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Overcoming conditioned response

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by levfin003, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. levfin003

    levfin003 Peer Supporter

    Dear all,

    This is one of my first posts on this forum. I used to suffer severe neck and upper back pain with constant dizzines and vertigo, until a friend of mine "cracked the code" behind my symptoms by telling me that I have TMS. She introduced me to Dr. Sarno's book.

    I have had an unstable life and suffer from severe derpession (will write more about that later). As such, I always suspected that there was an emotional cause for my pain. Reading Dr. Sarno's book confirmed that suspicion. As such, I accepted the TMS diagnoses instantly.

    The dizziness and vertigo disappeared overnight. Reading, writing and working on a computer have become much less painful although I still get mild headaches if I read for too long. The quality of my life is significantly better.

    However, I have not yet overcome the pain from conditioned responses. I am still unable to drive, even short distances. On Tuesday, I drove my wife and daughter to a nearby restaurant, and I was in horrible pain all day yesterday. I know that there is no structural cause for this pain.

    I wanted to get advice from people on how to overcome this conditioned response. I would love to take long drives as the weather gets better.
  2. cishealing

    cishealing Peer Supporter

    levfin003, during the worst of my TMSing, I was convinced that even a ride in a car (vibrations!) would flare up my leg pain. I remember distinctly at one point saying to my husband that I didn't want to go somewhere because I thought the car ride would hurt me, but that I realized in the moment I was saying it how utterly stupid that was! A human body is just not so fragile that a car ride, or driving a car a short distance can actually cause pain.

    I got over this by taking very, very short drives at first. Like down the street and back. When I proved to myself that this didn't cause pain, then I gradually lengthened the drives, until now I don't even think about car rides or driving possibly causing any pain. My first time driving, I was alone in the car and I said out loud over and over again that I had TMS, that there was nothing structurally wrong with me and that driving would be fine. As a distraction that worked great.

    Good luck. You are healing and improving, and this too will improve.

    yb44, Ellen and levfin003 like this.
  3. levfin003

    levfin003 Peer Supporter

    I am going to start driving short distances every other day, and see how that works.
    cishealing likes this.
  4. Steve Ozanich

    Steve Ozanich TMS Consultant

    The conditioned response seems to be the most difficult hurdle in overcoming pain, but it's certainly not insurmountable by any means. Conditioning is best explained when you compare it to stopping a shipping oil tanker. It takes 20 minutes for a tanker to stop once the breaks are applied. It's size and force are so powerful that there's a delay in stopping its momentum after the change. The same is true for TMS.

    But, that doesn't mean your pain is only from conditioning. Remember, your thoughts that are creating your TMS are unconscious, and so you can't know if they still exist or not. Healing takes time to stop the momentum. Even though CBT is "singularly ineffective" in stopping TMS, it does help some. So, creating rewards after you set short goals is a great tool. In my experience with working with TMSers the physical aggression comes in during the time of breaking the conditioning.

    1) Check your thinking, it still may be looping some
    2) To break your conditioning begin the physical movement, always setting small goals and immediately rewarding yourself (CBT) to avoid delayed reinforcement
    3) Keep trying to understand why you need your symptoms. (the reason will always come back to fear)

    From what I'm seeing, when the thinking is still inaccurate, the physical aggression makes things worse. It's during the breaking of the conditioning phase that the physical movement should be applied. Timing is important or you can set yourself back.

    Timing is everything in life, especially in music.

  5. cishealing

    cishealing Peer Supporter

    Steve, thanks for this post. I was just composing a cry for help and support around my strategy of baby steps into movement not working the last few weeks. I guess my thoughts that are creating the TMS are still there, despite everything. sigh. Getting frustrated but I know there is no alternative to keep on keepin' on.

  6. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, levfin. You're getting great advice. I had the same problem, about walking instead of driving. They're part of the same thing.
    I walked in pain, then told myself it was TMS psychological and not physical. Gradually I walked a little farther each day until it was not a problem anymore. I'm confident you will lose your conditioned reflex about driving causing your pain. Slow and easy does it. You'll get there.

    Positive thinking is a big help. Think these mantras: "I can do anything I set my mind to." and "I can do this. It's a piece of cake!"
    levfin003 likes this.
  7. Steve Ozanich

    Steve Ozanich TMS Consultant

    Hang in there Cee, but remember that the biggest mistake you can make is trying to heal. Most people get caught up in trying to heal which is once again like physical therapy. So goal setting can be detrimental depending on how it's done. It helped me and it hurt me.

    When you finally stop thinking about healing you will heal. Just go live your life doing what you want, when you want, it will go away as long as you do some basic things.

    Stop holding your breath
    Stop thinking and worrying about body altogether
    Stop trying to please others, they don't matter as much as you think
    Start moving more physically
    Start having more fun, forget about worry and outcomes just go let go get silly (but don't make me have to come and bail you out of jail)
    Start expressing yourself through some form of art, dance, music, writing, etc.
    Start becoming happy, do what you want with your life

  8. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Levfin, Dr. Schubiner's program, "Unlearn Your Pain" has been very helpful to me. When I am out walking and the pain comes rolling in, I will remind (aloud) myself of TMS reminders: The pain is caused by TMS. There is nothing structurally wrong with me. The pain originates in my brain. It is benign. And so on. Sometimes I will repeat a mantra while pressing on an acupuncture point (Dr. Schubiner explains in his book.) I figure it's all part of the rewiring my new brain.

    And journal if you're not already doing so. If you're dealing with a conditioned response, explore when the symptom started and as always…think psychologically.

    Good luck and keep us posted!
    levfin003 likes this.
  9. levfin003

    levfin003 Peer Supporter

    Thank you all for your advice. I drove from about 1 hour in beautiful countryside today.

    Steve - I just started reading your book. I had not idea that you are active on this forum, so its a great surprise to get a response from you.

    However, I didn't fully understand what you meant by "....when the thinking is still inaccurate, the physical aggression makes things worse. It's during the breaking of the conditioning phase that the physical movement should be applied. Timing is important or you can set yourself back."

    What exactly do you mean by inaccurate thinking?
  10. SallyAnn

    SallyAnn New Member

    Hi Lefvin
    I had fibryomalgia for 26 years with pain as the primary symptom and I used to have terrible pain from driving (or just sitting in the car)...
    In my recovery I found the following particularly helpful - every time as I was about to get in the car and then when I sat in the car I would say to myself - " it is not the sitting in the car that causes the pain it is the thought that sitting in the car causes the pain that causes the pain". I would then talk to my brain using TMS phrases that there was nothing actually physically wrong with me.
    Further down the line as I was unravelling the triggers, emotions and conditioned responses I realized that as a child family car journeys were very stressful, as my father would have angry physical outbursts. I spent every car journey in a 'fearful frozen expectation'. This was an important 'discovery' for me in letting go of the stress messages my brain was sending my body and inviting a new sense of relaxation and experience.
    Not all conditioned responses are rooted in traumatic memories but it has been an important landscape for me to explore -

    Best wishes for your recovery - you can recover
  11. Steve Ozanich

    Steve Ozanich TMS Consultant

    "Inaccurate thinking" thinking means many things, such as, correlating the wrong causes with the wrong effects. Sally Ann just gave a great example that I hope everyone pays close attention to. The rides in the car were not the cause of her symptoms. She corrected her thinking by understanding that the car wasn't causing her pain. Her experience proves Dr. McKenzie's Two-Trauma Mechanism correct again. The brain reverts back to the earlier period and ignites the same neurotransmitters that were firing when she was a child, recreating the same experience.

    The most important thing she said was that it was the "fearful expectations." This is being proven in every placebo trial out there. The expectations are what happens, and what you become. So if you inaccurately think that surgery will help you, or that you will be harmed by picking something up, or that herniated discs or car rides hurt your body, then they will. Your expectations come from your thinking. If your thinking is inaccurate then your body will expect the wrong thing and respond to the error.

    Sally Ann was also correct in that not all conditioned responses are from traumatic experience. Some of them are from pleasurable experience, even peace. This is why guided imagery helps so much, and is not utilized enough. The mindbody has no idea if the event is real or not, it only reacts according to the thoughts that it receives, and then creates the appropriate neuropeptide chain to recreate the same experience. You can imagine a loved one dying and you will cry, even if it never happened. You can imagine a sexual experience and get aroused, even though it never happened. You can imagine being in a car as a child and getting tense even if you are an adult.

    Thinking creates the body's response. If you think that sitting causes back pain then it does. If you think that a pain cream or EFT helps with your pain then it will. But these things only work because of your expectations, which is why many of these things don't do anything for other people. They don't expect anything, or believe.

    The only thing that works is the power of belief. What you deeply believe will eventually become. If you think your body is broken and needs fixed then it is. If you think the next ritual will help you then it will. But Dr. Sarno came along and proved that the body is ok, and that it is responding to the emotions and not to the things other physicians were pointing to, they had created inaccurate thinking in everyone. And everyone fell for it.

    So inaccurate thinking is the first link in the chain of disaster because the body responds to the thoughts. In the beginning was the word. Nothing moves without words except for impulses. So make your words count. And of course, the common TMSer is filled with doubt, low self esteem and negative thinking, so you can imagine why the body is responding in the manner that it is.

    Get to the thinking, and make it accurate. The only way to do that is through education. Dr. Sarno pioneered a great process, and it begins with "informing the patient on what is truly going on." Awareness will heal you, as Sally Ann kindly explained here when she said, "I realized that as a child family car journeys were very stressful, as my father would have angry physical outbursts. I spent every car journey in a 'fearful frozen expectation'. This was an important 'discovery' for me in letting go of the stress messages my brain was sending my body and inviting a new sense of relaxation and experience."

    Her awareness of what was truly happening was a discovery that allowed her to relax and to gain a new experience. Her thinking changed.

    If your thinking is still inaccurate, ie, believing that running is bad for you, or that you may be hurting yourself with a renewed physical exertion, then your body will respond with greater pain. The false thinking will set you back, just like faulty medical advice is making us worse.

    I hope that makes sense regarding accurate thinking. I may have not been thinking accurately when I wrote this.

  12. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Power of belief. Makes me think about how when I was having baby #1, I told myself the intrathecal pain relief would do no good and guess what…it did no good. I can still see the doctor scratching his head saying, "it should have worked by now."

    Ditto for so many other modalities. My negative thinking has set the stage for all sorts of *surprise*, negative effects. If a doc warned me of some side effect or negative outcome, it never failed to transpire.

    Steve, that post has elevated you to yet another level of awesomeness. Do try to not let it go to your head. lol
  13. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    A friend of mine received some medical treatment and was given a leaflet listing all the potential side effects. She read this leaflet with great care and voila, she began to experience each and every one of these symptoms over the coming months. I once lent her a book on the subject of happiness complete with a list of strategies to develop the habit of being happy. She proclaimed that she was already aware and doing most of what the book suggested. Then why, I thought, is she as miserable as sin?

    To the OP: I have overcome many conditioned responses and have more to go. Some are interesting like my irrational fear about crossing bridges in the car. I was thinking the other day something along the lines of what SallyAnn mentioned. Perhaps it evokes a time when I was crossing a bridge in the car with family and I associate it with arguments or fear of being punished. Nothing to do with bridges at all but my primitive brain links the two together. As for pain while driving generally I began to notice how tense I was. I particular stiffened up my left (clutch-pressing) leg and as you can guess that was the site of my sciatica. It does help to become more aware of how I 'hold' myself, not with any grand plan to force myself to stop but instead just to notice and be curious about it all.
    North Star likes this.
  14. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    Maybe that's what made her sub-c happy?
  15. levfin003

    levfin003 Peer Supporter

    Thanks for these posts. These are really helpful.

    This weekend, I drove my car through winding country roads, nd activity I really enjoy! I kept reminding myself that there is nothing wrong with my body, and driving should not cause any pain. I also kept reminding myself that I can have my life back, and do the things that I enjoy. This is the first time, I am not in intense pain after driving. I am feeling some some tightness in my back, but its nothing compared to the stiffness and pain that I previously used to get from driving.

    I also spent some time thinking about the problems that are causing this pain. My mood has been volatile but the pain is definitely better.

    I'll keep reading Steve's book.
  16. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Steve's suggestions are great, as always.
    I find that happy distractions help a lot.
    I'm writing a new novel and am having a ball.
    Even if it doesn't get published or earn me a dime, I'm enjoying it
    and it takes my mind off of any worries or pain.

    Levfin, driving country roads and enjoying the day sounds great.
    North Star likes this.

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