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Is it me, or is "think psychological" a dirty phrase for many people?

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Dear Lianne, Feb 28, 2013.

  1. Dear Lianne

    Dear Lianne Peer Supporter

    I've been so happy to have reduced my pain so significantly that I've recently told people about my TMS diagnosis and Dr. Sarno's books, especially the book, Healing Back Pain that led me to this awareness.

    In the past few months I've had a number of people tell me all about their pain, usually back pain. These are intelligent, kind, receptive individuals (or so I thought) who know me as a person and I would say respect my opinion. As soon as I told one guy, Michael, about TMS - I heard a litany about his "fluid on his shoulder and hip joints", and yet he was in such pain as he told me this. He then proceeded to tell me about his dryer dying and his inability to pay for a new dryer....hmmmm I thought to myself.

    Okay, so then another gentleman I know who has suffered for many years with back pain. I told him about TMS and Dr. Sarno's book. The response that I received was, "I don't have back pain" and then he diverted the conversation away. My husband was in shock because this guy has complained about his back since we've known him (maybe 7 years or so) and he has been on painkillers and other meds. which he himself told us about. He is an intellectually brilliant person who is curious and respects what I have to share. Okay, so this was shock #2 for me.

    My own family members have pain that manifests in areas that are covered in Dr. Sarno's book, The Divided Mind. Again, no go :) Shock #3.

    Just so you know, I am a very diplomatic person, so I am not going up to people and blurting out that they have psycho-somatic illness and their pain is not real. Quite the contrary. My husband laughed with me about the last gentleman, saying to me that he knows that the reaction is not about how I deliver the message given that my husband thinks I'm the most diplomatic and compassionate person he knows and he witnessed the reaction.

    So, I think I'm starting to understand more about how physicians who treat TMS must feel. The resistance to this possibility is fierce! My motive to tell each person was to be of assistance in helping them to get out of their pain.

    Now I must be careful and not get MAD at them for negating TMS as even a remote option for their healing. There is the concept of "free will" and it is up to each person to decide for themselves what is true.

    These individuals saw me when I was in excruciating pain, unable to walk for weeks and with only a cane once I started to mend. Now they see me walking around town, enjoying myself without pain.

    Question for both practitioners and TMS'ers on this web site: Is the possibility of being labeled with a psychological illness of any kind so frightening in itself that one would consciously prefer to be in excruciating physical pain? Is it possible that TMS develops for this very reason?

    I can admit that I too did not believe that repressed emotional issues can bring on such excruciating physical pain (about 10 years ago). So, do we have to get to the point of such intense pain that we finally surrender and stop resisting the TMS diagnosis?

    Is the TMS personality so perfectionistic that one needs to deny any perceived "fault" or "failure?" and that fault or weakness is having serious emotional tension or stress or psychological pain?

    And finally, I suppose that society's focus is so much on the physical that, if we were all to be aware of the psychological and stop going to Dr's for psychosomatic illness, well - I suppose there would be much fewer ill people. Economically, it's as if the system needs us to be ill.

    Just some thoughts. My intention is not to offend anyone so please know that I am just curious about what reactions you've received. I was wondering if any of you out there have experienced the same intense resistance to the TMS diagnosis, even from friends and family members who understand who you are and know that you sincerely want them to heal.

    I guess I was taken aback since this has happened every time I've told someone how I healed from my back pain. I've only told about 5 persons in all, but the "societal shame" or whatever attached to psychological illness may be the source of the resistance. I just don't know, but that is my theory at this time.

    What do others here think? Maybe our culture is creating this epidemic of pain...

    Any feedback?
  2. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I believe you have to consider these statistics: According to Dr James Alexander, 1 in 3 in the US have chronic pain symptoms, 1 in 4 in Europe do, and 1 in 5 in Australia. Dr. Alexander posits that this has something to do with what he calls "Happyism" and the psychological effects of the Great Recession in the US. Here you're supposed to be "Happy" and "making it all the time", but the Great Recession since the Housing Bust in 2007 and the Dot.com implosion of 2002 have called those assumptions into grave doubt, stressing out the general population and causing a great rise in psychogenic symptoms like TMS back pain. If this is the best of all possible worlds, why did I just have my house foreclosed? It's also often overlooked that back pain as a medical condition started to grow and become a problem in the general US population around 30 years ago. This is also when the paternalistic factory system where you'd be taken care of for 20 years in a major corporation started to come apart and the banks started issuing credit cards to the general working population. Likewise, this is also when manufacturing jobs at the low end began moving overseas and short term jobs in the service sector started to emerge. This is also when the general population started to be told that they were "free to make it on their own". All these developments have resulted in a much higher level of stress and anxiety in the general population in the USA, which is one reason, I would suggest, for the higher rate of back pain here. You just can't remain optimistic and non-stressed if the general economic indicators are going down. But someone who feels they need to be "Happy" all the time has to put a great deal of pressure on themselves to remain that way when the economy takes a dip and huge swaths of the general population are worse off than they were 30 years ago. What's the reason for the different rates of chronic pain between the US, Europe and Australia? In Europe they have social welfare backup systems and in Australia people have a much more happy go lucky attitude about "making it".
  3. Dear Lianne

    Dear Lianne Peer Supporter

    Hi MorComm,

    Very interesting response - it wasn't what I was expecting, but it's very insightful. I wonder how our European and Australian friends on here might respond to this theory. Europe is suffering now too. Not sure they're all that thrilled with their economy. But, you are correct in saying that they have benefits that we don't have in the USA. As I type, my husband is watching "Andy Griffith" and is commenting about how much better and "simpler" life was back then. LOL!!!! You may have the answer in part. I recall my dad working with the same school his entire career as a teacher. My parents struggled financially but we did have comforts and a nice home. The thing is, we didn't need 3 flat screen TV's, 2 or more vehicles, several telephones, etc.

    "Happyism" is another idea that we all seem to strive toward. People are in much pain these days, that's for sure. The recession has really hit me and my family. Only 1 member of my immediate family is doing very well financially (of the six of us). Pretty frightening considering we all had a great foundation in life.

    What did Eckhart Tolle say in his books The Power of Now and The New Earth about this "striving?" He talks on YouTube interviews too about our always striving for happiness which he likens to catching the wind...reaching out to the future and trying to find happiness outside oneself is like catching the wind (or something like that). I really like his writings. Makes sense.

    The stress and anxiety that we have in this society is rather unsettling. So if one believes in quantum energy theory as it relates to our thoughts having energy, then that means we as a country are emitting an awfully powerful energy of fear. That cannot be healthy.

    I like your sociological slant, MorComm. Very on target, I believe. Thanks for the insightful input. I appreciate your theories - thanks for making me more aware of the bigger picture!
  4. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for your approval. You can find what Dr James Alexander has to say about American "Happy-ism" if you run a search on this site. I've had these sort of insights while reading Dr Gabor Mate's When the Body Says No (although Dr Sarno makes these same points in a minor key in Healing Back Pain). There's a video of Dr Mate's talk that is part of his book promotion tour for WTBSN, you might want to listen to:


    Our essentially narcissistic consumer mentality does seem to have a whole lot to do not only with drug addiction but the development of TMS symptoms as well. I think Dr Sarno mentions this on his DVD when he mentions that very few people have back problems in primitive societies where there is an immediate physical bond between infant and mother.

    Here's another anecdote I picked up from Dr Sarno too: In Kenya there is a very, very low rate of back pain among native-born Kenyans. However, if you transplant a European, a Japanese or an American to Kenya they have the same incidence of back pain as they would have in their native 1st world country.
  5. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    I haven't shared the TMS diagnosis with many, but the reception was more positive from those who aren't currently recognizing any chronic physical issues. One of the people I shared it with went on to share it with someone I had intentionally not told. I was very surprised to learn this person actually decided to read one of Dr. Sarno's books, and did so in it's entirety. What did not surprise me was that after completing the book, this person decided it was not applicable. That was the response I was anticipating all along, which is partly why I hadn't shared the information myself.

    I wonder if it's the legalist personality trait that is resistant to the diagnosis. The person I reference here is strongly legalistic and has received most of the diagnoses Dr Sarno identifies as TMS at some time or another. The life circumstances fit, the diagnoses fit. The person even admitted to developing a migraine headache upon completion of the book! And yet it's not applicable. I don't know if it's the idea of not being right, the perceived "weakness" of an issue stemming in psychology, or the notion that if your issue is rooted psychologically you are somehow to blame and responsible for it rather than a victim - I can see any of these 3 fitting this particular person, possibly it's all of them.

    I guess it's true, people only see what they want to see, when they want to see it. And boy is it frustrating when it's crystal clear to you and nowhere near the frame of vision for someone else (another reason I hadn't shared the diagnosis with this person).
  6. Dear Lianne

    Dear Lianne Peer Supporter

    Thanks for your feedback - both of you. I also received another private message from another member confirming the financial frustration they're experiencing and yet, how "light" they felt when letting go of material belongings in favor of a less attached lifestyle.

    Makes one wonder about our attachments; being attached to people, to situations (residences, employers, communities, etc.) and to outcomes. Being the perfectionist that I can fall into, maybe the attachment to outcomes is the worst. Resisting what we perceive to be negative is resisting life itself....draining for sure, and maddening for the ego that wants us to be so attached to form (material wants, money, prestige titles, celebrity, etc).

    Just philosophizing here a bit :) I am curious to know if that might be a theme of the TMS personality as well. I would say this is true for me, though at this point of my life I've finally come to the semi-conclusion that our attachments to certain outcomes can be the source of much of humankind's suffering. Resistance to what is - that's the key to me.

    If we didn't experience internal resistance would we have the pain of TMS?

    What do you think?
  7. gailnyc

    gailnyc Well known member

    Can you explain what you mean by "legalist"? I see that word quite often and I don't know what it means. I was thinking it meant "someone who follows rules or laws closely" but from the context of your post it seems you mean something different.
  8. Leslie

    Leslie Well known member

    I interpreted it the same way until I read the personality trait chapter of Dr. Brady's book. This is Dr. Brady's "motto" for the legalist personality:
    - I enjoy being right in almost ever discussion and conversation (he cited a perfectionists desire to "do" right and a legalists desire to "be" right as one of the differentiating characteristics between the 2 traits)
    - I think my beliefs are right for me and everyone else
    - I'm nice to people but I still feel like they're wrong a lot
    - Most people in the world need to rethink their views
    - Our culture would be better off if everyone did what I do
    - Accepting unconditional love is hard for me
    - Someimes I fume after a particularly bad argument
    - It's hard for me to be around people that are really different from me but I can usually swallow any anger and keep things under control
    - Most of my friends agree with most of my beliefs and positions
    - God seems a bit impersonal to me but he's always right and I try to be
    - People think I criticize them a lot but I'm just trying to help

    He also says that a legalist is generally unwilling to accept any advice that's even slightly different from his or her own position (which is why I think this trait might be in play with this particular person). They are also quick to find faults with others and give lots of "constructive criticism" in an attempt to correct the perceived fault. They are often very judgmental and they have difficulty interacting with, accepting, or learning from those of a different view point.
    gailnyc likes this.
  9. Dear Lianne

    Dear Lianne Peer Supporter


    Good additional point above - I was probably talking with "legalists" who were quite firm in their own belief systems. I could see a little of myself in this listing too. Will accept things for what they are and not get so bothered by others' not agreeing with me and unwittingly staying in their pain. Like I said, "free will."

    Thanks for sharing :)
  10. charcol

    charcol Peer Supporter

    This reminds me...

    Story #1- I heard about HBP/Sarno from a friend who had a co-worker that recovered. Now guess who's been dealing with back pain for at least the last six months? My friend! She talks about getting massage, getting some physical therapy, and taking a certain herb (for migraines she's been suffering from for at least the last nine years). I've asked her on several occasions if she's read "the book", but she still hasn't. It's maddening.

    Story #2- My brother recently "twisted" (his word, whatever that means!) his back and went to a physical therapist for help. One day on the phone, while discussing it, he commented that for all he knew the pain could be "in his head". When I asked him what he meant by that, he said, "you know, like what you had". I replied that when you say it like that, it sounds like the pain isn't real. I gave him my copy of HBP over the last holiday, but I highly doubt he's read it. Oh, and he also suffers from depression, acid reflux, high blood pressure, arthritis, and a "torn" meniscus.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink...

    Bonus story- When I was dealing with my back pain and reading HBP, family and friends would constantly ask me how I was doing. "How is your back?" would be the common question. I requested that everyone stop asking about my back, but rather "the book"- "how is your book?" :)
    Asking about my back would only bring attention to it. Could this be called "mind over mind matter"???
  11. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is without question the case for a lot of people. There is a stigma in society towards having any sort of psychological problem. The American Psychosomatic Society even decided to change their name due to the stigma surrounding the word "Psychosomatic." This also comes up several times in Dr. Sarno's books.
  12. Dear Lianne

    Dear Lianne Peer Supporter

    Hi Forest,

    Yes, you are right. The stigma is more entrenched than I even thought. For the American Psychosomatic Society to change its name that's a strong indicator of the stigma attached. Dr. Sarno - had I not found his book, Healing Back Pain, I told my husband the other night that I'd be in bad shape; I most likely would never have found the root cause of my back and neck pain. Even most Dr's don't believe in TMS. I am so grateful to have found and accepted his insights. Thank God for Dr. Sarno.

    And thank you for this web site - it's a great help to have a place to go to when one is experiencing symptoms or something is simply "off." Keep up the good work for us!
  13. charcol

    charcol Peer Supporter

    I believe Dr. Sarno wrote in one of his books that people are more inclined to believe that they have a physical problem rather than a psychological problem. It's almost as if they're too good- too stable, to have a psychological problem. The fear of being labeled "crazy". Other people are crazy, but not them. I've had the feeling that the people who don't take my advice and read some Sarno ARE crazy, just because they won't! But looking back, it took me a month or two to finally get the book. Some people don't take the initiative until their ("injured") back is against the wall, when nothing else has worked. And I can honestly say that I've never experienced anything like this before in my life. To read a book, study it, accept it, and heal myself; it's been a spiritual experience.

    Lianne- I totally agree. Dr. Sarno and his work saved my life when dealing with my back pain. And this website helped me immensely when TMS returned in the form of pain in my neck/shoulder/arm/elbow. Even though I knew that TMS was to blame, it was nice to have a place to come to, to write about my experiences, and to read about the experiences of others. So, another big thank you to Forest and this website.
  14. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think, charcol, it's because there's a mechanistic bias throughout both the general population at large and the medical establishment in particular. I was explaining some of Sarno's theories about the origins of back pain to an allergist at Kaiser-Permanente. He mentioned that his brother had back pain, but his brother definitely had what he referred to as a "slipped disk", which he's been shown on an MRI. I mentioned to the allergist that there have been a lot of studies that show that if you take a 100 people off the street who don't have back pain and give them MRIs, you'll find almost 70% of them have spinal anomalies. On the other hand, if you take a 100 people who do have back pain and give them MRIs, you'll find that 70% of them have spinal anomalies likewise. I didn't even want to go into how a "slipped disk" can't even exist because if you had one you'd be paralyzed. Just goes to show how much inertia there is against saying that lower back pain might be emotional in its origins. Not emotional like glad or sad, of course, but deeper repressed unconscious emotions that alter the operation of the biochemistry in the brain and central nervous system. By the way, I did get the allergist to admit that the future of medicine did involve body-mind interactions. I got that far!

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