and with that, i stopped caring. That's when it faded. it comes back sometimes, but i just dont care about it, so it doesnt stick around.

    To the last comment about negative feelings, feeling victimized, I too feel that. Usually it's "i was born broken. i'm useless, i shouldnt even be on this earth because i'm a useless broken human. i should just fade out or die in my sleep". It's awful. i have to stop that. I also noticed that living in my moment cuts the pain drastically. When i go for hikes with my dog, i'm nearly pain free. I used to think it was because i was standing, and therefore not hurting the nerve. i'm sure some of it is that, but most of it is because i'm not laying around and stewing about my awful life. Even on the bike, when i had only bladder pain (not pudendal pain YET) i'd be pain free on the bike. I never knew why. i'd have pain before, and after i got off the bike. But while on it, it was like taking a pain pill, yet i didn't take anything. I now believe it was because i was living in the moment. On a mountain bike, you have to concentrate on the trail ahead of you or else you'll crash. You cant really let your mind wander and start worrying about the future. I think that's what took the pain away. I'm all about catastrophizing and when something can distract me from that, my pain lessens. I just havent been able to apply these things to every day life yet. I cant always be hiking or sleeping or crying (another thing that lessens my pain temporarily). i need to apply these techniques 24/7.
    kim marie, MAE, Lost and 7 others like this.
  13. shmps

    shmps Peer Supporter

    So right.. TMS is knocking and saying.. Apply this to your life 24/7. And thats "THE WORK"!!
  14. MentorCoach

    MentorCoach Peer Supporter

    Balto, yes, "we lie to ourselves because obviously we are not yet: strong and powerful and radiating with light;" however, when we affirm these positive things over and over AND we begin to really "feel" it we invoke one of the most powerful laws in the universe...the law of attraction. So as we affirm these things, with FEELING, we are attracting more and more of that until we really are strong and powerful and radiating with light. :)
    Hayley, lizbills, harmony and 2 others like this.
  15. Jules

    Jules Well known member

    I can really resonate with this post, because my biggest issue is the fear. I am probably 85% healed, but I do have a symptom imperative of nausea and it is sometimes worse than the pain. With the pain, I could take stuff and still go on, but when you're nauseous all the time it's hard to focus or do anything.

    I had to realize that the nausea was from very tense muscles that occurred because of stress in my life and the fear of that stress turned into that feeling of being sick when failure seemed to be immenient. Thank you Alan Gordon for putting it so succinctly and simply. It's the fear that keeps it going.
  16. bluesboy63

    bluesboy63 Well known member

    Everyone needs to click the link on outcome independence. He goes further into detail about this and it's extremely helpful!
    RobOptimist, JoeM, tess and 1 other person like this.
  17. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's wonderful to read the replies to Alan Gordon's on how letting go of fear can lead to TMS healing. Dr. Sarno would applaud his views, and so do I. I'm 87 now and can honestly thank the severe back pain that came on more than three years ago because thanks to a nurse friend who told me about TMS, I read Healing Back Pain. I came to this web site and began the Structured Educational Program. Journaling led me to discover that I had been repressing anger and other emotions since I was seven years old and my parents divorced. That took the floor out from under me and I began living with feelings of abandonment and insecurity. I didn't realize this until my closest friends divorced. I realized that that triggered the long-held repressed emotions from my parents' divorce.
    Through understanding TMS and journaling, I came to accept my feelings, forgive my parents, and go on from there. TMS understanding and Alan Gordon's analysis of the part that fear plays in healing are both profound and simple. Most of what we fear never happens. We have a choice: be negative or positive. If I fall into the negative trap, I remind myself to fear not. One of the best ways I change my doom-and-gloom thinking is to laugh at fear.
    Maz100, BinLA, Bodhigirl and 10 others like this.
  18. Paulita

    Paulita New Member

    This is the best day yet and it's only Day 4 ;) I can learn to run through the fear of "I'm damaging this" or "I'm hurting that". And even forget about "that was a tough run" or "that was my fastest run". My challenge is to run and enjoy it and not worry about the outcome :D
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  19. nele

    nele Peer Supporter

    First - I am very grateful for this New Program and the interesting posts.
    My situation: I convinced I have TMS (stomach ache, back pain, neck pain, IBS, ...)
    2 years ago I overcame many years of back and neck pain. Afterward my IBS symptoms increased. My family doctor says - it is 90% psychological.
    I fear to eat heavy meals, sometimes I fear to eat at all, because I fear, my bowels can not digest it right and then I get my symptoms, cannot sleep, fear these nights without sleep...
    My conception of IBS is, that my thougths/ my fears weaken my bowels. Additionally I am afraid that my bowels got accustomed to that poor behavior. Is that a thought of structural cause?

    Outcome independence would mean for me: eat all you want, and don't mind bowel symptoms. Is that the right approach?
    I am trying it cautiously, so far not convincing. You see, I fear to try it courageously. Vicious circle? How to overcome my fear?

    Please excuse my poor English.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2017
  20. NicoleB34

    NicoleB34 Well known member

    i dont have IBS but i had interstitial cystitis (now in remission) but i was always told to eat a bland diet because acidic foods would harm the inflamed bladder lining. I never really tried the diet other than a few half hearted attempts. I occasionally took special antacids with foods just in case, but they never worked. part of me thinks that because i never feared the acidic food, i never developed the "these foods kill my bladder" symptom. I always ate and drank whatever i wanted because early on, i realized it didnt matter what i did. i imagine if i psyched myself out about the "IC diet" i might have become food sensitive.
    chemgirl, Amatxu and Bodhigirl like this.

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