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Exploring Doubts About Dr. Sarno's Work

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Andy Bayliss, Feb 7, 2015.


Did your attachments to who thought you "had to be" interefere with you accepting a TMS diagnosis?

  1. Not at all

    3 vote(s)
  2. A little

    2 vote(s)
  3. Probably quite a bit

    8 vote(s)
  4. Good question, I don't know

    1 vote(s)
  1. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dear TMS Forum Members,

    I have posted this on my blog here. And have copied it here for you.

    I am interested in your responses. Thank you.

    Andy B.

    I want to tell you about the first wonderful, mind-blowing surprise I experienced while beginning to accept Dr. Sarno's understanding about my chronic foot pain. This surprise was my first pleasure walk in three years!

    I had been camping by a canyon rim in Eastern Oregon, and I had been longing to sit on a particularly inviting rock with a better view, to have a cup of tea. But I didn't want to hurt, and since each step hurt, I took no steps toward that rock for several days.

    Then late one afternoon I summoned my courage and with a steaming cup of tea in my hands, I moved toward the rock. It was about 75 feet from my camper. As I took those first steps I experienced a little trepidation (that first step didn't hurt, but how about the second?!). Slowly, a sort of magical exhilaration came over me as my feet felt fine. I was enjoying walking!

    In awe, I made my way through sage and rocks, to sit in the snow flurries on the edge of my little canyon. Each step was pain-free and each step felt like a soft, loving miracle. Yes, it was that good.

    With the help of Ken Malloy, a Life Coach from New York City on my cell phone, I had just finished inquiring into my doubts about how Dr. Sarno's understanding about pain could apply to me.

    I had many doubts. How can all these doctors who recommend operating on my foot be wrong about the cause of my pain? Wasn't the tarsal nerve dying? On the other hand, I thought, if I had TMS, how can I be “doing this to me?” How could I be so dense and confused to be suffering a horrible “mind-body syndrome?” After many years of doing inner work, how undeveloped is that!

    Starting with Ken on the phone I knew I wanted to work on my doubts. I had learned from my teacher Radha Conrad that pushing through doubts doesn't feel real to me. It is not as effective as inquiring into them, allowing them to have their say. So this is what I did on the phone. Ken mostly listened while I explored. I felt supported.

    Sometimes I can't let in new ideas because my reaction to my Inner Critic keeps me defending a position of some kind. As I explored my doubts, it turned out I was under attack by the Inner Critic ---and I was reacting to the attacks in ways that kept me holding onto self images that made me feel I was right.

    The first attack was a voice that said if I had TMS, “You have done this to yourself.” OK, that's the attack. Then I became aware that a child part of me was arguing with the Inner Critic, “Of course I have not done this to myself. I don't have TMS!”

    Seeing this dynamic, I realized the child part of me was arguing and justifying to cover up a deep fear: “I might be doing this to myself!” (Of course this phrasing is loaded and blaming, and is not an accurate understanding of TMS.)

    Wow. That would be hard to let in. If I was “Doing this to myself,” this opened me to all kinds of things that blew my self-image: I would be unaware, stupid, self-deluding. Also, could I ever stop “doing this to myself?” So I wasn't letting the possibility in. My engagement with the Inner Critic was not allowing new information in.

    Investigating this, I defended my right to make mistakes, to be confused, to be human. This is possible when I see the attack for what it is, and don't unconsciously engage at a parent-child level. A tenderness arose in me, as the Inner Critic attacks lost power. I could see the many ways that I wanted to hold onto being right in my life. To be “enough.” I felt tears and compassion for myself, always struggling to be enough, all the way back to being a young child with my mother. I felt the hurt of not being seen, and more softness arose in my heart.

    With this relaxation around my ideas of who I took myself to be (the Right One!), I could see that I indeed could have TMS. It was possible. I could very well be suffering TMS, like 10's of thousands of others. In fact, it was probably true.

    Having seen through the Inner Critic dynamics, the fact I might have TMS didn't make me a wrong person any more. It just made me human. The whole dynamic of self attacks, arguing, and fear relaxed into an openness to possibilities, and an attunement to myself. I felt a desire to be with myself and know myself better.

    This self attunement was only possible by feeling the pain of my struggle to be seen as good and worthy. Compassion is is a feeling quality, not a thinking quality, and it is only by feeling more, that I open to compassion.

    To accept TMS as the cause of our pain is the most important element in applying Dr. Sarno's cure, because the symptoms maintain their “reality” by our beliefs that there are “physical causes.” So this hour on the phone was huge for me.

    The other thing that I recall before that little (BIG) walk was feeling Ken Malloy's compassion for me, and honesty about what his TMS triggers were. Ken found he could release his pain by allowing himself to feel a very deep sadness. During our session, I felt seen and supported by a vulnerable human being who had cured himself of pain. This made Dr. Sarno's information all the more real for me.

    When I express the truth of Dr. Sarno's understanding of pain to people I meet, the usual response is disbelief. I wonder how many of these dismissals are caused by our society's limited understanding of the real causes of pain. Or, like for me, how much of the rejection of Dr. Sarno's ideas is also a result of Inner Critic dynamics related to who we take ourselves to be. One of the functions of Inner Critic activity is to distract us from deeper feelings. It functions like TMS symptoms in this regard, as a defense mechanism. I think this is an important inquiry for people who are contemplating Dr. Sarno's work.

    Exploring my doubts let me take those first pleasure steps toward my rock. Then the next day I took a few more, and by the next week I walked around the block back home, all with no pain.

    If you are new to Dr. Sarno's work, I hope you take time to explore why you believe his understanding may not apply to your pain, or other symptoms. My inquiry allowed the doubts to dissolve for me, and I was on my way.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
    Simplicity, Forest, Msunn and 4 others like this.
  2. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    I am naturally skeptical about everything. having been raised a Catholic in Ireland(northern part) I think a major part of my conflict arose in the moral requirements of Catholicism Vs what I wanted and then associated guilt. Wanting to be ''good'' I was a great catholic but when I did exams in religion I realised there was a whole plethora of religions rendering my views on Catholicism null. I think that was the beginning of my own internal ructions. a few months later I had shin splints that were put down to playing sport on hard ground. then came the orthotics and this further reinforced my belief there was something wrong with me.

    So back to Sarno. I have a Bachelors in Medical Engineering so have a lot of faith in allopathic medicine. My sis is a medic also, so trying to accept the Sarno explanation was difficult.
    I have found the best strategy to try and convince yourself and reinforce belief is to look for anomalies in the pain.

    My biggest breakthrough was my foot. when I first got the pain I had been running. got it Xrayed and showed no damage. painkillers did nothing.
    now and again it seems to get worse.
    I was sick for a few days before Christmas. whilst in bed all day I got up to get some water and Bam! my foot felt like it had been struck with an arrow and dipped in acid. there is no way this was due to a physical injury. I marvelled at the intensity of pain produced as its as severe as any I have experienced.

    then on another occasion shortly after reading Sarnos book I began talking to my back. I felt really good , the best I had in ages. Then I sat down on the toilet and found an excruciating and frightening spasm.
    • Proctalgia fugax: Proctalgia fugax involves fleeting rectal pain. This disorder occurs more commonly in women and in people younger than 45 years. Although the exact cause of the pain is not known, many doctors believe spasm of the anal sphincter muscle is the origin of this pain.
    • they dont know exact cause, sounds like TMS pain eh?
    Now I realise this was symptom imperative. I can view my foot in the same way. When I had really bad back pain Pre-Sarno I used to go on fitness frenzies once in a while to try and stay in shape despite the pain. Now I think the foot was a way of stopping me to examine my emotions.
    utterly strange and fascinating but Sarno is the only one to make any difference and describe the differing symptoms with any degree of accuracy. I find myself distracted constantly now from the emotional work as I realise how resistant my mind is to exploring it.
    this is most difficult aspect for me.
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    IrishSkeptic, you may be locked in a "doubting Thomas" cycle regarding accepting TMS 100 percent.
    That sometimes makes me less than 100 percent a Catholic believer. I work hard on that. I want to believe in the
    Catholic Church but have issues with it. A priest recently told me he has issues with it, too, but has
    resolved them by "tossing the ball" to God and letting Him resolve them. That seems to be working for me.

    Nothing's perfect. Not the Catholic Church. God is perfect. So are dogs. I'm not sure anything or anyone else is,
    and no longer expect them to be. And that includes me.
    IrishSceptic likes this.
  4. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    very much so Walt but would describe myself in terms of having degrees of certainty about anything. my degrees of certainty of Sarnos theory are much more pronounced following certain experiences of symptom imperative that can only be explained in TMS terms. it confronts my previous Cartesian understanding of Mind and Body being separate. Ironically this came about because of a deal between the Church and Descartes. he could explore the body so long as the church maintained control of the mind :)

    another reason for me to be mad!! lol

    anyway it seems this is finally seeping into the collective consciousness and is almost at the third stage of truth : being accepted as self-evident.
  5. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    I plagiarsed this line of thought from Richard Feynman by the way.

    I dislike Dawkins and militant atheism as it has already made its mind up as to what is ''right''.
    the curse/blessing of humanity is that we will never know which way what is true but we must strive to understand the mysteries or we become extinct as a species.
    Simplicity likes this.
  6. lexylucy

    lexylucy Well known member

    What a story Andy

    Magic and Poetry :)
  7. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I liked watching the video but have never thought I could find the answers to all the profound questions about
    life and the universe and why we're here. I agree that I need to know the answers. Maybe I will some day, after I
    leave this imperfect world. Maybe other planets are more perfect, and if so, I hope I go there. Maybe that's heaven.
    Peggy and IrishSceptic like this.
  8. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    I love the reincarnation theme in Bhuddism whereby you come back after death. This process occurs until you finally become enlightened, like The Bhudda.

    I dont know an awful lot on this topic but past life regression is interesting to me, especially since I watched this BBC documentary about a young Scottish boy who has repeated visions of another life.
  9. Susan1111

    Susan1111 Well known member

    Hi Andy I am new to this site and fairly new to TMS. Although I saw myself in the pages of Dr Sarno's books it wasn't enough to cure me. With that in started some Google research and I found Dr Rauchbaum right here right n NYC. My appointment with him this past Nov confirmed a TMS diagnosis. I askef him what about the Arthritis in my cervical spine he said forget about it. And truth be told I can't....is that my need to be right?
    More exploring has led me to this support site and within one day of joining led me to your blog post. As I read your words about the need to be right the need to be enough, I again saw myself and started to cry. Your words touched me in a very deep place. It is no accident that I found your blog this morning. I believe I needed to see it. Nothing has spoken as strongly to me. Thank you for sharing not only your experience but also your vulnerability and being human.

    I need to learn that I too am human and I am enough!
    I see you shared this last Feb. I hope you see my response to you as I want you to know that although you don't know me I felt as though you do. Thank you. I hope you have continued bto walk pain free.
    Forest likes this.
  10. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi Susan1111,

    Thank you for your heartfelt words. I love knowing that my writing has touched you!

    I think being a vulnerable human is "where it is at." Yet it takes practice for me to allow myself to fall into vulnerability, again and again. When I rest in it, it is my home, and indestructible. So tender, so precious, this life we have. What makes it feel like home is that it is rest. There's no more doing or achieving or pushing away. Just tenderness, a tender heart.

    I think this "aim" of mine, to allow vulnerability relates directly to Dr. Sarno's work. When we're vulnerable, we're vulnerable to feeling, and our defenses are down. We're closer to our own suffering. We are also in contact with the antidote, which is our Being. These things are satisfying outside of Dr. Sarno's approach, and I think they are related too.

    I am essentially 98% pain free, and have my life back, everything I lost for 3 years... Part of what helps is to accept that I am vulnerable to TMS!

    Andy B.
    Simplicity and Forest like this.
  11. FredAmir

    FredAmir Well known member

    Thanks Andy for sharing. I too was quite skeptical about TMS for the following three reasons:

    1. My pain and disability was so bad it seemed unlikely that all of it could be due of tension.
    2. I learned in my college psychology class the importance of managing stress and had trained myself to be calm and easygoing. I also have a pretty good sense of humor and laugh at all my jokes!
    3. I had done a lot of work to understand myself and believed if I had repressed anger and rage I would have detected it.

    Sure, like a lot of men I did not get along with my wife. Sure, I tried hard to be the perfect son and meet my parents' demands. Sure, I was worried about being a perfect father and giving my children the childhood I never had. Sure, I did not like (well, Ok hated) my daily 100-mile commute to work, but could they actually generate that much anger to cause back, neck, and knee pain, sciatica in both legs, pain and numbness in both arms and hand and all my other symptoms?!

    Well, even though Mind Over Back Pain did not answer all my questions about TMS, Healing Back Pain did. It answered every question I had about TMS as well as back pain. I was so convinced that by the time I read page 21 I went from sitting only 15-20 minutes to sitting over an hour. My studies in psychology definitely helped when it came to understanding TMS, the subconscious mind, and conditioning.

    Did I feel I should have figured it out myself? Perhaps, a little. However, when the surgeon shows you the MRI scan, those spinal abnormalities can be quite scary and can easily override our logical mind.

    Leaning about TMS has been a wonderful discovery and a life-chaning one. Thank you Dr. Sarno.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
  12. Simplicity

    Simplicity Guest

    Beautifully written and very touching, most relevant to my journey. Thank you.

    I long for the day that I can get back to camping and hiking, it used to be such a big part of my life. I'm thankful that I'm now able to walk in the woods again and I thoroughly enjoy getting back to nature - it's very restorative.

    Allowing yourself to be vulnerable (and being humble) is so important. - “Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.”

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