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Steven Ozanich Is body pain preferable to emotional pain?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by James59, Jun 7, 2013.

  1. James59

    James59 Well known member

    I'm about half way through Dr. Sarno's book Healing Back Pain. I understand the basic premise, that some part of "myself" is causing "me" to feel physical pain to distract "me" from emotional pain.

    Given that my body has been torturing me non-stop 24/7 for over six years, I can't conceive of any emotional pain that would be worse than the physical pain I've endured. So what possible reason would some hidden part of "myself" want to distract "me" from emotional pain by making physical pain? What does the hidden part of "myself" gain from this horrific process?

    In fact, the pain itself has caused me considerable emotional distress far exceeding any emotional trauma I've experienced at any other time in my life. So if Dr. Sarno's theory is correct, this hidden part of "myself" has actually inflicted both emotional AND physical pain on "me" in order to distract "me" from some lesser emotional pain. What would be the point of that?

    Now, you notice I use the words "me" and "myself" in quotations. I use them to draw attention to a paradox. How can there be two versions of me working against each other? What is this hidden part of "myself" that is so willing to torture "me" with pain? Isn't that a kingdom divided against itself? It's much like Eckhart Tolle's question that came to him when in the midst of deep depression as he describes in the introduction to The Power of Now. "Am I one or two?"
  2. PeterO

    PeterO Peer Supporter

    Hi James.

    I hear your confusion here as I too continually ask myself
    the same question. I spend most time dealing, sometimes
    to exhaustion, with the physical & emotional toll of recurrent
    pain & the impact on my everyday being.

    The distress caused by this is often overwhelming & seemingly
    disproportionate to that which I see as my emotional deficiency.
    The only gain to my inner, unconscious self would seem 'distraction'
    itself. I have several times tried to make a treaty pact but to no avail.
    Also it is v.difficult to develop one's emotional skills when one is
    constantly impacted by pain.

    As I see, my inner self has an exaggerated, distorted sense of
    'previous' emotional pains which it is distracting me from.
    Much like a irrational child. I have been working with my
    TMS psychologist on possible childhood/adolescent triggers.
    Some which are arising, like peer exclusion, have surprised me
    with their long-held emotional pain. I just have to keep trusting
    in this process & the time required to affect change.

    I find this most difficult especially today when I have a setback
    of unrelenting & restrictive pain levels. Amongst this, the paradox
    of our emotional split can seem like a rather cruel hoax.

    I just hope that over time this will resolve.

    James59 likes this.
  3. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    Pete, I think you've given James an excellent answer.

    James, there are many ways to look at your question. One is that the subconscious mind is not rational--of course your conscious mind would prefer the emotional pain to the physical pain. But your subconscious mind does not care.

    Or you don't have to buy into the "distraction" theory at all. All that's important for you to do is recognize that your pain is not caused by your body, it's caused by your mind. The mind is a mystery and we may never know why it's doing what it's doing. But for whatever reason you have these emotions, repressed or suppressed, that you didn't want to deal with (consciously or subconsciously) and that are now erupting physically in your body. The more you recognize this and start allowing yourself to experience your emotions, and the more you reduce fear by reminding yourself that the pain is not caused by some structural defect, the more the pain will go away.
    James59 likes this.
  4. D. R. Martin

    D. R. Martin Peer Supporter

    My TMS is long since unmasked and unashamed, still recruiting new parts of my body to the pain program. I have pondered every possible psych issue, past and present; even seeing a shrink in hopes of finding something hidden. But the pain keeps a going. I feel that my salvation will be the route that people like Monte and Forest suggest: Eliminate fear, banish distraction, take away TMS's power to run your life. Then it will fade away. The poster is right, though. It's as if your subconscious is attacking emotional molehills with nuclear weapons. The pain is just so nasty. It's nuts.
  5. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    D.R., have you tried responding to the pain by relaxing into it? This is very hard to do but it is what has worked best for me. I have been practicing relaxing into pain instead of tensing into it when I feel it. It's really helped calm down my nervous system.
  6. Dear Lianne

    Dear Lianne Peer Supporter

    James 59 - Well, you ask the million dollar question :) If you find the answer, then let me know. I've even considered the same exact quote that Eckart Tolle writes - I guess great minds think alike! Sincerely, though - the subconscious is very powerful - powerful enough to overtake, whether the current thought or event is rational or not.
  7. James59

    James59 Well known member

    Just a thought, maybe the subconscious mind can't feel physical pain.

    I've been a student of metaphysics most of my life, so the idea that the mind is the root of the problem is quite familiar to me. However, conventional metaphysical approaches (prayer, meditation, affirmations, etc.) haven't helped me in this case. Dr. Sarno's explanations seem to click with me right away, acting as sort of a bridge between conventional medicine and metaphysics, if that makes any sense. Maybe that's the bridge I need to cross to get where I want to be.

    A few years ago, relatively early on in my ordeal, I was studying some metaphysical book, might have been The Power of Now, when the thought came to me rather strongly "There is a part of me that is not in pain. That part of me is real." I throw that out FWIW.
    gailnyc likes this.
  8. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    Yes, your true self can never sustain damage. Pain is mostly baggage. There is actually no difference between physical and emotional pain. If you really listen to your body while experiencing physical pain, you are also experiencing emotional pain. Conversely, when you are experiencing emotional pain, if you focus deeply on your body, you will be able to feel the sensations. I believe that making these connections, rather than focusing on which is worse, is the key to begin the healing process.
  9. Steve Ozanich

    Steve Ozanich TMS Consultant

    Emotional pain is definitely worse that physical pain, it's not even close. Don't confuse the emotional pain you get from the physical pain, with the emotional pain that is driving the pain. One overlays the other and is a byproduct, and one is the driving the force.

    I've always used the example of calling into work to say you're not coming in tomorrow because you have back pain. Society accepts this, and rewards it in many ways. But we never call in to say, "I'm afraid, I won't be in to work tomorrow." Or, "I'm angry at my mom, I'm not coming in." These are painfully private and shameful, and taboo in most societies.

    Plus, the emotions behind your pain are so much more powerful than you are thinking they are. What you sense is the small tip of a large shameful iceberg. Don't think that you "know" these emotions behind your TMS; they are more powerful than you think, and they are hidden from you, by you. I see it all the time in bullying cases. Young girls, or guys, commit suicide when someone posts a nude photo of them, or is outed for being gay. They would rather die than be shamed with emotional pain. They choose the loss of the physical body over emotional pain. That's what superego has determined as a priority.

    The emotion behind much pain is panic, but it's such a horrific feeling to lose control that the brain wants physical pain more, in order to ground the body in Bodylock to never sense the feeling of loss of control.

    Also, remember that there are unwanted thoughts too, that generate emotions. I see thoughts of suicide behind TMS often. So you have to ask yourself, is my physical pain preferred over suicide? The answer is yes if the Self desires life, if light is chosen over darkness. The brain does the favor and meets these unwanted and dangerous thoughts with pain. Pain is definitely preferred over giving up the life, or thoughts of it, in most people. The narcissism exists to keep the life, the love of it. If it's challenged the TMS must exist to keep death-thoughts in check.

    If you don't fully understand how suicidal thoughts are there, but not realized or felt, then you have to go back to understand repression, and why the TMS exists. TMS exists to keep those emotions from ever being made aware of, by you, and so you never know they exist, and the brain has succeeded in fooling you, as it chooses physical pain over emotions. This of course is true for thoughts of hurting someone else, or quitting, or anything too threatening to the ego, like shame.

    Remember, the word ego means "me." That's where all the problems begin and end; Tolle is correct. Superego can be so controlling that we never know about the other person inside of us as superego hides our "other." Superego would prefer to eat up the body at the behest of the self-image, or persona. It chooses pain over emotional taboos, and the division of the mind is between id-and superego, or any other psychological mechanisms of understanding the internal conflict. I used id and superego only because it's easy, and most people understand it quickly.

    What we can't see is unconscious to us. We don't know it exists. What we know from the large amounts of healings is that there are two people inside every person, another life being lived within the one we are aware of. So, yes, we want physical pain over emotional pain, because those emotions behind the pain are waaaay to threatening to deal with (as we deem within our own society).....and as it threatens superego.

    As long as "me" comes first in our lives, we suffer.

    Forest likes this.
  10. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    I can attest to the intensity and horror of the emotional pain that is repressed. We always tend to think that the type of pain that we don't presently have is the better of the two, but this is not necessarily so. After getting over my back pain rather quickly, I experienced crippling anxiety and insomnia, which I am still working through now (along with some other "replacement" TMS physical symptoms). I have also become painfully aware of what my superego has been working at to ruin my life. I must constantly keep it on a short leash.
  11. James59

    James59 Well known member

    That statement seems to conflict with a statement I read last night in Dr. Sarno's book Healing Back Pain. In the chapter Mind and Body under the subheading The physical disorder as a defense against repressed emotions he writes "TMS patients cope only too well in reality; it is their subconscious minds that are cowardly." That tells me that my conscious mind can indeed handle the emotional pain, but my subconscious mind thinks like you do and says I can't. I can't speak for everyone, but that seems to ring true for me. Everyone's different, of course, and many non-TMS people may be more like you describe.
    Markus likes this.
  12. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    James59. My interpretation of what Dr. Sarno is saying is that your unconscious wants to protect you from the emotional pain. Your conscious does not know about the emotional pain. Your conscious mind has no idea how bad the emotional pain can be, but your unconscious thinks it is bad enough to try to protect you from it.

    I would say that you might want to wait to experience the emotional pain that is hidden by your unconscious before you pronounce that is can't be too bad. It could be much worse than you think. I think this is one concept that people with TMS need to understand.
  13. James59

    James59 Well known member

    chickenbone, I may be at a disadvantage here because I'm new to this. But I'm just finishing up Sarno's Healing Back Pain and while he does say that the subconscious is indeed trying to "protect" me, I don't recall him saying anywhere that these repressed emotions are as intolerable as the subconscious thinks they are. Quite the contrary, for he says several times that once this pain plot is uncovered for what it is, a distraction, then TMS symptoms clear up without any emotional trauma. This would be consistent with the Sarno quote I referenced earlier. I can't vouch for the veracity of this just yet, but during the week since I started this book, I've experienced a small but noticeable easing of some of my symptoms. I've experienced some mood swings, but they're nothing compared to the physical pain I've endured for the last six years.
  14. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    I am not saying that repressed emotions are always terrible, just that they can be. Some people get better just with the knowledge, others who may have trauma in their past can take a long time to get better and may need psychoanalysis. The point I am trying to make is that repressed emotions are just that - they are unknown to the conscious mind.

    I am glad that you are feeling better. You may be one of the ones who heals with just knowledge alone. keep up the good work.
    James59 likes this.
  15. AngK

    AngK Peer Supporter

    These were very interesting posts.
    The way I think of it (in my case) is that my subconscious was needed years ago when I was younger. At some point, around my mid-20s, I don't think I needed it anymore but I didn't know it was in control. It's just been on autopilot since then. This may be a horrible analogy but it's like a child who is severely abused who develops multiple personalities. When they are older & safe, you can't tell them "ok just get rid of the other personalities and be yourself" (whoever that is)... it's a part of them now. I'm still not always aware of when I'm repressing. I've got to think about it, catch it and hope one day it will come more easily.
  16. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    James, it is great to see you reading HBP so carefully. It sounds like you are really getting it. I think (and Steve please correct me if I am wrong) what Steve was suggesting was that since these emotions are repressed we may not be able to fully understand them. Through introspection we can identify a portion of these emotions, but we should never presume that we fully understand these emotions.

    Can you handle these emotions? Yes. As Dr. Zafirides says, "never doubt how truly powerful you are." Of course, it does take time to reach a point where you can accept these emotions. A lot of times when people begin to tap into these deeply repressed emotions they find themselves becoming overwhelmed. If you ever feel your emotional anxiety ramping up, try to find some ways to calm yourself down. One thing that happens to a lot of people starting out is that they work too hard at trying to get better. They dig and dig and dig trying to find the repressed emotion they are repressing. While this may seem like it is the path to healing, it actually only creates pressure. Recovering doesn't involve uncovering the thing you are repressing. You simply need to believe your symptoms are benign and are caused by repressed emotions. You don't really need to figure out what those emotions are.
    James59 likes this.
  17. AndrewMillerMFT

    AndrewMillerMFT Well known member


    You seem to have spent a considerable amount of time giving thought to this - a testament to how much I believe you want to eliminate your pain. I'm struck by your wording and talking about these two parts of yourself. Heck, I think you're questioning if there are two sides to you. I'd encourage you to try a writing exercise and see if this "hidden part of myself" could speak. I'm sure you're familiar with journaling. If this hidden part of yourself had a voice, what would it say? What would it look like? Is it you at a specific age? If this is something you'd be willing to do, I'd be fascinated if you'd share any of it with us at some time.
    Markus and Forest like this.

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