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Deeply Frustrated and Scared

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by eskimoeskimo, Apr 20, 2015.

  1. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    Hi All,

    I've known about TMS for 2+ years, read all the Sarno books plus Steve O's and Amir's and Unlearn etc etc, done the SEP, journaled and journaled, talked to a TMS therapist a dozen times, I check the forum frequently, exercise regularly, read "outcome independence" over and over, watched all the sarno related youtubes, listened to healing back pain on tape, daily meditation, tried adjusting my amount of effort up and down and...

    My neck hurts as much or more than ever, and I spend 99% of the day thinking about it, and I'm completely afraid. I go back to my ' personal evidence for TMS' list over and over, but the lack of progress inevitably has "This is bullshit" ping ponging around my head frequently. I've had no major successes or periods of relief along the way.

    The thing is, I feel quite convinced that it's not structural, but caused by emotion/tension/repressed anger and sadness. And that's supposed to be the treatment right? Believing that? But, even though I don't think it's structural, I'm still terrified of it. It's been ruining my life, I'm not convinced that it will ever go away, so I'm still terrified.

    I'm just lost in this treatment, not even sure what to try any more. And this isn't the first time I've come to this forum with essentially exactly this message, but here's to another try. Any tips?

    kyleisnowhere1 likes this.
  2. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    Part of what scares me is that the neck pain seems to act as an equivalent to other anxiety obsessions I have, most notably my heartbeat. They both steal my focus and scare me. But, I've never thought there was something physically wrong with my heart, I've always been confident that it's anxiety that keeps that one going. But again, isn't that supposed to be the treatment? Recognizing that it's not a physical malady but physical symptoms caused by emotions? Well where's the therapeutic benefit? I have no idea how to go about feeling better about either at this point.
  3. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    I have so much doubt that this is a real treatment, rather than just some exaggerated placebo effect. I'm worried that I've let myself be duped into some kind of cultish Freudian pain theory because it's the only modality telling me that there's actually nothing wrong with my body and that chronic pain can be overcome (and I want that to be true). I mean... more people believed in Zeus at one time than currently subscribe to this pain theory.

    Also, regardless of what's going on structurally in my neck (which may be nothing unusual), I'm worried that the spider web of neural pathways in my brain that have developed over 8 years of pain are stuck there permanently. I know there's a lot of talk about neural plasticity and that, but the prognosis for chronic pain in general is not at all good. And it takes a toll on the brain, as the pain alarm system becomes more and more entrenched. Someone please help me feel less afraid of this shit.
  4. David88

    David88 Well known member

    Hi Eskimo,

    It sounds like you share a misconception about TMS treatment that is very common, even here. The cure is not about belief. Being sure you have TMS is not generally enough to make the pain go away, though it sometimes may be for some people. Sometimes you don't know for sure something was TMS until after the pain goes away.

    The cure is about finding the reason your unconscious is creating the pain.

    The pain is there as a distraction, to keep certain feelings out of consciousness. Likewise, worrying about your heartbeat, or your neural pathways, or even whether TMS is a cultish Freudian pain theory, are distractions that focus your attention. The cure is to find those hidden, scary, threatening feelings, and let yourself experience them consciously. Then the need for TMS goes away.

    In your case, journaling and a dozen sessions with a therapist did not get to them. That's not surprising. These feelings can be very stubbornly hidden. I had years of work with three different therapists before I let myself experience the pain and rage I felt growing up in a horrible family. When you finally uncover those feelings, you will know it. Everything in your body will change. You will feel a sense of relief and reconnecting with your true self.

    Keep at it. Try a new therapist, or a different approach to journaling, or anything that might help you get at those feelings. Trust your instincts. Where you find the most anxiety, there you will find clues. It's not about belief, it's about feelings.

    kyleisnowhere1 and Ellen like this.
  5. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member


    Thank you for your reply.

    I think this can be a very fruitful discussion for people. It's my understanding that Dr. Sarno does not advocate that it is necessary to uncover the repressed rage or feel it. I thought that he was very adamant that it's only necessary to acknowledge/believe that it's there and that the pain is your brain's attempt to keep it from surfacing. I think this is what he means by "think psychological"... to know that this is a trick and make the shift. But, not necessary to successfully get to the bottom of the repressed and bring it all up. I thought the purpose of journaling was to get you to think psychological and realize that there's a wealth of repressed emotions, but again... not to uncover or decipher the hidden nugget of repressed emotion and process it in a big "A-ha!" ???

    I'd be very glad to know that my interpretation was wrong, because this would be a new trail to follow. Anyone else have thoughts on this? This is a key issue that needs clarification. Most of the practitioners and peer supporters on here definitely seem to advocate 100% belief as the #1 goal.

    Thanks again
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2015
  6. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Tyler,

    I think you are right here.
    Except that Dr. Sarno said 20% need to become more aware of their feelings, using therapy. I agree with you that you do not need to necessarily find an exact hidden nugget of repressed emotion. I think some people find this to be true with themselves, and some do not. I did not, exactly. I used my experience of my psychodynamics, based on many years of psychological inquiry, and applied this with Dr. Sarno's theory to understand the reasons for my pain. I knew there was a "war going on" between my inner child, the Superego, etc. I have suffered a great deal of self-hate, rage, etc. So in reading Dr. Sarno, the existence of the life we "don't want to feel" down deep made absolute sense. So I "believed," based on direct experience. At least this is what I think happened!

    Dr. Sarno said that most people never feel the real rage that causes symptoms, but that many of his patients working with the therapists he sent them to did have direct contact with the rage and other difficult emotions.

    For you, David's story is an interesting one, because he is saying it took him a long time, with lots of "experiencing" of the psychodynamics. I think that we don't need to find a perfect deep reason for the TMS down deep, as much as we cure by opening the door to feeling more and more. That is, for the folks like you who do not get better with the level of work you've done with such dedication so far. As a side benefit, going into the feelings supports the "deepening" that many doctors, therapists, coaches talk about. We deepen, because we are in touch with more of our reality. And (counter to what Dr. Sarno's writing seems to imply) this deepening also leads to changes in the outer life, at the right time.

    You are experiencing a lot of fear and doubt. This is reasonable given what you're going through. You might also isolate these feelings and work with them directly, rather than let them run you so much in your relationship to applying Dr. Sarno's cure. If I was you I would be experiencing incredible anger and frustration about the whole thing. This can be explored with compassion.

    Good luck with your sincere endeavor. I am glad you are back asking. I hope something clicks!

    Andy B.
    David88 likes this.
  7. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    Thanks Andy, I think our interpretations of the TMS modality are similar. And, like you mentioned, I'm hoping something here "clicks" because I feel like I've made a very honest attempt at the TMS work (including working with outcome independence), yet something has eluded me. I'm more afraid, more confused, more exhausted, more anxious, and more in pain than ever previously (on average, let's say).

    I should also mention that I'm not new to therapy, and have seen many people for various anxiety/depression issues, within but mostly outside of the TMS framework.

    It just feels like the neck pain is equivalent to all of my other symptoms and obsessions, but so far I haven't found any tools that work much to short-circuit the daily spiral. I've heard similar stories many times on this forum, if anybody has any clues as to how they punched through that wall, I'd appreciate the info. It feels like I'm up against a big, threatening force and I'm holding a tiny toy hammer. Or I guess more like I'm blind-folded, b/c I really don't even know what's going on.
  8. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    ... And not in an extinction burst sort of way, just a gradual increase in suffering
  9. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    I feel like I've attempted this many times over, through therapy, and more directly with mindfulness meditation. But, again, without any notable breakthroughs or insights. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanks again
  10. RichieRich

    RichieRich Well known member


    I'm not one for promoting books, but simply state what I have enjoyed and what has helped ground me. Check out a copy of the ebook At Last a Life. I've been where you're at, with the whole heartbeat thing. I've driven my self nuts using a pulse oximeter and checking my blood pressure to the point of obsession. I could easily write a short novel on my anxiety and panic.

    I'm new to these forums, but I know where you're at.

    Encourage yourself to stop fighting each little issue and treat it as one big pot. A pot that has boiled over, and you're going to let it cool itself down on its own while you go about your day. Continue to recognize the issues are there, but that they can't hurt you.......the heart stuff is a sensation. Just give it a little space to move. Don't fight with it, and don't attempt to positively engage with it because you'd still be giving it more recognition than it really needs.

    Before you're going to see any progress, you're going to have to accept that the problems are a part of you just like your arms and your legs are a part of you. They'll always be there, but they can mostly be forgotten if there's no good reason to keep them in mind.
  11. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi EskimoEskimo,

    Sorry to hear how frustrated you are despite all your efforts to heal. Here is my take on the issues you raise: I feel that believing we have TMS is only the first step. What comes next is taking away the purpose of the TMS. Since the purpose is to distract us from emotions that are deemed too scary by the unconscious to be made conscious-- to take away the purpose we have to (1) no longer let TMS distract us, and (2) demonstrate to the unconscious that we are willing to look at and feel the full range of emotions within us. I don't feel we have to uncover the specific repressed emotions that caused the TMS, but we have to demonstrate that we aren't afraid to look and feel whatever we do uncover. Journaling and talking to a therapist can be methods for demonstrating that we can handle our dark, painful emotions, but not always. There has to be a willingness to dig deep and not reject anything that may come up.

    You are still very distracted by your TMS. I think your efforts should be focused on shifting your attention away from your body and your TMS. This is difficult to do, but with practice it can be done.

    I wrote out my success story a few weeks ago, and at the end I included every bit of advice I could think of. All the things that helped me recover are spelled out there if you want to take a look at it. Maybe there will be something that you will find helpful. It is in the Success Stories sub-forum.

    Hang in there. You are on the right path. Real recovery can be found in this approach.
    Colly, David88 and shmps like this.
  12. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    Rich, thanks for mentioning this. I haven't met a lot of people, even anxiety sufferers and therapists, that really understand the heartbeat thing. As much as I wish you didn't have to experience it, it's a bit of a relief to hear someone else understand it. It's an obsession, certainly. I can't seem to help monitoring, and I hate being aware of it. The most frustrating thing is reading, because then I'm just alone in a quiet space with my heartbeat while I desperately want to focus on what's in front of me. Reading! I've tried to engage it, meditate with it, forget about it, but it's always down there thumping away in a way that my whole being finds discomfort in and the anxiety just builds.

    I'm surprised it's not more common as a TMS symptom, because my interpretation is that it's the ultimate anxiety distraction because it has a new opportunity to scare every half second!

    I just sent it to my Kindle, I'll get into it today and let you know my thoughts. At first glance, it seems like a Claire Weeks sort of 'stop fighting' thing, which is something I've been attempting for so long. But, maybe it's got something different to say about, and/or puts it in a way that 'clicks' for me.

  13. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    Ellen, thanks for replying. I'm not sure I know how to not let TMS distract me. Trying to not think about the thing that scares me most seems like a losing battle, so I usually go for the 'accept that it's there' tact. Any tips on successfully shifting attention?

    I read your success post and it was very helpful and inspiring. It helped me get back down to the true essentials of this treatment.
  14. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    I'm also wondering if anybody has some tips on diminishing fear of anxiety. I'm often advised to go about about my business allowing the anxiety and to know that it can't hurt me. But the 'can't hurt me' part doesn't really make sense to me. It's made me miserable, and that hurts me. I'm not worried about it giving me a heart attack that day or that year. But I worry about the chronicity, and the long term effects on my health and my brain.
  15. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Get an rx for some tranquilizers so you can get calm enough to do the TMS work. Have you seen a TMS physician or therapist?
  16. eskimoeskimo

    eskimoeskimo Well known member

    I've seen and continue to see a TMS therapist. I've also tried antidepressants and benzos w/o much success.
  17. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's not possible to try not to think about something. But you can focus your attention on something else outside yourself--nature, other people, animals, an absorbing activity, etc. I think a big part of TMS is self-absorbtion--an over focus on ME and an evaluation of how I'm doing. Find something else that you care about and focus there. I think that is what people mean when they say "just go about living your life". Acceptance is part of it--this is me with pain living my life--it's OK. I don't have to be pain free to live my life. I find myself writing this a lot lately--forgetting about your TMS is the same as not having TMS. Your attention is elsewhere--you've forgotten about it, and like magic, in that moment it is gone. Then you work on stringing those moments together, and eventually you end up with a day, a week, a month, a year without TMS.

    Start with mindfulness. Be present. Focus on your breath or your sense perceptions, rather than the internal dialogue. Breathe. Let it go. You can do this. It just takes practice.
    Ren and David88 like this.
  18. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's not the anxiety that is making you miserable, it is your thoughts about the anxiety that is making you miserable. Stop thinking about it and evaluating and judging it. Just feel it and let it pass through you. It will pass if you don't resist it. Resistance comes in the form of your thoughts about it. Nobody has ever been harmed by anxiety to my knowledge.

    You are thinking too much. I tend to do this too, so I know it well. But you can stop. It is just a bad habit. Once you are aware that your thoughts are stressing you out, you can just STOP. Breathe. Focus outside yourself. Breathe again.
  19. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Ellen's replies are great, Eskimoes.

    I find that distracting myself with a pleasant activity or thought pushes anxiety and pain away.
    Do some exercise if you can, even easy ones.

    If you can't think of anything pleasant to do, clean out some dresser drawers, vacuum or dust,
    gather clothes or household items you can give to charity.

    Or just go to Youtube and look at free videos on any subject that comes to mind.

    Drugs won't help you . Distractions and deep breathing will.
  20. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Try a different TMS therapist, if not in person by phone or skype. You can try SteveO or Nicole Sachs who know their stuff. Try a different sedative, short term use of anti-depressants can calm you down enough to do the TMS work. Don't know what else to tell you.

    G'luck, like Wavy Soul says, "Love is the answer."

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