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Alan G. Mindfulness and TMS

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by introverted, Jan 15, 2016.

  1. introverted

    introverted Peer Supporter

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

    For the past month, I have been really getting into the practice of mindfulness. This includes sitting and focusing on my breathing while observing the symptoms without engaging or responding to them with fear.

    I have noticed that mindfulness practitioners encourage daily mindfulness: both the formal practice of sitting and meditating, and the informal practice of being mindful throughout your daily activities.

    Being mindful involves being in a state of non-judgmental, non-striving present awareness throughout the day. But as I'm reading through a book and other materials on mindfulness, there seems to be a big emphasis on continuing to be mindful of how you're feeling throughout the day. The practice seems to place a large focus on constantly being aware of your body (while not attaching negative meaning to any uncomfortable symptoms you may be experiencing).

    I am wondering whether this mindfulness practice is keeping me focused on my symptoms in a negative way. When I first recovered from my symptoms 2 years ago in college, I was so busy that I didn't have any time to dwell on my symptoms -- eventually, I didn't even notice when they went away. But with this mindfulness practice, I am constantly aware and thinking about how my symptoms are feeling. I'll go about my day monitoring them but reminding myself "This is just stress, it will get better, don't react, observe them for what they are."

    When I recovered in college, I never meditated. Now, I am meditating twice a day, 30 minutes each time.

    I am wondering whether my intentionally being mindful is actually keeping me more focused on my symptoms (which is, I think, the opposite of what the practice is supposed to help me achieve)? I find that I still observe and care about my symptoms very much. But when I intentionally set aside time throughout the day to sit and meditate, it undeniably puts me in a position where I am forced to "be with" my symptoms, and therefore think about them (since they are so strong). Could this possibly impede my recovery by preventing me from being active all the time in order to get my mind off of, and even forget, about my symptoms?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 23, 2016
    mike2014, breakfree and Forest like this.
  2. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Well, this is tough. The purpose of mindfulness is to hone the ability to watch the thoughts, etc. and not get pulled in to the emotional response to the thought.

    For example, let's say you have the thought, "My symptoms are never going to go away." The typical emotional reaction to that thought is fear, and the typical physical response to that is anxiety.

    If you're practicing mindfulness meditation and that same thought comes up, the goal is to say to yourself, "Oh, there's that thought again," and then return your attention to the breath. So essentially you're watching the activity of your mind, and intervening before you have the emotional reaction or the physical response.

    The fact that you're still focused on your symptoms in a negative way leads me to believe that the emotional reaction is still getting to you. You may not be at the point where you can focus on your symptoms and not get sucked in to a negative emotional response.

    It might be easier for you to focus on something that doesn't already have such a scary or despairing association, such as the breath, or perhaps the what your feet feel like against the ground (or some other sensation that doesn't have a history of eliciting fear.)


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    Cap'n Spanky, breakfree and Forest like this.
  3. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    I practice mindfulness by living in the present moment. I keep it simple and don't analyze it. To me, living int he present moment keeps me from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Mainly, I have to work on worrying about tomorrow and afterward, whether it be financial worries or my mortality since I am now 85. I remind myself that every day can mean something positive and that as for the hereafter, it gives me comfort to know I will not have any more bills and that I will be reunited with my darling dogs and my human loved ones.

    Introverted, another of my "secrets" to good health is to keep busy. I keep focused on things I like to do. It shuts out negative thoughts or worries.
    mdh157 likes this.
  4. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    Introverted brings up a good point. It's something that concerns me about new people trying to learn mindfulness at the same time they are trying to recover from TMS. Mindfulness tells you to be aware of your body and mind, where Dr. Sarno tells you to ignore the pain and focus on your emotions.

    My initial reaction is to say stick with TMS first and do the things Dr. Sarno suggests. Then, once you have improved significantly, get into mindfulness.

    One caveat, I did find being mindful of my emotions quite helpful during my recovery from TMS.
    mike2014 likes this.

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