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Derek S. How do I overcome the desire to get rid of my pain?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by WantToBelieve, Jun 15, 2015.

  1. WantToBelieve

    WantToBelieve Peer Supporter

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

    I read in here from one of the previous answers: If you stand up to this inner bully with a desired outcome in mind (e.g. getting rid of your pain), it’s inauthentic and just a subtle form of pressure. If you generate anger because you’re genuinely upset that you’re being treated cruelly, that’s when you’re on the right track.

    How does one do this? And is it really important? I feel like I'm getting bogged down in small details. I'm a push through the pain kind of person. But now that I know it is TMS I've been trying to tell myself 'I know this is repressed emotions and a conditioned response'. I get angry and tell my brain 'to stop it!' But I'm definitely doing it b/c I want to rid myself of the pain not to stand up to a bully.

    I'm becoming overwhelmed and lost with all the different things to tell my brain.

  2. Derek Sapico MFT

    Derek Sapico MFT TMS Therapist

    Hi WantToBelieve,

    Great question. The harder you push, the harder the pain pushes back.

    You mentioned that you "push through the pain" and that this is your "normal." In order to push through pain you have to be focusing on it, monitoring it, trying to ignore it, and getting upset at the pain (and at yourself by proxy). Every time you do this you reinforce the purpose of the pain: to serve as a vessel of preoccupation and fear.

    This method doesn't work because ANYTHING that you do to monitor, change, eliminate, problem solve, or push through the pain is ultimately reinforcing its purpose.

    Is this hard? Of course it's hard! It is probably the hardest thing that you will ever do. But it is worth it and IT WORKS.

    If you truly want to stand up to your inner bully in a meaningful way, the pain has to come to mean nothing to you. When you get to the point where the pain doesn't matter, you will have cut off all reinforcement and the pain will no longer have a purpose. When you have done this, the pain could be gone within days.

    My best advice for you is to stop. Stop trying to get rid of the pain. Stop pushing through the pain. Stop worrying about whether or not you're doing it right. Stop feeding this beast that thrives on fear and preoccupation. You are hurting yourself when you do these things and that should be unacceptable to you.

    You have one job only; Don't give a shit about the pain.

    The more you focus on anything pain-related, the more you reinforce it.

    If you're in pain, instead of pushing through it, focus on refusing to let it make you feel defeated or put you in a terrible mood. Wink at it and tell it that its days are numbered. Then move on with your life and try to be confident and present.

    Hone your authentic indifference to the pain and don't allow it to determine your progress. Measure your progress based on your response to the pain instead of the pain itself.

    Keep it simple and keep trying. You can do this.


    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.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2015
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, WantToBelieve. You got some great advice from Derek Sapico. It' a common problem with dealing with TMS pain... how to stop it. When we think about it and monitor it, whether it's better or worse today than yesterday, or how it felt before doing some normal activity and how it felt afterward... this is all just keeping the pain alive in your mind.

    I found it most helpful in healing from my back pain to keep active and telling myself it was psychological and not structural,
    and telling myself I could do what I wanted to do and that "It's a piece of cake." Then I gave myself lots of pleasant distractions so I filled my day with as much joy as possible. I appreciated even the smallest things and lived in the present moment of each day.

    It isn't easy to be indifferent to our pain, but as Derek said, it's the way to deal with it.
    Ryan79, Laudisco and Kathleen like this.
  4. WantToBelieve

    WantToBelieve Peer Supporter

    Thank you so much Derek!! I really appreciate your time. Okay, here is my issue...my pain is feet pain. They only hurt when I stand but without exception, they hurt every time I stand. The pain grows the longer I stand but is 100% gone if I sit. So, I say I 'push through' because I'm in pain every second I'm standing. I don't let the pain stop me and I keep working out 5 days a week and taking my daughter to the park, etc. But the pain grows every second I continue to stand. I can surely work at being much better at not letting it get me down or letting it affect my mood. But if i don't push on, I'd be sitting down and giving into the pain. I'm pain-free when seated so it should be tempting to sit all day but I'm a fighter and I won't give up living. So, each day I do what I want to do, but I find ways to sit, kneel, etc all throughout the day. I'm not happy when I have to sit and it sounds like I need to care less about the pain and what it is limiting me from doing.

    I guess I'm confused...if I don't push through the pain, I'd be sitting all day. And I thought the point is to be active and live life?

    Here is a perfect example of what I'm trying to ask...so, I'm in the kitchen making dinner. I'm standing up chopping and cutting and washing dishes. I'm in pain, but I can continue what I'm doing. After 30-40 minutes of doing this, the pain is increasing to a point where I need to sit down. I can't continue to stand. I mean, I can force it but nothing good comes from that as the pain just increases and increases until I'm in tears. So, I sit down on a stool and continue my cutting and chopping. After a 5 minute rest, I can stand again. My question...should I not sit? Should I push myself to stand? Or is it okay to sit but not get angry about having to sit. Just sit and continue on with my activity and then stand when I can, in different to the fact that I needed to sit.
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2015
  5. Derek Sapico MFT

    Derek Sapico MFT TMS Therapist

    If you need to sit, by all means sit!

    What you described in the last paragraph sounds perfect. Keep at it and you should see some results.

    A huge part of recovery is confidence and belief. Even if the you need to sit, still try to enjoy cooking (and cleaning too, I guess) and don't let the pain take that away from you.

    Good luck!
    giantsfan, Laudisco and Forest like this.
  6. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I agree with Derek. When you are in pain at any time, such as preparing meals, go ahead and take a sit break.
    Breathe deeply as you sit. Tell yourself it's okay to sit and rest. Think of pleasant things and not about your pain at all.
    Tell yourself the pain is TMS and not structural. Nobody but you is keeping a clock timing how long you can stand.
    Congratulate yourself on however long you can stand.
    Stef likes this.
  7. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    Want to believe have the same issues with feet pain but only when in sit wow the brain his beast
    Markus likes this.
  8. WantToBelieve

    WantToBelieve Peer Supporter

    Boston- So your pain is gone when you stand but always present when you sit? It's d maddening, right?
  9. WantToBelieve

    WantToBelieve Peer Supporter

    Derek- I've been functioning in this way for 10 years! I've only learned of TMS in October, so 8 months now. I feel like I'm miss g something b/c my pain is not decreasing. Is it that I need to not care about the pain? Ive continued to be active and try to go about my day but of course I think about the pain...it hurts and I must alter what I want to do
  10. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi WantToBelieve,
    Your follow-up question poignantly articulates the main dilemma most people face in TMS recovery. I'd like to lay out a plan that I think will give you a good chance of success.

    First off, even if you believe intellectually that your pain is TMS, on a gut level, you absolutely believe that standing causes the pain. It's impossible not to given the fact that your pain intensifies the longer you stand. So the first step would be working to override this gut-level conclusion.

    It's a tricky thing, it requires belief in the TMS diagnosis to gather evidence, yet it often requires evidence to solidify that belief.

    I have a former patient who had the same condition you have for 17 years and is now recovered. I'd like to link you up with him. Sometimes speaking with someone who recovered from the same symptom you have can help with the belief piece.

    From there it's a matter of telling yourself over and over, "I know there's nothing wrong with my feet, this is a conditioned response, my brain is wired to send me pain signals when I stand, but it isn't the actual standing that's causing the pain."

    It's important to emphasize this repeatedly until it becomes part of you. You are not trying to get rid of the pain with this behavior and should not expect to, you are simply trying to override the evolutionary instinct of associating pain with structural damage.

    The more you emphasize that, the more you come to believe it, that is success.

    From there you work to try and tease out your preoccupation with the pain. This is no easy task, I can see from your posts that it has a deep hold on you.

    I work with a therapist who's pretty great at helping patients break conditioned responses and symptom-preoccupation. If you like, I can hook you up with him as well.

    Your neural pathways are deeply set, it goes like this: standing -> pain -> frustration/despair/fear. This stimuli/response/feeling state is deeply ingrained, but it's not who you are, it's just what you do. And it isn't set in stone.

    You can change your neural pathways, it just takes time, effort, and patience. This backward bicycle youtube clip articulates the difficulty of altering our most deeply set neural pathways, as well as our potential triumph:

    Vzlana, Lostboy, BloodMoon and 3 others like this.
  11. JoeisOK

    JoeisOK New Member

    Hi WantToBelieve,
    I could have written this question in that I experience exactly the same. I am putting pressure on my self to recover of TMS so that I can resume my life. I have been recently made redundant from work in that I am unable to sit for long periods of time and even though I was provided with a standing desk my work suffered considerably.
    My focus is to get rid of the pain when I sit down so that I find my self a new job this seems to be adding stress to my situation. So far I have been ignoring the pain and increasing the time I sit down but in the back of my mind there is always that little voice when is the pain going to stop.

    I am at day 17 in the Structural Program and it is a great tool & I take Derek's & Alan's wise words on board and will stick to it!
    thanks for the support
    Laudisco and WantToBelieve like this.
  12. Derek Sapico MFT

    Derek Sapico MFT TMS Therapist

    Alan Gordon with the spectacular assist!!!

    Did Alan's input help to clarify things for you, WantToBelieve (and all others who can relate)?
  13. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    Yes it is ....its like I have to keep moving constantly
  14. WantToBelieve

    WantToBelieve Peer Supporter

    Hi Alan,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Your response is spot on for me....this line in particular I totally relate to:

    It requires believe in the TMS diagnosis to gather evidence, yet it often requires evidence to solidfy that believe.

    I feel I do believe in TMS, but I desperately want and need the evidence to solidify the belief and build upon it to see improvements. If I could see this evidence, maybe my brain and gut would stop questioning the TMS diagnosis, everytime I have a really tough pain moment.

    The bicycle video blows my mind! It's slightly disheartening as it really shows me just how hard this is going to be. But hopeful that it can be done and I have to stick with it.

    I would very grateful to be put in touch with your former patient with similiar pain. I would love to talk with him! Thank you.

    Also, I'd be interested in talking with the therapist you mention above. Thank you so very much for caring enough to send me these resources.

    P.S. I will be listening in to your Breaking the Pain Cycle talk this coming Thursday.

    Again, I really apprecaite your help.
    giantsfan and Laudisco like this.
  15. WantToBelieve

    WantToBelieve Peer Supporter

    I'm sorry you going through this too Joe. I started the SEP awhile back but fell off the wagon by day 9. I will look into it again.
  16. Grateful17

    Grateful17 Well known member

    Derek S & Alan G. Your responses here are so very helpful. Thank you both !!!!!
    Laudisco likes this.
  17. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I find no fault with wanting to overcome pain. It is best done by believing 100 percent that it is caused by TMS emotions and not from anything structural, as Dr. Sarno so wisely wrote.

    Derek Sapiro has it right... confidence and belief in TMS.
    MWsunin12 and Laudisco like this.
  18. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    That's what it's is Walt we need 100 percent belief
    Grateful17 likes this.
  19. Markus

    Markus Guest

    The pain in my feet has been going away, because what I've done is completely ignore it even though it hurts like hell. So at this point right now its been about maybe 9 or 10 days since I've had any serious pain in my feet, and that is such a good feeling. So I guess I'm practicing what Dr Sarno wanted us to do which is to basically, get out of the body and into the mind,and tell the pain to go away!. It really works. it's a good feeling it comes back but it's not anywhere near as chronic as it was
  20. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member


    I would like to be in contact with this person which I also struggle with foot pain mostly but the odd this its only when I am still or driving

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