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Alex B. Pain and repressed emotions

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Nov 13, 2014.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

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

    Dr. Sarno talks about repressed emotions all the time. What's the actual relationship between pain and repressed emotions? And can repressed emotions actually become un-repressed?
  2. Alex Bloom LCSW

    Alex Bloom LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hi, thanks for the question. I'll give you some of my thoughts on the subject, but I encourage you to continue to gather information as this is a fairly broad topic and a very important one!

    The repression of emotions is actually fairly common, and most people do it to a greater or lesser degree. However, there are different ways of doing it, some of which are more destructive and costly than others. TMS is one of the more destructive as it can be totally debilitating and consuming, as so many readers on this site know.

    Repression occurs when we find it difficult to tolerate emotion and so, unconsciously, our minds make the decision that those emotions need to be sent away by any means necessary. TMS is essentially one of those means; it's a way for your unconscious mind to distract and redirect you, away from the uncomfortable emotions and whatever may cause them. This process can be initiated in a wide variety of ways, in that people repress different emotions for many different reasons. In my experience, anger and sadness are the most common.

    Let's take an example, say anger. I had a client who grew up in a loving home, his parents were in a committed marriage and showed him love and affection. He was a happy kid, did well and school and had his fair share of successes in life. When he came to see me he had persistent neck pain that would come and go. As he began to observe the pain, he noticed that it would often spike when his fiance, who travelled often for business, would prepare to go trips, or right after her return. The client insisted that he was fine with her travelling, that he missed her, but that he understood the necessity of it. That was his conscious mind telling me that. But unconsciously he was resentful and angry at her when she left. He felt alone and abandoned and it generated anger in him. However, he was totally unable to get in touch with this feeling. As we explored this the client revealed that, while he grew up in an ostensibly loving home, neither of his parents ever expressed anger, and would severely admonish him when he did. He grew up learning that anger is unacceptable and that you don't get angry at people you love. As a result, when he did get feeling of anger towards his fiance, instead of exploring and confronting them, his unconscious mind tried to send those feelings away and distract him. And what was something that took his mind off of his feelings reliably, every time? Yep, neck pain. Worked like a charm.

    This client's unconscious mind had been employing this method of distraction for years. It worked and so it was reinforced over time. In order to break the cycle of pain and repression, the client had to openly acknowledge and confront those feelings of anger. This was difficult because he knew that from a rational standpoint, it wasn't really reasonable of him to become angry. But the real issue was the feeling of abandonment, which he was able to confront and look at with his fiance, once he allowed himself to feel his true feelings and point him towards his own needs.

    So we see that pain arises as a tool for the unconscious mind to distract a TMS sufferer away from their true feelings and emotions. The goal is to utilize that process as a tool - by openly and honestly facing the emotion that is repressed it can guide us towards our needs and challenges so that they can be worked through with intention, as opposed to being hidden away with shame and avoidance.

    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.

    Durga and Forest like this.
  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Alex, a very interesting reply on repressed emotions.

    I agree that some of the strongest are anger and sadness.
    Journaling led me to discover anger I never knew I repressed but sure did,
    related to my parents divorcing when I was 7 years old. I guess I felt the loss of the family structure
    (security) more than I realized and it led to down deep anger. Journaling led me understand my parents
    better and to forgive them. Forgiving led to healing my back pain.
  4. painfreeB

    painfreeB Peer Supporter

    new to this whole concept. 40 yrs of chronic pain after a traumatic cervical injury. fusions have not helped & the pain is whole body so I need to look under the covers- so to speak...

    my problem isn't repressing feelings or anger. my problem IS anger. I'm angry that I have pain & that it seems to be how I'm identified & hopeless that it will not change. I grew up in & have lived a negative critical life & am seem to be pissed off about it & everything actually. that I have not been able to live the life I want because of pain. most everyone close has left because of it & that causes more pain. I feel like anger consumes me & I feel my pain increase as I think about this while writing. I acknowlege & feel & express it always. how does one get rid of it?

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