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Alex B. Does part of me want to keep the pain?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by wendyd, Dec 9, 2014.

  1. wendyd

    wendyd Peer Supporter

    This question was submitted via our Ask a TMS Therapist program. To submit your question, click here.

    Something weird I’ve been thinking about is how there is something oddly comforting about the pain. Maybe comforting isn’t the right word. It’s familiar. As I move through this process, I wonder what it will feel like to not feel the familiar pangs. I’m not sure I know! I don’t know what it feels like to wake up and not immediately think “how do I feel today?” “how much does it hurt today?” Is that something other people think? How do I move past that?
  2. Alex Bloom LCSW

    Alex Bloom LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for the question. It seems that you have two concerns here and I'll try address both of them.

    What you are referring to in the first part of your post is a very important aspect of TMS that can be difficult for some people to wrap their heads around. The familiarity of the pain is one of the main reasons that it is so difficult to overcome. You are so used to subjecting yourself to it, you are so accustomed to the thought patterns that drive it, that they become the default way in which you relate to yourself. When difficult stressors arise, it is your natural response to go to what feels comfortable and "normal", hence the return to symptoms again and again. This speaks to the second issue you raise, a concern that because it feels so unfamiliar, you will be unable to not go to your habituated pattern time and time again. But, by recognizing the pattern for what it is, you can begin to intervene in the process. Remind yourself that the process does not in fact help or protect you, and that you deserve to treat yourself better. The comfort of familiarity that your symptoms provides may seem to lessen some of the uncertainty and anxiety your are feeling in the moment, but the cost is your continued suffering and avoidance of the true issues that are facing you.

    Any advice or information provided here does not and is not intended to be and should not be taken to constitute specific professional or psychological advice given to any group or individual. This general advice is provided with the guidance that any person who believes that they may be suffering from any medical, psychological, or mindbody condition should seek professional advice from a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions. No general advice provided here should be taken to replace or in any way contradict advice provided by a qualified, registered/licensed physician and/or psychotherapist who has the opportunity to meet with the patient, take a history, possibly examine the patient, review medical and/or mental health records, and provide specific advice and/or treatment based on their experience diagnosing and treating that condition or range of conditions.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    Laudisco, Anne Walker and Walt Oleksy like this.
  3. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wendy, good advice from Alex Bloom.

    It's funny, but when a friend said he paid off all his credit card debt, he kind of missed getting their bills in the mail.
    Maybe that's similar to you "missing" pain once it's gone.

    Don't worry, your subconscious will probably bring you more symptoms to deal with because of your past or present repressed emotions
    or perfectionist personality. Daily living can always trigger emotions that need TMS care and healing.

    Be glad when pain is gone and don't look for more to come. If it does, TMS it out.
  4. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    I had some of the same issues. When I had my first long stretch of little or no pain, I sort of missed it like an old friend. There was an odd sense of comfort about it. Fortunately, these feelings did not last too long!
    Laudisco, Forest and wendyd like this.
  5. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think this is an important issue in TMS recovery. There is the process of "unlearning" our pain, and then the process of "relearning" how to live a life without TMS. It's hard to give up our old coping mechanisms.

    I'm dealing right now with the habit of anxiety. I'm travelling back home in a week after being away on a work assignment for four months. I'm beginning to exhibit all the signs of a body in fight or flight mode---trouble sleeping, worrying, shakiness, etc. , as I prepare for my trip home. I'm well aware that this is "crazy" because I am an expert at travelling and making these kinds of transitions, having done it all my life. I always remember to get everything done, and I always arrive at my destination. So I'm trying not to get angry at myself about it, and to use self-talk and things I know to calm my nervous system. But, geez, when will I be free of this nonsense....really, brain, it is getting old.
    Laudisco, Forest and Anne Walker like this.
  6. wendyd

    wendyd Peer Supporter

    I just saw these responses. Thank you! I've been making slow progress, but I am still working thru the "I'm so used to feeling tweaks in my back I feel like I won't know what it feels like when it's not there." I've been laughing at myself a lot because I have SO many pavlovian triggers. Today, I was shopping and felt it and thought...yup. I'm shopping. I hate shopping. Shopping pisses me off so my back is tweaking. (that's what I like to call it. tweaks.) I just ignored it and went on my way. Also, I've been reading up a lot on pain and the essence of pain. It is all so amazing to me. Sorry. I'm rambling. Happy Hanukkah.
    Forest likes this.
  7. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hello. Lets not forget that the pain is a distraction. Just because we become aware of that and are no longer in pain does not necessarily mean the things we were distracting ourselves from have disappeared or are completely resolved. The pull to be distracted may be ever present. I personally think it can be difficult to let go of the pain because then we are letting go of the distraction and are left with the things we are distracting ourselves from. I was thinking of something my father said to me a long time ago when he was still alive(he died about 15 years ago). We were talking about why he created so much chaos and conflict in his life and then he got quiet and reflective for a moment and said "I think I avoid peace because then I will have to think about death." I remember the moment so clearly because with everything I knew about my father, I felt it was the truth. I can't say that I have ever really missed my pain, or if I ever thought that it was clearly a time when I was not in pain and had a momentary lapse in memory. But I have thought at times how single minded life is when I am in pain. The desire to change the world, take on a big project, meddle in someone else's business, tackle a huge pile of junk in the storage shed, all seems pretty impossible when I am in pain. "I am in pain, why? How can I fix it? How am I going to be able to live with this pain?" There's not room for much else. When I first had moments of being pain free, I would get so excited I had trouble pacing myself. I would want to make up for lost time and reconnect with friends, spend quality time with my children, read the huge stack of books by my bed, finish writing that screenplay, change my diet, wash the dogs and my car, take a hike... And I think I did fall back into pain because I would overwhelm myself. Ellen, I thought your post was so interesting because I am also having the hardest time letting go of the anxiety. Maybe that is the last to go!
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2014
  8. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    DITTO, Ellen and Anne. I am the same. I can relate to going completely nuts with doing things when I am not distracted by the pain. I just got over the worst relapse I have had in 3 years. I am recovered in so far as I believe I have resolved most of my childhood issues. but of course there are always things to bother me unconsciously. I recently realized that I have existential issues, like death, bothering me also. Anne, that is so interesting what your father said.
    North Star and Anne Walker like this.
  9. wendyd

    wendyd Peer Supporter

    My understanding of TMS is that one doesn't have to identify and resolve every issue to be free of pain, but rather to understand that there are subconscious issues that are causing the pain. By identifying, focusing and thinking about a variety of those issues, it helps to really understand and accept the connection between pain and emotions (as opposed to thinking that the pain is connected to structural problem). Am I way off base? If so, now I'm really depressed because identifying and resolving every single issue in my subconscious would take me the rest of my life!
    Barb M., North Star and yb44 like this.
  10. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Wendy,

    Dr Sarno has stated that people have healed themselves by just reading the book, so I would say its not necessary to resolve every single issue. However, it is important to look at your past, current and future stressors and the emotions that are associated to these. You will then understand how your thoughts fuel emotions and symptoms. Once you have an understanding of this, you can be more mindful in your day to day activity and intercept those thoughts whether they are genuine or pre-conceived and change your thoughts until they become the norm.
    Laudisco and yb44 like this.
  11. wendyd

    wendyd Peer Supporter

    Thanks, Mike. That's pretty much what I've been thinking and doing.
  12. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Wendy. It is true that you do not have to identify and resolve every issue to be free of pain. It is important though to try to uncover and learn how to work with some of the patterns and past experiences that are creating the pressure to be distracted by something else. For instance, I have had a life long tendency to repress my anger. I didn't realize it because I am a very emotional and expressive person and I thought I felt angry and expressed anger often. What I came to learn through my TMS work is that the person I am most angry with and blamed frequently, was myself. I did this because I did not feel safe directing my anger toward those that truly deserved it. And it is not as though I had to express this anger directly to them in my recovery, I could do it through journaling and mentally role playing. Intellectually, I understood this long before I was actually able to tap into and physically express this anger toward others. Its as though I had to learn how to allow myself to be angry at someone other than myself. That is just one example. This morning I figured something else out. We took on a difficult client right before the holidays because another agency was not able fill shifts and provide reliable caregivers(we are in the homecare business). I took it on and poured myself into it. I was 95% successful in covering all the shifts without much notice right before the holidays. Did I focus on the 95% I was successful in accomplishing? No, of course not, I have been stressing over the 5% that I could not get covered. I was feeling bad and frustrated over it, unsuccessful. This is a personal example that pertains to my life and personality. Its different for all of us. But these are the kinds of pressures that we can adopt without even thinking about it and they accumulatively increase the pressure for our subconscious to come up with creative ways to distract us. So making the initial connection that the pain is being generated by the psychological and not the physical is a vital first step. That connection alone can be enough to cure pain in some. But working with the psychological causes to reduce the pressure fueling this connection can also be very necessary.
    Laudisco, yb44, Ellen and 1 other person like this.
  13. wendyd

    wendyd Peer Supporter

    Thanks, Anne. That makes a lot of sense to me. Thanks for taking the time to reply.
    Anne Walker likes this.
  14. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Steve Ozanich has said that for those of us who don't heal it's because we somehow need our pain. At first this really rankled me. I was ripping mad at Steve for saying this actually. Eventually I accepted there was difference between wanting and needing. My current quest involves discovering exactly why I need these symptoms. I know I won't ever resolve every single conflict but can and have succeeded in revealing what these conflicts are.

    I feel the same way about shopping by the way. Almost every time I go shopping I 'come down with' an attack of what I call lead legs. They go totally weak and it feels like with every step I am lifting pillars of lead. I no longer fear or pay much attention to this. I focus on what I have to do and laugh at the silly tactics of my brain trying to scare me. There is nothing physically wrong. Instead I have issues with poor self image, social anxiety and concerns around my finances. I can't possibly resolve all of that stuff overnight but it's this stuff that creates the impression I have legs made of lead and not any sort of physical problem. I remember once pre-TMS knowledge I was so bad shopping in a mall I practically crawled back to my car in tears. I got home, lay on the floor for about 10 minutes to rest, got up perfectly able to walk and went about the rest of my day.

    I have actually been hobbling around for the last week or so. My life is rife with conflicts both internal and outward. Yesterday I managed to ride a bike for over an hour. I am now off to take a long walk, my way of blowing a raspberry at my brain.:)
    North Star, Laudisco, wendyd and 2 others like this.
  15. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    yb44, you're doing great with the bike ride and long walks.
    I just posted a new thread about Dr. Sarno and back pain.
    I see that one of your concerns is financial. Sarno says that is one of the main causes of TMS.
    I hope you and others will read my thread in the General Discussion Subforum.
    Anne Walker likes this.
  16. Laudisco

    Laudisco Well known member

    Thanks for sharing that yb44! I found your story of overcoming relapses very encouraging.
  17. painfreeB

    painfreeB Peer Supporter

    I suspect that pain is just another form of psychological addiction? much like when I quit smoking - the hardest part was letting go of it as a part of my identity - or who I thot I was or wanted others to see me as - even tho it wasn't working for me. if I completely let go of my pain, who am I? it has defined me for over 40 years & most of my life is/has been centered around it. what will I do w/ all that time I am not focusing on it? succumbing to it? attending to it? worrying about it? I 'need' pain in my life because I know nothing else really & am set in my negative ways of thinking/coping even tho it doesn't work. the thot of re-learning how to be all over again is daunting & overwhelming & frustrating which adds to my tendency to revert back to the familiar, no matter how much progress I make... I must remind myself that pain is no longer a part of my life...
    Barb M. likes this.
  18. mike2014

    mike2014 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yep exactly, TMS is like that person you want to shake, but can never manage to shake, it wants you to give in and revert back to your old ways. Keep fighting it and eventually you will win.

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