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Alex B. Isolating the cause or focusing on TMS?

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Hiawatha922, Aug 31, 2014.

  1. Hiawatha922

    Hiawatha922 Peer Supporter

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

    I have been treating TMS for about 2.5 months now. So much of Dr. Sarno's material seems relevant to my life.

    In addition to TMS, I have continued to treat allergy symptoms by receiving allergy shots.

    Yesterday, I had a significant reaction of some sort: left neck pain, radiating into my left temple and down into my left shoulder and arm. These are areas where my symptoms are typically noticeable but yesterday represented a significant exacerbation.

    I am aware of three things that may be related to yesterday's experience: it is a long weekend (Labor Day) and emotions often arise in this "down time", I ate peanut butter (which I usually do not eat), and ragweed pollens are very high.

    My question is this: how do I know whether or not I should be focused on isolating the cause (food, pollen or emotion)--or whether I should forego all of this and stay focused on the TMS treatment.

    I know Dr. Sarno indicated that "the food (pollen, etc) is not the problem". What does this suggest in terms of practical application for treatment?
  2. Alex Bloom LCSW

    Alex Bloom LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hello Hiawatha, and thanks for the question.

    Based on what I'm seeing here, it seems that what you are facing is a powerful conditioned response. You have trained yourself to expect pain when faced with a variety of factors, in this case the three you list above. Let me put it this way: Eating too much peanut butter will create arm and neck pain. Sometimes people who are working with TMS get so focused on figuring out the cause that it becomes the total focus of their effort and once again, this puts the symptoms front and center. At this point they are fulfilling their purpose as a distractor/preoccupier.

    I would say that what is important for you at this point is to not spend as much energy figuring our what the exact cause is, allowing those things to create fear (for example, associating high pollen counts with pain), but rather trying to learn to care for yourself when you feel the anxiety response to the symptoms and remind yourself that the only power they have is to keep you afraid. This can seem like a challenge, but that is only because you have trained yourself to respond differently. We want you to really start questioning your response to pain, and the pressure that it currently puts on you to "figure it out" and overcome it.

    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.

  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Hiawatha. I like Alex's advice. It looks to me like you need to keep focused on your symptoms
    being caused by TMS and think about your repressed emotions and perfectionist and goodist personality
    (if you have those). But also try to spend less time thinking about your symptoms and their cause
    and more time on enjoying yourself, distracting your mind with pleasant activities
    and staying in the present, not thinking or worrying about the future.
    cindi f. likes this.
  4. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    I think it is important to realize that any type of "rationalizing" about or "justification" for an episode of pain or uncomfortable symptoms is just part of the dark consciousness that gave us the pain in the first place. Pain comes to us complete with all it's future scary scenarios, justification for it's existence, and endless menu of options to deal with it. You could say that it is all just part of the pain strategy. As Guy Finley would say on this subject "The feeling is real, the why is the lie". So just deal with the pain. Begin by dropping it's ridiculous story. So do whatever seems appropriate in the moment to give you some relief. Be kind to yourself. Then, if you can manage it, take back your own life and attention. Focus on the wonderful things real LIFE is giving you by firmly holding your attention in the Now moment. Drop the false reality that dark parts of your mind have decided to hand you. This is not easy to do, but it really is working for me.

    Try to remember that "YOU" are not your emotions. Emotions are things that happen to you. Realize that something has happened to you and remove your attention from it so that you don't become identified with the negative emotion of the day. Otherwise, you could become lost in it and stay like that all day. Of course, this negative emotion does have it's effect on your body, which may or may not ease up once you catch what has been going on. So the pain or it's shadow may stick around for a little while, but at least you are no longer feeding it it's existence. Also try to remember that the TMS strategy or whatever you prefer to call it needs to be able to hijack your attention in order to work. Don't fall into this mind trap.

    Of course, this is just another way of saying what Walt's and Alex's posts said. Sometimes, we need to hear the same wisdom in many different ways.

    I hope this helps.
  5. Hiawatha922

    Hiawatha922 Peer Supporter

    Hello Alex, Walt and Chickenbone,

    I want to thank all of you for your responses. Your reflections are so clear. I think I am coming to a point where I now better understand some of what's happening (gathering knowledge). I just want to continue internalizing some of the wisdom you've shared here and what I've read in Dr. Sarno's books (as well as Steve Ozanich).

    Alex, you mentioned the pressure associated with "figuring this out". This pressure has been enormous, incorporating endless hours of searching and dollars spent with various health-care practitioners (all well meaning). Shifting this energy toward healing makes so much sense.

    I appreciate the opportunity to consult with all of you. Thanks again!
  6. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great posts everyone. I would just add this dimension--for me one of the keys to TMS healing was when I stopped looking outside myself for the cause of my pain or other symptoms, e.g. food, allergens, the weather, stressful job, stressful relationships. Once I accepted that it is my brain that is causing the problem, I've become empowered to change, and am no longer the victim.
  7. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hiawatha, you're doing great. Just try to spend more time on enjoying each day than thinking about any pain.

    Distract yourself with fun things to do and think about.

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