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Alan G. Ignore symptoms or look at emotions?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Oct 7, 2014.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

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

    Hello. I have been listening to my body's TMS messages, linking the symptoms to what I am not feeling, and making slow, steady progress from pain. I recently learned that success is measured by how little you care about symptoms. I am now confused. I thought you have symptoms due to unresolved conflict in your life which needs working through. How can you expect good health if you ignore symptoms?
    I would be grateful for any info on this topic.
    Thank you.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2014
    Forest likes this.
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Great question. The answer is: do both.

    The purpose of the pain is to preoccupy you, often from emotions that are difficult to consciously tolerate. I often tell people that the first step is to work toward overcoming the fear of the symptom, using one of the many techniques outlined in previous responses.

    Getting to a point where you don't care about the symptoms (or achieving outcome independence), is a great way to neutralize the fear of the pain. When you no longer buy in to the fear, you essentially undermine the purpose of the pain, it's no longer successful in preoccupying you.

    When you've truly achieved outcome independence, the pain often significantly decreases or goes away (or tries to move somewhere else...)

    Now that you no longer buy in to the fear (easier said than done), you can begin to look at the pain as a guide or signal, a lighthouse in the night if you will, shining a light on the fact that there might be an emotion that you're unconsciously sending away.

    What emotion are you repressing- sadness? Rage? Joy? Who knows? If the emotion was so easy for you to recognize and consciously feel, your mind wouldn't be working so hard to keep it repressed in the first place. One of my goals as a TMS therapist is to help people learn to identify and tolerate emotions that may be difficult to tolerate. Once their ability to do this increases, it becomes easier to plug into these feelings when they come up organically.


    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: Oct 7, 2014
  3. Laudisco

    Laudisco Well known member

    Thanks for this Alan! This is something I've been wondering about recently as well.
  4. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter

    A person can repress joy? Interesting...
  5. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi SSG,

    I know I repress joy. My father was bipolar, and I learned as a child to be worried and mistrustful when someone was feeling "too good". I then feared that whenever I felt "too good" it meant I was just like my father. It's very hard for me to feel joy now, but I've had a few moments since doing TMS work.
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  6. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter

    Thanks Ellen. Interesting! I can see how you would learn to do that after your experiences. I wonder if I repress joy. A good question. My personality (as with many on here) is one of work first, play later, and I have often taken that to an extreme. Basically living as everything must be "finished" before I can relax and enjoy OR let others see me relaxing and enjoying.
    Seraphina, Ellen and nowtimecoach like this.
  7. nowtimecoach

    nowtimecoach Well known member

    Great thread going on here. I have become aware of how addicted I've been to worry aka control. When I learned how much I focus on the negative, I realized how much of my own unhappiness I was creating. When I noticed that my attitude, worries and beliefs were mostly predicated on things in the future, I could see how silly it all was - which put me square in the day, in the moment and I've been able to feel a little bit more joy and happiness in my life, in the moment.
    Seraphina and Ellen like this.
  8. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter

    I agree, we can make our own selves miserable by focusing on the negative. So, how do we change that? Focusing on the day at hand is good. I find that to be difficult. I have seen the cup 1/2 empty for so long. My rationale was that then I wouldn't be disappointed. I also grew up with a parent who did this, so it seems so second nature. A good thing to become aware of in this process.

    Several years ago I went through a tough time, and through my faith and allowing myself forgiveness and therefore joy...I was authentically happy and at peace. At that time pain was not an issue though.
  9. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    When I'm down I laugh. I think it's true that we can laugh our troubles away.
    Laughing can help lead us to feeling joy.
    Think of the best times we've ever had, especially with those we love.
    SSG likes this.
  10. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter


    I agree that laughter is great medicine! I haven't done a lot of that this year. Definitely one thing I hope to change.
  11. Huckleberry

    Huckleberry Well known member


    For pretty much as long as I can remember I've had that persona of the miserable person who is overtly negative and pessimistic. What is interesting for me is that this seemed to start off almost as like an act, maybe there was also that element of shielding myself from disappointment but ultimately for whatever reason being a 'hater' became almost like my default personality trait. Most of my friends and family just joke about this and just call me a miserable old man which I sort of play up to but I suppose on some levels this does upset me.

    What I have noticed is that the longer I have held the mantle of being the miserable one it most certainly has made me far more cynical and bitter than I used to be...its almost like I find resentment at other peoples happiness and success.

    A recent example of this that has just struck me is that me, my wife and young child went on a cruise over the summer and one night me and my wife where in the bar just talking and I looked up and saw a cacophony of people all drinking laughing and dancing and just generally having a good time. I said to my wife how sad it was that these people had their 2 weeks away and got all excited about being on holiday but would be soon back to the grind of the 9-5 etc and how pathetic it was. It was like I was analysing the happiness and excitement in the people around me and rejecting it as silliness but all the while I'm sure in the back of my mind the reality was that I wanted to be one of those people...somebody who could just say bugger it and let myself go and show joy and happiness in the company of others without feeling self conscious and silly. The fact was I find myself unable to do this and therefore the highbrow miserable persona is deployed to shield myself from ever having to putting myself out there.

    Yes, I never dance at weddings.
  12. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter

    That is very interesting. I know people just like you explain, and I now wonder if they feel the same way. I think it is so easy to get stuck in a box whether we created it, or it was "assigned" to us.

    Ironically, in my family I am the ultra sensitive, play by the book, dry sense of humor family member who rarely cuts loose. This might explain why I have felt a need to highly limit my contact with my family over the last several months. I never could really explain why I have chosen this, but just knew that communication with them brought a high sense of anxiety that I could not face. My upbringing was pretty normal, so no obvious explanation. I don't recommend this...has brought pain to others. My point is that sometimes we owe it to ourselves to break free from that box to even create a new box. I'm not sure what that looks like now, but I hope it is overflowing with joy. :)
  13. Huckleberry

    Huckleberry Well known member

    I know what you mean.

    I read in one of the 1001 self help books I've read that we all have 'that' comfy t shirt that we pull on by default every morning. We open up the wardrobe every day and there is a whole rail of t shirts there for us to choose from but for whatever reason(s) our hand reaches for that good old comfy well worn number and the groundhog day begins.
    nowtimecoach and SSG like this.
  14. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle


    A very simple technique that has really helped me be more positive is to write in a gratitude journal everyday. Just the simple act of spending a few minutes every day to scan your experience for the things that were good and that make you feel happy and grateful has been shown in research to help people to become more positive. I have an app on my phone that pops up with a reminder for me to complete my journal entry for the day. It helps break that habit of scanning for the negative which is part of our innate survival system.
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  15. SSG

    SSG Peer Supporter


    Thanks! That's another great idea. I read a book over the summer that recommended doing just that. I started it, but only did it for about a month. Maybe I will start back. I would love to be more positive for me and my boys to see and experience.

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