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Endless Cycle of Symptom Imperative

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by kelliwheatz, Jul 26, 2019.

  1. kelliwheatz

    kelliwheatz Newcomer

    Hi all,

    This forum is amazing. I'm a new member but have been browsing for awhile!

    I'm a 25-year-old female and classic TMS personality. I discovered Dr. Sarno and this theory last year while suffering from sudden onset and debilitating RSI in my hands; my work in digital marketing is 100% at a computer, so it definitely hit me where it hurts.

    Learning more about TMS, I realized that I've been cycling through symptoms for much of my life. I suffered from severe anorexia for years, coming close to death from malnutrition twice and necessitating inpatient treatment for a total of 8 months over two sessions. I'm also diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Thankfully, this all means I've been in therapy for about a decade and have a pretty good understanding of myself and my emotions.

    After reading all the Sarno books, perusing this forum, and doing a lot of work - I'm thrilled to say my RSI is 99% GONE! I'm typing this right now. However, I know that the RSI was in fact the symptom imperative showing up as other things faded (a knee injury, a rib injury, lasting pain from a root canal, etc). Sure enough, the emotions are STRONG and now that the RSI is gone, I'm dealing with headaches, shoulder pain, hip pain, foot pain, and intensive circulation issues. I do have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder - like Dorado, if you're a regular on this forum! - that "can" explain some of these things, but it's clear my emotions are powerful.

    Essentially: I can't stop the cycle of the symptom imperative. It's gone from anorexia to RSI to knee pain and shoulder pain and autonomic nervous system dysfunction, with clinically-recognized depression and anxiety hanging in there throughout. As soon as I get rid of one symptom, another pops up. I go to therapy and have doctors that help me manage my EDS (the genetic disorder that is not TMS as it's congenital). Curious if anyone has successfully stopped the endless cycle of the symptom imperative!
  2. Miriam G. Bongiovanni

    Miriam G. Bongiovanni Peer Supporter

    Hey Kelliwheatz,

    I am starting to realize that stopping the symptom imperative is one of our biggest challenges, and that it might require continuous work. But that's not to say that it's impossible.

    Essentially, the symptom imperative kicks in once we start fearing our symptoms less - for instance, we stop fearing our back pain, our back gets better, then something else pops up because the back pain is no longer having the desired effect. Unfortunately, sometimes some of the symptoms that come up as symptom imperative are worse than the original and very hard to ignore, especially if they have to do with anxiety and depression, or even something that visibly threatening like a rash or eczema.

    Although I am pain free and I've overcome many symptoms, I cannot say for sure that I've overcome the symptom imperative 'forever'. By this I mean that if I am going through a stressful period, something inevitably comes up. Since I am not so fearful of pain anymore, it usually isn't pain - I've had anxiety, catastrophic thinking, and unexplained cravings, insomnia and hormonal imbalance - all of these symptoms coincide with stressful periods in my life. I try and apply a similar approach that I've applied to my pain with success - try not to give the new symptoms much attention, try to react to the symptoms or feelings in a more neutral manner, accept them, meditate, and believe in the possibility of healing or feeling better.

    Although this may seem like constant work, I do believe that the symptom imperative can be overcome. To be honest, I have overcome it a number of times whenever I stayed true to myself - when I tackled an issue that has bothered me, and when I put myself first. Some symptoms return during stressful periods when I start putting too much pressure on myself or when I get stuck thinking about something that bothered me and not doing anything about it. Therefore, the best way to overcome it I'd say is by staying in tune with your emotions and learning to put yourself and your health first. If there is something that bothers you (toxic relationship, stressful job, etc), you have to be brave and try and change the situation. Some people argue that you cannot change everything - this is true, but it's amazing how many possibilities there are, and how blind we are to them sometimes.

    I hope this helps just a bit X

  3. kelliwheatz

    kelliwheatz Newcomer

    This is unbelievable, Miriam - thank you so much! Your thoughts make perfect sense, and I think it was exactly what I needed to hear. Time for me to keep doing the hard work. Much appreciation and many thanks :)
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  4. lowella

    lowella Peer Supporter

    Like Miriam, I've put my SI away in a box for several periods but it does seem to still come back when something happens in my life...I'll get frustrated at one of my teens or feel guilty for something, or just go too hard at something stressful, and a week will follow where I will have rashing, itching or pain in one spot etc. I have considered myself "already healed" as I see that is how eastern medicine treats these things, but when I'm being honest, the SI stuff is well-engrained and difficult to get out of entirely. I do think it can happen over time, and does for many, when they put a lot of consistent work into journaling etc. Best wishes!

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