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It's a process...

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Forest, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    In response to a recent submission to our free Ask A TMS Therapist program, @Derek Sapico, MFT wrote,
    One thing that I love about this community is that we all learn from one another and teach one another. Our source of insight is thinking so hard about how to apply the ideas to our own cases and the cases of others. Over time, I can see a consensus view emerging about what is important in treating TMS. Derek's point is such an important one that I wanted to make a thread about it, so we can expand upon it and have somewhere to point people in the future.

    We already have a clear sense that we need to avoid preoccupation with symptoms, calendar watching, and outcome dependence. But it's hard to focus on not doing something. What do we do instead?

    We focus on a process.

    In other words, once we choose a process, our job is simply to follow that process. We don't need to focus on outcomes. We just focus on our process and the rest will fall into place given time.

    There is one thing to avoid. We don't want to take the same obsessional tendencies that got us in trouble in the first place and turn those to a different process. Newcomers to our board sometimes feel like springs coiled up so tightly that they are about to burst. The goal is to soothe and let go of that tension so that we can become fully engaged with life.

    Mindfulness meditation provides and example of this same idea. Learning to meditate takes a lot of "work," but if you "work" too hard, you will never succeed. If you find yourself thinking about how well you are doing or worrying, you just bring your thoughts back to the process. There is great wisdom in that tradition, which is why it has lasted thousands of years.

    Mindfulness meditators refer to their process as a "practice." It is something you do, not something you achieve. It is with you for the rest of your life.

    There is also another point worth noting, and that is that there is always also a role for learning more about yourself and about TMS healing. It's a good long-term thing to work on. Some people refer to this as "sharpening the saw," because if you want to cut down a many trees, most of your time will be spent sawing, but you also need to invest in yourself by taking time to sharpen the saw.

    This all raises a simple question: What is your process? On a day-to-day basis, what is it that you focus on?

    It is a question I was once asked by a graduate of our Structured Educational Program. She had made a great deal of progress, but wanted to go farther.

    What should she do on a day to day basis? What should her process be?

    So, for people reading this thread, what do you do on a day to day basis? What is your process?
    SunnyinFL, mike2014, Porpoise and 8 others like this.
  2. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Forest (and Derek!) this is SO important!

    For me, it was like a switch in my brain that used to be in one position, and was suddenly in a different position. One day I stepped back from myself, and literally watched how my brain really, really wanted to give in to a symptom that I was having, or about to have (I think it was an anxiety attack) and I realized that I had the ability to choose not to give in. The first time I made that choice, it was HARD. Each time I make that choice, it becomes easier, and I have done it with other symptoms - but I don't think it will ever be totally easy, because of how our brains are wired to be scanning for danger, so they are always looking for negativity.

    My daily process is to remind myself that my brain wants to go in that negative direction, and that I can choose to not go there. And it's not like I'm going around thinking only positive "happy" thoughts - what I am doing is regularly reminding myself that no matter what happens during a normal day, I am safe and I am healthy - which is as simple as it gets. In other words, it's okay to experience negative thoughts, to be sad, to be angry, to get frustrated, or even to be a little depressed (as if the world news isn't depressing, folks!) but that doesn't mean that I have to end up in pain, get an upset stomach, have an anxiety attack, or fall into depression myself.

    matamore, SunnyinFL, Porpoise and 9 others like this.
  3. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Jan, your daily process of telling yourself you are safe and healthy is great.
    I do that for myself each day and also have been adding imagery... imagining myself
    in a favorite place that calms me. For me that is remembering being in the northwoods
    canoe wilderness of Minnesota-Ontario, feeling the warm sun on, imagining the sun's light
    surrounding me, while hearing the breeze in the trees and loons calling across a lake.
    It is all calming and I feel safe. It drives away any feelings of anxiety or depression.
    SunnyinFL, Laudisco and JanAtheCPA like this.
  4. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    SunnyinFL and North Star like this.
  5. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    I guess you could say I don't have a process. I have taken many different approaches over the past year and a half, and finally I have more or less decided not to work on my TMS and to just live my life. I recognize that there are good and bad things about this approach. First, if you are obsessed with the pain and how to cure it, odds are it will not go away, at least not very quickly. But, we do need to do some things to keep a healthy state of mind. So these are the things I SHOULD be doing. Daily mindfulness, meditation/prayer, reading from TMS books, talk therapy. What's great about most of the things on this list is they have nothing to do with TMS, they are just tactics that can help us live happier, longer lives. My problem is I just don't seem to make time for them any longer. At the same time, don't set up a rigid schedule and force yourself to stick with it; that's the type of negative thought process that feeds the condition. So while I think it's great I no longer force myself to do these things, I also recognize that doing them is good for me and I should begin working them into my daily schedule.
    Porpoise and Colly like this.
  6. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    @Forest this is a great question, and thinking about what I'm actually doing to stay well every day has been valuable.

    I realized that "my process" falls into three categories:

    (1) Cognitive process: I monitor and adjust my state of mind as much as possible throughout the day. When I notice I am in a negative state (e.g. irritated, annoyed, frustrated, impatient, judgmental, dismissive, rushed, sad, discouraged, etc.) I tell myself to STOP THINKING (I jump off the train of thought I'm on that got me to this state of mind.). Then I acknowledge that I have lost touch with the present moment, and I practice mindfulness for as long as I can maintain it. If I'm engaged in an activity, then I do it mindfully. I then acknowledge that I am perfectly safe and all is well here and now (this is usually true 99.9% of the time). If there is a real problem that needs to be taken care of, then I ask "Is this something I can control?" If the answer is "no", then I work on acceptance and letting go. If the answer is "yes", then I make a plan to resolve the issue.*

    (2) Behavioral process: I behave like a healthy person as much as possible. I don't talk about having symptoms, etc. I do things that healthy people do, like exercise.

    (3) Emotional process: I allow myself to feel emotions, knowing they will pass. I cultivate positive emotions, like gratitude (I use a gratitude journaling app on my phone daily).

    * I still have a lot of work to do here, as there are some old, ingrained defensive patterns, like avoidance, that I need to change.

    All, of course, a work in progress. But the more I practice, the easier it all becomes.
    riv44, mike2014, Laudisco and 7 others like this.
  7. blake

    blake Well known member

    That is a great question! Thank you for asking it, Forest.

    When I feel the pain coming on, I know it's because I am repressing something right in that moment - for example someone says something that hurts my feelings and I try to deny it and say to myself : "don't be silly, that's no big deal, get over it". So what I am learning to do is take time out to acknowledge all of the different feelings I experience every day. The cause of my pain, as I have discovered through the journaling, is that I try to be and feel the way I should, rather than letting myself just be who I am. I have had a very traumatic childhood filled with neglect and violence and I need to let myself (and all my different parts) experience the full range of emotions this has caused me.

    I have found that 100 percent of the time, when I let myself feel, my pain goes away completely. Dr. Sarno is so right when he talks about repression being the root cause of chronic pain.

    This process is certainly not easy for me right now. I spend a lot of time alone, (often crying) as I relive very awful things about my past. But it is so worth it. Not only am I getting a pretty good handle on the pain, I am also starting to feel more compassion for myself, more self respect and greater self-esteem. How I survived my childhood I will never know! I am a mother myself and I cannot imagine my son going through even 1 minute of what I went through. This process may sound depressing, but it isn't at all. It's like finally coming home to myself and giving myself permission to speak and be.
    hecate105, Pip, North Star and 7 others like this.
  8. chickenbone

    chickenbone Well known member

    I have spent the last 4 years, since I first learned about TMS, gaining knowledge about TMS, reading TMS books, interacting with other sufferers on the forum, going through the recovery programs. Then I reached a point where I felt confident in the TMS diagnosis. Recently, I have settled into a process where I deal day in and day out with my personality characteristics that make me prone to TMS discomfort and pain. I am in the process, for example, of learning to take command of my own attention, instead of letting it just run wild and settling on anything it wants to at the moment. I realize now that a lot of the fear was associated, not so much with the pain itself, but with the problem of not really knowing myself and what was going on with me emotionally. When I relapse now, I generally know what is happening. I recently had a really bad relapse of the sciatic pain, but with the process of internalizing the new-found knowledge of myself, I was able to recover much more quickly. So I would say that healing is really an ongoing process of dealing effectively with my emotional self, which I never really learned to do previously. This can take a long time but I can really see the results of continuing to work on my personality issues.
  9. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    My daily process involves paying close attention to how I am feeling. If I notice that I am feeling something - anger, sadness, fear - I work toward embracing it, sensing into it as much as I can. I try to do this without a lot of judgement or pressure to act. I also notice what I am thinking, and what sort of editorializing I tend to do as I am accepting and experiencing certain emotions. Its really interesting because I am so much more aware now of the little voice that is tied to my emotions and the particular things I tend to say to myself when I am upset. I don't take them as seriously anymore, particularly if they involve beating myself up or really catastrophic thinking. I can tell myself more easily that its not really true or that I am just thinking that because I am really upset. Also, if I am feeling something really strongly, I will allow myself to really go with it, screaming in my head all the things I would really like to say. It doesn't matter how reasonable it is, or if I would ever really say it to someone or not. I can pretty much guarantee half the things I scream in my head I never would actually say to someone, but it does accurately represent how I am feeling in that moment and it feels good to let it out. Perhaps that sounds funny that screaming something in your head could be letting it out, but it is. Just imaging how you might tell someone off and feeling the anger does let it out. Then it is out on the table. I personally find that sensing and accepting fear is much more difficult and there is less internal dialog. When I sense into fear it is much more physical and the struggle is not to run or resist it. Its like sensing you are about to fall and then allowing yourself to fall, trusting that you will be caught and that it will be okay. Its not easy for me to do but I am beginning to trust that it is the easiest and most effective way to have the fear subside and all the uncomfortable physical sensations that accompany anxiety and fear. Learning how to acknowledge and feel my emotions is one of the most valuable things I have learned in my TMS recovery. It is something that I am now naturally doing everyday and the more I do it and pay attention to this inner life, the better I feel physically. Also, our mental state is reflected in our physical state. That may seem very obvious but I have to remind myself of that all the time. Its so important what we tell ourselves. And what we tell ourselves can be very tied to how we are feeling physically so its a vicious cycle. I realized I have no trouble soothing my children and telling them that things are going to be okay, but I used to have a lot of trouble soothing myself. I am getting much better at that.
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2014
  10. hecate105

    hecate105 Well known member

    I think it is the trickiest bit - learning to stay 'healthy' and pain free after the huge 'switch' to realising about TMS. So much energy is expanded in the beginning and it sort of takes over your life because you need to be so vigilant with thinking patterns, calling out pain and identifying your own characteristics. For the best part of a year I really needed to withdraw from most situations/family stuff/friends and just needed that time to figure it all out. But it seems to me to be a little harder now - not so much to do - but so easy to get caught up in the emotions and events of day to day life. I find I get caught up in a situation and then - 'ding dong' wake up - I catch sight of one of my 'crib' notes and realise I am stressing about something I cannot control, or worrying about another person's behaviour, or falling back into a characteristic that I know will not benefit me.
    So on a practical note - one of the main ways I have of dealing with the process is to pin up some lists - like the Schubiner and Lumley 'Notice what has been hidden' that I printed off this site. These are in strategic places in my house so I will notice them daily. I also try to meditate and practice mindfulness whenever possible. This used to be daily but now I am working again (hurray) there may literally not be time to do that. But - I can always work mindfully, shop mindfully, walk the dog mindfully....! I also have written out cards with affirmations on - like from Louise Hay's 'Heal Your Life'. For instance the one for pain is - 'I lovingly release the past. They are free and I am free. All is well in my heart now.' I find that just spotting these 'reminders' help to jolt me back if I go astray in my thinking.
    I am also in the process of changing my life to a much less stressful one. Although (the universe giggles wildly!) it means going through a stressful year or so of building, reconstructing and spending all our savings - we will get to the point where we can live a cost-free life (mainly by renting out our home and living in a caravan!) and we will not have to work - but can choose when we do and use the money to travel and walk/cycle/paddle all the routes and places we have dreamed of doing. This is a huge step and has taken an immense amount of thought and discussion between my husband and I. But - me being ill with TMS for SO many years and finding the solution thanks to Dr Sarno et al -( including TMSwiki people!) has really made us realise what the important things are in life. For us it is the balm and healing of being in the natural world, of living simply and propelling our way across this beautiful planet under our own steam... All we have to do is cope with 'wading through treacle' for another year till we get ourselves sorted! But most important is to stay healthy through that stressful process - so I will be pinning up more affirmations and taking plenty of deep breathes!!!
  11. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hey, @Forest, what is YOUR process?
  12. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, hecate. I find myself, at age 84, trying to live as "unconnected" to electronics as possible.
    It was much less stressful before the computer was invented, and before all the instant communications gadgets.
    I work on the computer so I have to put up with that, but I only have a line phone. I figure if I need a cell phone
    everyone else has one, so I'll ask them to make a call for me.

    I was in line at the post office a while ago and a boy about 10 was in front of me talking on his cell phone.
    I remember when we just walked to a friend's house and yelled, "Hey, Joe, can you come out to play?"

    We're not supposed to live in the past or the future, but my past has lots of calm memories.
  13. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    I'm not sure I have a process, but I am dedicated to a healthy lifestyle. Each day, early in the morning, I meditate for 15-20 minutes. I also swim 2-3 times/week, practice yoga once a week, and walk quite a bit.
    This is the most stressful year I've had in education, and it's good to remind myself that I do take measures to safeguard my health!!
  14. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks for the shout-out, @Ellen, I'm traveling now (visiting family), but will write a post when I get back.
    Ellen likes this.
  15. hecate105

    hecate105 Well known member

    I agree Walt - all this techno stuff is very entertaining and can be useful - like with this forum - BUT - we can end up spending our lives 'wired' to a system and glued to a tiny screen. That's why I love cycling/walking - I take my mobile phone - but only turn it on when needed. No other devices. If I really need to check emails or send one or find something out - I can go to a library and have a free half hour. At home I try and not use the computer every day - just let all those messages pile up... I think it would be a challenge to 'use a computer mindfully' ...!!!
    North Star likes this.
  16. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Our neighborhood had a power outage from an electrical storm three years ago and we were without electricity
    for four days and nights. I read by sunlight and listened to quiet music on my battery operated Sony Walkman
    and took my darling dog Annie for a few more walks those days. I didn't miss TV or the computer at all,
    and the days and evenings went slower and more peaceful.
    hecate105 likes this.
  17. Colly

    Colly Beloved Grand Eagle

    Every day I start my day patting my bed as I get out after a restful sleep and thanking it (yes, slightly insane, but makes me chuckle - also another good way to start the day)!

    I then prepare for some exercise, and on those days I don't really feel like it, I remind myself again to be thankful. I've had TMS pain this year on and off that has prevented me from running, but I try to just "suck it up" as they say in Australia, and find stuff I CAN do, and all the while saying words like "joy" "strength" "determination""courage" as I move through my exercise routine.

    I remind myself when in pain that it's only temporary, and often I talk to the pain asking it "what are you trying to tell me". I speak to the pain in a caring and compassionate way so that I don't compound it with additional pressure and tension. I feel my emotions, good and bad, and let them wash over me.

    I go about my day at work always trying to be aware of my conduct with myself and others, and always treat people with respect. I relish the chance for some fun and laughter when the opportunity arises.

    I try to be aware of my thoughts at all times, and when I find myself going down a negative path I'm pleased (!), because I am AWARE I'm going there, and so I try to take a different path. I find compassion helps me out of negative chatter. That, and forgiveness… of myself too in many cases...

    I try to keep up reading about TMS to strengthen and develop my knowledge. I find the work of Bruce Lipton fascinating. Must-have books to read and re-read are of course Sarno's 'Mindbody Prescription', Steve Ozanich's 'Great pain deception', and most recently Joe Dispenza's 'You are the Placebo". These books I have at hand and pick them up and re-read them or passages of them. During times of stress, I find Steve Ozanich's book gives me strength.

    I carry in my handbag a printout of a post from another forum by a member called Ace1. It's called 'Repeating the keys to healing'. It's a clear and concise summary of what's going on in my body when I'm having TMS pain, and it helps me to reduce tension in my body and accept the pain. It's the first thing I reach for when TMS sneaks up on me. It will come with me on trips overseas etc. It's my TMS 'Rescue-remedy'!

    I try to soothe my mind and body most nights with some Dr Emmett Miller. His audio tapes are wonderfully soothing, especially "Easing into sleep" and "I am".

    THIS FORUM is exceptional and helps me connect with this wonderful community. I often daydream of meeting many of you in Central Park where we can share a hug and some stories. I love to connect with REAL people, and I marvel at the wonderful people I've met here. If only I lived in the US…:)

    Finally, I find singing to be very nourishing and clears the cobwebs after a long week at work. I look forward to my weekly wail with my singing teacher, and a good chin-wag with her too:)

    One last thing - re-runs of Seinfeld on TV every night compete with Dr Miller, so it's either a good belly laugh or some soothing meditation to end my day.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 14, 2014
  18. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, Colly. Good to hear from you again. Ace1 has put in some terrific posts in the forums.

    Singing is great for the spirit. Laughing is one of my favorite things. And when I don't think I can laugh, I find SMILING almost as good.

    Seinfeld and some others on tv are great for lifting our spirits.
  19. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Outstanding, Colly. These are my favorites, but your whole post is inspiring, Thank You!

    riv44 and North Star like this.
  20. Colly

    Colly Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks Jan

    Gosh re-reading my post sounds a bit Alice in wonderland, but let me tell you, it took a good two years of trial and error to get to this stage.

    TMS healing has actually made me a better person in many ways. I am much more grateful about even the little things that used to go unnoticed. Before I might indulge in some bitchy banter about work colleagues, but I try not to now. My closest work colleague still enjoys a good rant about others, and I try not to go down that path, knowing that being negative about others only makes me feel worse not better.

    I think of TMS healing as effectively re-wiring the brain, and like learning a new skill this requires daily repetition for new habits to become automatic:)

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