1. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Our TMS drop-in chat is tomorrow (Saturday) from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Eastern (now US Daylight Time) . It's a great way to get quick and interactive peer support, with BruceMC as your host. Look for the red Chat flag on top of the menu bar!

My TMS Recovery Plan

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by AnitaV, May 11, 2016.

  1. AnitaV

    AnitaV Well known member

    Hi everyone. I have shared my story of recovery in the following thread: http://tmswiki.org/forum/threads/my-tms-success-story-crippling-foot-pain-plantar-fasciitis-wrist-pain-eye-pain.5224/ (My TMS Success Story (crippling foot pain - plantar fasciitis, wrist pain, eye pain)). I have written the following recovery plan that I hope very much will help others who are suffering as I did.

    TMS Recovery Plan

    In January of 2013, I attended my daughter's third birthday party in a wheelchair. The pain in my right foot was so severe that I could not step on it at all. I had severe pain in my eyes that preventing me from reading, using a computer, or watching tv. Several months later, I developed terrible pain in my wrists that left me unable to use my hands at all. Then came the crippling back pain, and then pain my achilles tendon. By November of 2013, I was unable to work and unable to care for myself or for my child. I could not sleep and had no reprieve from my physical and emotional pain. No medical treatment was able to help me. My life was a tiny ball of fear, pain, anxiety, and depression. This was the cultimation of years of chronic pain that had started at the age of fifteen, and had consumed my life on and off for years at a time for the ensuing fourteen years.

    A year and a half after that birthday party, in July of 2014, I was hiking a mountain in my new home state of Colorado, pain-free, happy, and exhilarated about my life. The incredible transformation that has occurred in my life was thanks to the work of Dr. John Sarno, who understood the cause of my pain, and its cure. I discovered the work of Dr. Sarno in November of 2013, and by the following summer I was pain-free. When I think back on and analyze the period of my recovery, I realize that I developed and followed a clear, concrete recovery plan based on Dr. Sarno's teachings. I would like to share that plan with you.

    The more I learn in life, the more I am amazing by the incredible power of the human mind, body, and spirit. We all possess this power, and those of you who are suffering as I was can recover just as I did, for your capabilities are no different from mine.

    The following is my TMS recovery plan. It provides concrete, actionable steps for how to eliminate your pain using the teachings of Dr. Sarno, just as I did.

    The first step of my plan is for you to identify and commit to your goals. If you are reading this, then your goal is probably to be pain-free. I would like for you to shift your thinking. You have 2 new goals:

    1. UNDERSTAND and ACCEPT that your pain is caused my TMS.

    2. Experience your repressed emotions, understand why you repress emotions, and change your emotional behavior to stop repressing emotions.

    Once you achieve goal number 1, you will have defeated your mind's mechanism for producing pain. Once you achieve goal number 2, you will have eliminated the root cause of the pain, and will prevent TMS symptoms from returning in a different form.

    You will be working on achieving these goals in parallel.

    GOAL 1: UNDERSTAND and ACCEPT that your pain is caused my TMS.
    Achieving this goal will lead to the elimination of your pain. However, it is very important that you focus specifically on this goal, and not on the elimination of the pain. There are two reasons for this:

    1. The road of recovery will include many ups and downs in pain. In fact, as you get closer to the end of the road, the pain may spike and jump around more than ever. This is perfectly normal, and is your mind's last-ditch attempts to get you to focus on your pain. If the focus of your efforts is the elimination of pain, then you may indeed focus on the pain, which will prevent you from moving forward in recovery. Do not worry about the pain. Focus not on the elimination of pain, but on UNDERSTANDING and ACCEPTING that your pain in caused by TMS.

    2. Your problem is not actually your pain, it is the fear, anxiety, and hopelessness that you experience because of your pain. Imagine that you broke your leg, and it was a clean break. It was set properly, and your doctor told you that it would heal well and you would be able to go about all of your old activities in a few months. Would you experience physical pain during your recovery? Of course, healing a broken bone can be very painful, and the physical therapy in recovery can be very painful as well. Now, would you experience fear, anxiety, and hopelessness because of this pain? Of course not. You wouldn't be worried about it. You might even be having fun, watching tv all day and getting care packages from your friends. Another good example is a bee sting. It may cause you great physical pain, but would not cause anxiety and fear as our TMS symptoms do.

    Those of us who suffer from TMS suffer primarily not from pain but from fear, anxiety, and hopelessless that we experience because of our pain. The road to recovery is entirely emotional and mental, not physical, so you must focus on this emotional and mental work and not on the elimination of your pain as your goal.

    If you follow through with these goals, your pain will go away! And you will be a transformed person, inside and out.

    This goal has two components: UNDERSTANDING that your pain is caused by TMS, and ACCEPTING that your pain is caused by TMS. They are very different, but are intertwined. UNDERSTANDING is rational and ACCEPTING is emotional. Let's discuss them one at a time.

    Goal 1 Part 1: UNDERSTANDING that your pain is caused by TMS
    You must develop a strong, rational, and logical understanding of TMS. You must become a TMS expert. You should be able to teach a lecture on the mental mechanisms of TMS, explaining WHEN, WHY, and HOW your mind creates physical TMS symptoms.

    How do you do this? It's simple. Read and re-read Dr. Sarno's work over and over again. Every single day, read part of The Mindbody Prescription, or the psychology section of The Divided Mind. I also read Dr. Marc Sopher's To Be Or Not To Be Pain-Free. Reading these three books over and over again will give you a clear understanding of the mechanism of TMS.

    Here is my own simple summary of the mechanism of TMS:

    We have a conscious and a subconscious mind. When we prevent ourselves from experiencing negative emotions consciously, they get pushed into the subconscious mind, and we call these repressed emotions. Your mind sees these repressed emotions as a terrible threat. When there are too many repressed emotions and they start pushing themselves into the conscious mind, or when a life event triggers some of these emotions to start pushing themselves into your conscious mind, your mind panics. Your mind is terribly threatened by these emotions, and it does not want to allow them to enter the conscious mind. So your mind plays a terrible trick on you: it creates physical symptoms to distract you from your negative emotions. Once you are distracted from them, they go back into the subconcious mind. As long as you are focused on your physical symptoms, the emotions remain repressed, and are no longer a threat.

    By focusing on our emotions instead of our pain, and by eliminating the fear and anxiety associated with our pain, we tell our mind that this trick isn't going to work. Our mind fights us by creating new physical symptoms to try to steal our focus and to get us to worry again. As long as we continue to focus on our emotions instead of these symptoms, our mind eventually gives up on this strategy, and our pain goes away.

    When you repeatedly study the books I listed that explain the mechanism of TMS, you will become a TMS expert, and should be able to clearly and concisely explain the mechanism of TMS to someone who knows nothing about it. If you have questions about TMS that you do not know the answer to, you must mind an answer. Most of the answers are contained in these books, but the TMS forum and success stories contain a wealth of answers as well. If you can’t find an answer, post the question on the forum!

    Goal 1 Part 2: ACCEPT that your pain is caused by TMS
    In her poem Pity Me Not, Edna St. Vincent Millay writes

    Pity me that the heart is slow to learn

    What the swift mind beholds at every turn.

    Understanding that your pain is caused by TMS is the job of the swift mind, but accepting that your pain is caused by TMS is the job of our pesky slow heart, and usually takes much more time, but is ultimately the key to recovery.

    Like many of you, when I read about TMS my swift mind knew immediately that it was the cause of my years and years of pain, and that I could eliminate this pain using Dr. Sarno’s methods, but it took my slow heart a long time to accept and believe this truth.

    Getting your heart to accept that your pain is caused by TMS takes time, effort, discipline, and consistency. Here is how you do it:

    Imagine that you have an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder. The angel is your swift mind which understands that your pain is caused by TMS, and the devil is your slow heart which does not yet believe or accept it. Your physical symptoms start bothering you. The angel says “It’s ok, I’ve got nothing to fear, my pain is caused by TMS.” But, as soon as the angel says that, the devil says ten times louder “Who are you kidding? You pain is caused by your herniated disk. Didn’t you see that MRI? Don’t you know how many people have the same problem as you? And they don’t get better, their pain just gets worse and worse their whole life. You’d better not sit in that chair, you’ll just make your back worse. Then maybe you’ll need surgery. That might make it even worse. How are you going to be able to work if you get the surgery? Who is going to support your family? How are you going to pay your mortgage? Oh no did you just twist your back to get that pen from the table? You just made your herniated disk worse!”

    Does this inner dialogue sound familiar?

    So how does that tiny little angel defeat that loudmouth devil? With time and consistency.

    Every time you experience a physical symptom, and the devil on your shoulder starts yakking its head off, you must do the following two things:

    1. Focus on your emotions. Ask yourself – other than this symptom, what is bothering me?

    You mind is creating this symptom to distract you from your painful repressed emotions. By focused on these emotions and probing into your subconscious to try to find them, you are telling your mind “nice try, but this strategy isn’t going to work, so you’d better give it up!”

    2. Logically argue with the devil, using the knowledge and understanding that you have gained by becoming a TMS expert.

    As you continue doing this over time, you will see that the angel on your shoulder will get stronger and stronger, and the devil will get weaker and weaker. You must give clear and logical answers to every argument that the devil presents. It can be helpful to write down your list of arguments. If you don’t have an answer to a question, you must find it. It’s ok if you don’t actually accept or believe those answers yet. Time, consistency, and repetition are the keys to acceptance. Eventually, you will start to believe and accept what you are saying.

    For me, the biggest obstacle to acceptance that my foot pain was caused my TMS was the fact that I had MRI and ultrasound imaging that showed inflammation in my plantar fascia. In The Mindbody Prescription, Dr. Sarno writes that TMS does not cause inflammation, and that devil on my shoulder kept repeating this to me over and over again, even when I had answered every other question it had thrown at me. By this point, I knew that TMS could cause more symptoms than Dr. Sarno had even realized, but the inflammation was still an obstacle to my acceptance. So I started reading every TMS success story I could find in search of someone else who had inflammation as part of TMS, until I finally found someone! This gave me the evidence to argue with the devil on my shoulder. You must search for every last answer to your devil’s questions as well!

    Once I had a confident answer to the devil’s last question, and repeated that answer every time the devil raised that doubt, eventually the magical moment arrived when the angel, now strong and loud and confident, shouted down the devil one last time, and the little devil finally disappeared in a wisp of smoke. This was the moment when I accepted that my pain was caused my TMS, and this was the moment when I became free. I can remember this moment vividly. My fear melted away and I understood, believed, and accepted that my body was healthy and strong.

    I was not pain-free yet! My pain went up and down for months after this point, but I no longer feared the pain. In fact, when the pain would spike and jump around, I would laugh at it. “You can’t trick me anymore!” I would say. “I am going to think about my emotions now. Nice try!” My anxiety, fear, and hopelessness was gone completely, even though I still had pain. I sharply Increased my activity level because I was no longer scared of hurting myself, and for the first time in many years, I felt happy and free. My pain increased at this point, but it didn’t bother me. I knew that the pain would eventually go away as well, and indeed it did.

    Follow these steps with discipline and consistency and that moment will arrive for you as well. Do not watch the calendar, as the timeline for recovery is different for everyone. Just focus on your goals and follow these steps with discipline and consistency, and you too will set yourself free.

    GOAL 2: Experience your repressed emotions, understand why you repress emotions, and change your emotional behavior to stop repressing emotions.
    The whole reason you are in this pickle is because you repress painful emotions instead of allowing yourself to experience them. Most of us were taught to do this as children, and we continue to do this throughout our adult lives.

    Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!

    You have no right to get upset about this! Don’t you know that there are children starving in Africa?

    Quit your whining. You kids have it easy. Why in my day …

    Does this sound familiar? Our parents weren’t bad people for instilling these habits of repression in us, they were simply passing on the lessons that they themselves were taught. And after all, experiencing those painful, negative emotions is very … painful. Who wants to deal with that? It’s easier to shove them into the closet of our subconscious, right? Unfortunately, when we do that, they eventually find some expression, and if you are reading this, then for you they are probably being expressed in the form of physical pain (via the mechanism of TMS described in goal 1).

    In parallel to the disciplined and consistent work you are doing towards achieving Goal 1, you must dig into the closet of your subconscious and discover and experience these repressed emotions. You must do the following 3 things:

    1. Experience your repressed emotions.

    2. Understand when and why you repress emotions.

    3. Change your emotional behavior to stop repressing emotions.

    These are goals that you will continue to work towards for your entire life. Perhaps it is possible to achieve a state of enlightenment where you feel that you have achieved these goals fully, but I am certainly far from that state, and I continue to work on these goals every day.

    During my recovery from TMS, I saw a psychotherapist who helped me tremendously in achieving these goals. He helped me to truly change the way I live my life. If you have an opportunity to work with a psychotherapist who is familiar with TMS and experienced at helping uncover repressed emotions, I highly recommend it.

    Now, I try to discover my repressed emotions by writing daily in a journal. Every day I write “What is bothering me?” and then write down and explore everything that I can think of. This daily habit forces me to turn my attention every single day to my negative repressed emotions, so that I can experience them and prevent them from festering. Establish some similar daily routine and continuing it after your symptoms have resolved. Consistency is key. It can be extremely painful to dredge up your repressed emotions, but you will feel much better physically, emotionally, and spiritually once you let go of those blockages and allow yourself to experience your life and your emotions as you are meant to.

    In summary, here are the key points of my TMS recovery plan:

    You are healthy, strong, and powerful, and you can recover from all of your physical symptoms, just as I did.

    To recover from TMS, you must focus on and achieve these two goals:

    1. UNDERSTAND and ACCEPT that your pain is caused my TMS.

    2. Experience your repressed emotions, understand why you repress emotions, and change your emotional behavior to stop repressing emotions.

    In order to UNDERSTAND that your pain is caused by TMS, you must read and think about TMS every day, and become a TMS expert.

    In order to ACCEPT that your pain is caused by TMS, you must consistently rebuke your emotional doubts with your logical understanding.

    Every time you experience a TMS symptom, you must:

    1. Focus on your emotions. Ask yourself – other than this symptom, what is bothering me?

    2. Logically argue with your doubts, using the knowledge and understanding that you have gained by becoming a TMS expert.

    It is good to write down your explanation of TMS, and your explanation of how and why you are experiencing TMS symptoms.

    Establish a daily routine for exploring and experiencing your repressed emotions, such as journaling. Start every journal entry with the question “Other than my TMS symptoms, what is bothering me?”

    Every one of us has a bright and powerful spirit that wants us to live a joyous, free, and happy life. I know that you are suffering, and I hope that my plan will help you overcome your symptoms and discover your true potential.
    TrustIt, Neil, Lizzy and 25 others like this.
  2. Lavender

    Lavender Well known member

    Thank you so much for outlining this for the benefit those who are still seeking their recovery.
  3. oceana15

    oceana15 New Member

    Anita, I've read many of your posts (I am recovering from plantar fasciitis pain) and you are so eloquent and clear. You should be writing your experiences and knowledge into a book -- it would help so many people!
    kkcarlton likes this.
  4. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi AnitaV,
    Wonderful write-up. Thank you. All of it resonates with me.

    I like this in particular:

    Goal 1 Part 1: UNDERSTANDING that your pain is caused by TMS
    You must develop a strong, rational, and logical understanding of TMS. You must become a TMS expert. You should be able to teach a lecture on the mental mechanisms of TMS, explaining WHEN, WHY, and HOW your mind creates physical TMS symptoms.

    How do you do this? It's simple. Read and re-read Dr. Sarno's work over and over again. Every single day, read part of The Mindbody Prescription, or the psychology section of The Divided Mind. I also read Dr. Marc Sopher's To Be Or Not To Be Pain-Free. Reading these three books over and over again will give you a clear understanding of the mechanism of TMS.

    People often ask me for help, and the first thing I say is something very similar. It has to be an internal, convincing learning process that is personal and specific. No one can do this for us. It is basic education, just as the Good Doctor tells us.

    Thank you again for the wonderful summary!!!

    Andy B
  5. Boston Redsox

    Boston Redsox Well Known Member

    Thx you so much for this amazing write up.
  6. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    Congratulations on your success, Anita! Life is good.
  7. lina82

    lina82 Peer Supporter

    Thank you!
  8. donavanf

    donavanf Well known member

    Fantastic! Thank you!
  9. Misha

    Misha Peer Supporter

    Wow! What an amazingly clear, understandable and practical plan. I so love the analogy of the devil and the angel and am going to use it from now on. I have printed this out and stuck it inside The Mindbody Prescription. Thank you for taking the time to write it up.

    @AnitaV Would you mind telling me a little more about how you experienced your emotions? Was it just through thinking about what was bothering you (instead of thinking about the pain), or by talking about them, or did you actually try to experience them as sensations in your body etc. or some other method?

    Also, the 'why' we repress is something that has me a little confused at present. Is it just because we don't like feeling those emotions or are there bigger, individual reasons for each of us? What was the case for you? I suppose I'm asking if you could elaborate a little on what you learned about when, why and how we repress emotions.

    Last edited: May 12, 2016
  10. hoolie

    hoolie Peer Supporter

    This is amazing and so tremendously helpful right now! I especially relate to your "devil"... That is a glimpse into my very own experience (less so than it used to be!). It's so refreshing to know that I am not alone in this. the visual is so helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write this out. Clearly your story has been an inspiration for so many- I know I have referred to it many times!!
  11. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing all your wisdom.
  12. Ines

    Ines Well known member

    I feel so fortunate to come across this plan. I am new to this and this post explains it so clearly. Thank you so much!
  13. AnitaV

    AnitaV Well known member

    Thank you! I've thought about writing a book, thank you for the encouragement!
  14. AnitaV

    AnitaV Well known member

    Thank you Andy! I'm so glad to hear that this resonated with you. Your success story gave me so much strength during my own recovery!
  15. AnitaV

    AnitaV Well known member

    Hi Sara,

    I'm sorry for the delay in replying to you. I'm glad you like the plan, I hope very much that it helps you in your recovery!

    You asked how I experienced my emotions. At the time of my recovery I worked with a psychotherapist, but now I continue doing this on my own, it is a lifelong process. I do it by forcing myself to think about what is bothering me (other than any physical symptoms). I force myself to focus on it and to think about it. I find that often I try to immediately come up with a solution and I avoid actually experiencing it. When I do that, I have to shift my focus back on what is actually bother me, instead of immediately looking for a solution.

    We have to experience the emotions and let them move through us. Talking about them and writing about them is extremely helpful. At times when the emotions are strong you may actually experience physical sensations, such as nausea, or you may cry. Regardless, you have to actually allow yourself to experience your sadness, anger, shame, grief, and heartache. These are very painful, but if we repress them, we only create for problems for ourselves.

    You ask about "why" we repress. I believe that there are reasons that are common to all people, reasons that are common to certain societies, and reasons that are individual for each person.

    I think a common reason is that no one enjoys feeling emotion pain, and we find ways of avoiding it.

    In many societies, it is unacceptable to complain or to speak about your emotions.

    All of us have our individual reasons as well. Perhaps growing up you were reminded of "starving children in Africa" or "walking 5 miles to school in the snow" something along those lines any time you complained. You therefore internalized the belief that you had no right to be upset about anything in your life, because your life is better than that of starving children in Africa and people 100 years ago. This is a faulty line of logic - by this logic, there is only one person in the entire world who has any right to be upset about anything, the #1 most unlucky and miserable person in the world. Everyone else is better off that this person, so who are they to complain about anything? This is absurd logic, and yet many of us are brought up with it, and develop patterns of repression as a result.

    Think back to your childhood. How did your family respond when you were upset, or when you complained about something? I think that a great deal of insight into our individual reasons for repression lies in the answer to this question.

    werrietood and Misha like this.
  16. mncjl123

    mncjl123 Peer Supporter

    I remember in first grade when I came home with a sheet to have a shot at school. I remember clear as day bringing the paper to my mom and saying, "I am not having that shot, and that's that!" I tore up the paper, and can still see myself putting it in the garbage can. My mother grabbed my arm and told me, I had no right to say that. The next day, she dragged me to the doctors office and I had a shot in the clinic. From that point on, I never expressed my fears or anger and kept things bottled up inside. We were not allowed to get mad, angry, upset, or cry. It just wasn't tolerated. Hugs in our family were rare. If we did get one, it was a pat pat hug...the kid with some distance involved.

    Your memories of the starving kids in Africa was also said in our home many times at the dinner table.

    Being teased and ridiculed in school also led to more bottled up emotions as I was not allowed to "tell" or express my feelings.

    No wonder we are so messed up!

    I hope I can express my emotions better now at age 54. I want so to be well.

    Thanks for your encouraging notes.
  17. Ftaghn!

    Ftaghn! Peer Supporter

    Hey! Just wanted to say that your plan led me to a breakthrough, after 5~ years of not much in the way of results. I was actually just skimming through, but I read this part:
    I very much agreed with this part, and I tried to just concern myself with the emotions I felt because of the pain. Anyhow, afterwards, I had many hours of feeling like I was on the verge of a panic attack, so I had some introspective thinking, found an issue I hadn't noticed yet, and the knee pain I'd been having for a few months went down about 90%. I think I had been chipping at it for a while, but that part got me there.

    I'm still befuddled about it all, and I feel the kinesiophobia style fear, but the pain doesn't show up, so it's been a good two days.
    AnitaV likes this.
  18. karinabrown

    karinabrown Well known member

    hi Anita,

    thanks a lot for your practical and clear approach.
    as a footpain suffererer i can use many parts of that.
    found my own way and still making progress but for the full recovery
    i can really use your tips! i am starting to agree on the part that 'monitoring your emotions ' is going to be a life long 'work in progress'. and fear and axiety being the real enemy instead of the pain : so true. thanks a lot
    AnitaV likes this.
  19. AnitaV

    AnitaV Well known member

    I am so happy to hear that I was able to help!

    Dr. Sarno says that the key to recovery is not so much positive thinking but accurate thinking. Understanding your problems - both their causes and manifestations - accurately is crucial to recovery, and it can be very difficult in the midst of heightened emotion, especially anxiety and panic.
  20. AnitaV

    AnitaV Well known member

    By the way the "kinesiophobia style fear", which I experienced big time as well, is the "devil on your shoulder" that I described. You've got to focus on it, probe it, and argue with it.
    Boston Redsox likes this.

Share This Page