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repressing emotions

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by mbo, Jan 31, 2018.

  1. mbo

    mbo Well known member

    please, tell me about the important concept related (the deep cause of?) to chronic pain (and other symptoms) : REPRESSED EMOTIONS.

    I wonder if it is equivalent to AVOIDANCE of experimenting "dangerous", fearful, threatening, unbearable, "bad", negative emotions and feelings
    (anger, humiliation, rejection, isolation, shame, embarrasment, disregard, guilt, rage, ....)

    Thanks a lot !
  2. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    In Healing Back Pain Sarno tells the story of a mother who stopped the temper tantrums of her infant by splashing ice water in his face when he started to have a tantrum. She only had to do it once, and he never had another tantrum. Sarno wrote: "At the ripe age of fifteen months, he had learned the technique of repression. He had been programmed to repress anger because it produced very unpleasant consequences, and he would carry that dubious talent with him throughout his life. Now when confronted with the multitude of frustrating, annoying, sometimes enraging things that happen to people every day, this man automatically internalizes his natural anger, and when that anger collects and builds up, he will have TMS or some such physical reaction in response to it."

    In short, we repress anger (and other emotions) that we learned at a young age would produce "very unpleasant consequences" if we experienced them. We also learn early in life to avoid experiencing anger, etc. by thinking or doing something that distracts us from the dangerous emotion, and by repetition the distraction solution becomes so automatic that we are not even aware we are doing it. Sarno says the brain creates pain to distract us from the emotion, but if he is right, which I doubt, the pain is just an added distraction supplementing other distraction techniques we learned at a young age. I don't think what I just said is heresy because Sarno acknowledged in the passage I quoted above that we become "programmed" at an early age to repress anger.
    andy64tms and JanAtheCPA like this.
  3. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    There are so many ways to look at this issue - and I think that the truth will be slightly different for different people.

    For me, what works is understanding that I (along with everyone else) have a very primitive area of my brain which is still focused on survival in a physically dangerous world. The TMS mechanism exists in all of us, and it was designed to use a harmless symptom to distract us from wallowing in emotions instead of paying attention to the dangers of that world. It worked fine when we didn't live very long, and when we also had plenty of other distractions just trying to survive. It doesn't work at all well for those of us who are fortunate enough to live very long lives in a very safe world. And, for better or worse, the multiple and multiplying stresses of modern life have taken the place of sabre-tooth tigers.

    For me, the key to understanding and controlling this mechanism is to recognize, acknowledge, and accept the existence of the emotions that my brain is constantly trying to repress. Many, if not most, of them aren't even that earth-shattering. I didn't discover anything hideous when I did the SEP six years ago and examined my past - just normal childhood insecurities and feelings of isolation (I think that Freud was right: that the biggest source of rage that we carry around is the first rejection we experience when our mothers wean us). I accepted those and comforted my much younger self and remembered the times that I was in fact nurtured and protected by my parents (having been fortunate in that regard - not everyone is).

    In any case, I am also getting better all the time at recognizing when there might be a current situation or interaction which my brain tries to repress with a distracting symptom. It is still, and always, a combination of all these things: the past, the present, our childhood, and the inevitability of our future mortality.
  4. karinabrown

    karinabrown Well known member

    Nicely put Jan ! I like the fact that you remind also me of the fact there where also nurturing moments (in my case luckily too)

    I can work with the ‘feeling your feelings at the present moment in stead of seeking distraction.
    But what about things that are for life ?
    There are pains that stay with us for life , i know they changes, we grieve , but some things will stay wounds and bring up sadness and etc from time to time : how to ‘go about them’ in terms of tms ?
  5. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    I saw an interview recently that someone did with a well-known director of horror movies. He was asked how he keeps the audience in fear throughout most of the movie. His reply was "I keep the monster hidden as long as possible. Once the monster is seen, it's not scary anymore."

    I thought, yes, this explains why writing or talking about our fears, and the emotions we've repressed because of our fear, reduces the fear and our TMS symptoms. The monster is no longer hidden.

    Looking at and naming our monsters is a very useful tool in TMS recovery.
    andy64tms, Tala and JanAtheCPA like this.
  6. karinabrown

    karinabrown Well known member

    Hi ellen,

    Talking about your fears can make it easier i agree. But : on the other hand if you see fear as a tms ‘thing’ talking about fears is also giving them attention : so where does that lead then ?
  7. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    I really believe that these losses and grievances still have to do with our deeply repressed emotions - the ones that our brains think are dangerous or evil.

    My best personal example is death. I experienced two devastating losses in the summer of 2012. Thanks to the emotional work I had been doing for almost a year, I was able to recognize that the emotion I needed to feel was abandonment. I felt abandoned by the individuals who died! This was a HUGE revelation, and a complete relief - because it felt honest, and real, and like something I could actually grasp and understand. It was very freeing to acknowledge.

    I don't believe that we allow ourselves to feel abandoned, because that feels so selfish, doesn't it? It might even feel childish - we're adults, we should be able to cope, right? We're not the ones who died, after all. And there are other people left behind - in the case of both people that I lost, there were spouses who were left behind. And I'm talking about people in their early fifties, mind you - people who had every right to believe that they had a lot more years to be with their life partners.

    Well, I felt the same way - I was older than both of them, and we were supposed to get old together, damn it. Talk about a source of rage! But that's selfish and childish - and the brain shuts those thoughts down.

    Naturally, I still grieve when I have cause to miss these two cherished people that I lost so early - but it's easier when I understand what I'm really experiencing.
    Lainey and Nzombro like this.
  8. Lainey

    Lainey Well known member

    Jan and others,
    Yes, for me too, the losses we endure throughout our lives tend to multiply so quickly. The older we become, naturally, the more we endure. Rage is what Sarno and others spoke of when they had their patients look to their pasts for the issues that their clever brains were creating in order to keep the status quo. Discovering or uncovering our anger about something can lead to the realization that we are enraged about or at someone in our past. It was relatively easy for me to uncover some of the sources of my past anger, e.g. a jealous/angry older brother who would lash out physically at me, without my mom intervening to stop this abuse. It was only after really, essentially reliving in my mind, some of the past events, that I understood that my anger at my brother was really overshadowed by the neglect of my dear and loving mom. She could have intervened. She was close by and heard the ruckus's. This created my rage. This revelation (of her neglect and my rage) essentially released my sciatic pain, overnight. Processing all of this allowed me to not hold this against my mother, but understand her, forgive her and move on. She came from her own burden of her past and was extremely conflict avoidant. Uncovering the sources of our rage can be tricky. It may be worth exploring however.
    Just another story, but an example of how our surface angers can overlay a more taboo or at least misdiagnosed rage.
  9. karinabrown

    karinabrown Well known member

    Thank you both !
    Forgiveness is a ‘thing ‘ for me at this moment. And that fact alone makes me a bit angry at myself.
    Who am i to stay angry at someone ?
    This is my real problem with facing my emotions, anger and sadness : not so hard to feel them : its my fear i cannot proces then into forgiving etc , and if i cannot do that : will stay angry , fearfull of the same stuff over and over ?
    Lately wondering about this and thinking about seeing a therapist
  10. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle


    People, this is the key. We talk often about the anger we feel towards certain people for their actions - but what is the TRUE underlying rage of the young child that is still within us all?

    Even when it's not obviously about our parents, it actually almost always IS about our parents.

    I had a really nice, loving, and secure upbringing, but I discovered (doing this work) that I was a rather lonely and insecure child. My brain retreated into anxiety (which I think is the result of being the first child of a 30-yr-old mother who'd previously had a miscarriage) which I can see now was obviously a TMS distraction from what was really going on. Which is that my parents went on to have three more kids, and as a rather quiet and anxious (and therefore well-behaved!) child, I simply got less attention from that point on. I could either express my rage at being neglected (which in reality was far from true) or I could have anxiety. This realization, which I came to via the SEP and this forum, was a big source of relief and recovery.

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  11. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    We've had so many wonderful discussions about forgiveness on the forum - here are some of the things I've come away with:

    Forgiveness has two components: the person, and the behavior.

    You need to make sure that your rage is directed at the appropriate person (see Lainey's experience above!)

    You are not required to forgive the behavior - because many times, the behavior is absolutely unforgivable, and you should never have been subjected to it (especially when it comes to abuse and neglect).

    However, it is possible to forgive the person, by understanding why they engaged in the behavior.

    But, this does not mean that you have to love the person, or like the person, or even have him or her in your life again.

    And, if you are hanging on to the anger or pain, you need to discover why that's so important to you.
    andy64tms likes this.
  12. Lainey

    Lainey Well known member

    Forgiveness is a difficult concept for many to accept, let alone to actually forgive, whether it is yourself, or another that is to be forgiven. I had anger at my brother for many, many years. I knew I needed to let it go because it was not doing me, or anyone near me, any good.

    Forgiveness for me is the key to my survival. If I reached out to him, he pulled away. After nearly 20 years I stopped making attempts to somehow smooth our fractured relationship. I also realized that even if we were to have a relationship it could/would never be what I wanted. He was incapable of seeing himself as being hurtful to others, and yet he was the one who felt hurt. I knew this hurt, I had witnessed some of his interactions with my parents/father while growing up and knew that he was not nurtured in the way he should have been. I knew this as a child yet could not articulate it.

    I finally was able to let it go, let go of my past hurts from the big brother I had idolized as a child. I forgave him, in my own mind. I also forgave myself for holding onto these hurts for so long. There will never be a relationship between us because he died a couple of years ago. Even if he lived on I doubt there could have ever been a relationship between us. I went to seem him, do not know if he knew I was there because he was comatose, but it was good for me to say goodbye.

    So, I understand staying angry at someone. It is okay. You have your reasons, yet to be able to begin to move past this anger is key to your own, very important life. Let them go. Let the pieces of anger fall away. It is sad, it does make us angry. This can be let go too. You can let it go, let them go. Just move on, forgive them for they did not know. They acted out of ignorance, you can act out of grace. You no longer need them because you have changed, for the better. If change comes this could still be okay, but do not wait on it for your forgiveness of yourself.
    karinabrown, andy64tms and JanAtheCPA like this.
  13. karinabrown

    karinabrown Well known member

    Yes i can all understand this ,
    When you said ‘ do not wait on it for forgiveness of yourself .,
    Maybe that’s it : i somehow feel that forgivenes should come natural , when its time ? That it not a task to do for me but just would come when the time was right ..
    maybe i am in waiting mode when i should start working on this
    This is true the hardest part for me still is not to Discover my feelings but knowing what i can do about them : Yes feeling them, but the proces part is more one of staying stuck in them

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