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Official Thread Section 3.3 Identify Source of Abuse

Discussion in 'Alan Gordon TMS Recovery Program' started by Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021), Jun 16, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is the official thread for Section 3.3 of the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon of the Pain Psychology Center (PPC). This section is entitled "Identify Source of Abuse." Neither Alan nor the PPC necessarily endorses this thread or any of the viewpoints presented in it.

    Please keep these official threads on topic and put your best thoughts down, as these threads will be read by many people. All posts in this thread should all relate to section 3.3 of the TMS Recovery Program:

    In section 3.3, Alan writes the following:
    Identify Source of Abuse

    Where do these abusive habits come from? Often the way we treat ourselves is based on messages we get when we’re younger.

    Maybe your mom made you feel bad about yourself.
    Maybe your dad got excited when you got good grades and was bummed out when you didn’t.
    Maybe your grandmother ignored you as a form of punishment.
    Maybe your dad had epilepsy and unintentionally terrified you each time he had a seizure.
    Maybe you had an older brother who got all the attention.
    Maybe your mom was depressed and you were preoccupied with making her feel better.
    Maybe your dad was irrationally anxious and you never felt completely safe.
    Maybe you were one of eleven kids and you made yourself invisible because you saw how overwhelmed your parents were.
    Or maybe your home life was relatively trauma-free, but you were bullied in 7th grade, went to an ultracompetitive high school, or your college girlfriend cheated on you.​

    There’re many different reasons why you could have come to develop this inner bully. Sometimes it can help to understand why. Sometimes it doesn’t matter.

    A word about the inner bully. It’s you, but it isn’t you. A lot of clients that I work with have a difficult time getting angry at the part of their mind that abuses them, because they feel they are getting angry at themselves. Brain imaging research and studies on split brain patients have shown that many of our thoughts and feelings come from a place of our mind that is out of our conscious control. Like dreams. Consequently I’ve found it best to think of the inner bully, this destructive side of our minds, as coming from someone else, not the “I” that you identify with.

    There’s often an irony in learning about the way you abuse yourself.

    When I point out to clients that they seem to beat themselves up a lot, they often respond, “You’re right. What the hell’s wrong with me?”

    When I point out their tendency to pressure themselves and the impact it has, it’s, “I need to change this immediately!”

    And with those that terrify themselves, “I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to stop this!”

    It goes to show that the mind is so clever, even awareness of these tendencies aren’t enough to change them.

    Later on in the program, I’ll address how to alter these abusive behaviors, but for the time being I’d like to focus on learning to recognize them.​

    My father used to “put me down” in front of his friends when they came to our house when I was a preteen and teenager. I never knew why. I thought he loved me, so why did he make me feel like such a loser? I think it made me grow up trying to be perfect and very successful. But when I was about to start college, my father told me, “Just do your best.” That sounded like he didn’t think I’d make it past the first day, and might have put even more pressure on me than what I put there myself. Now, I feel I have had a successful life as a writer and author of books, but I still struggle with the perfectionist in me.

    In learning about TMS and journaling, I began to think again about my father putting me down and came to believe he had TMS pain himself from working hard but getting nowhere during the 1930s Great Depression. He may have just been taking his perceived failure out on whoever was handy, and I was. By putting myself in his and others’ shoes I was able to change my thinking about them and the pain they caused me.

    Don’t bully yourself. Learn to understand yourself.

    This post by forum member littleme is right-on involving the subject of our inner bully from childhood:

    “I have finished Alan's Recovery Program and will probably listen over and over again, because everything about it, even the sound of his voice, is *so* soothing.

    “The reparenting bits are very helpful and I understand the subconscious anger, because I have actually had dreams where I have my mother by the throat and am screaming obscenities at her. But directing that anger at my Inner Bully just doesn't feel right. The Inner Bully doesn't feel like something separate from me. It feels like that little kid who can't "get" something and says out loud, "I'm so stupid!" Would I feel angry toward that child if she were my own? Would I even chastise her for not being able to "get" it or for feeling frustrated? How can it be healthy, or even helpful, to direct the anger I feel toward my parents for not loving the real me toward the part of me that just parrots what I heard as a child? I have been telling her that hard things feel hard and that's OK, but she doesn't need to feel anxious and afraid, because she's still going to be just fine, however it turns out.”

    We probably all wish our childhood had been happier or easier. We wish our parents or other guardian had loved us more. Even just gave us a hug once in a while, instead of giving us another chore or reason to want to escape from them and home. But where could we go? We were trapped because of our young age. So we endured as best we could, and most likely repressed our feelings of being a victim, and even blamed ourselves.

    But now that we know about TMS and can identify the repressed emotions causing us physical pain, anxiety, and depression, we can look at our childhood through new eyes and heart. Relief from our repressed childhood anger is then open to us. It is in forgiving, our parents or others in our childhood, and ourselves.
    Msunn and Marian like this.
  2. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    I have done almost two decades of exploring the inner conflicts, criticisms and where they have come from. In applying my self-understanding to TMS, the most important thing for me is that becoming aware of the sources, and specific inner painful activities gives my rational mind (education again Forest!) reasons and insight---content---to support Dr. Sarno's approach. It is part of the education cure.

    As I experience moment-to-moment how I learned to treat myself in harsh ways, and to pressure myself, and to compare and try to “measure-up” ----this is a constant education about why TMS can arise.

    Part of the forgiveness piece for me Walt, is seeing with compassion how much of my inner parenting was an attempt by a child to get his needs met, regardless of the outer conditions. My parents were pretty good people. Part of why I treat myself harshly is a result of the strategies of a child applying the logic of a four year old to keep himself in the field of perceived love. Blunt force!
  3. Colly

    Colly Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'm the product of my Mam and Dad - both classic TMSers, and until my discovery of Dr Sarno in late 2013 I was governed by these TMS traits of worrying, people-pleasing and being self-critical. Thankfully I am working successfully at catching myself in the act now and modifying my behaviour, but for about 25 years I was oblivious to the fact that these destructive traits would cause me physical pain. My longing to have a more meaningful relationship with my Dad also influenced my behaviour, but now on my TMS healing journey I have released this, and have accepted my Dad, warts and all.

    I'm working on a very stressful project at the moment, but now with TMS knowledge, I can check in on my moment-to-moment thoughts to stop going down that well beaten track of worrying and self-imposed pressure. Long may this composure continue!
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2014
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  4. Marian

    Marian Peer Supporter

    All my life--seriously since I was a small child--I've been terrified by my own negative suggestibility. It was as if part of my own mind were my enemy and it seemed very powerful. Yesterday I finally connected the dots and realized that this voice was my mother's voice (and probably her mother's and her mother's mother...). Her incessant and often irrational fears, anxieties, and worries, which she verbalized directly at me. I loved her deeply, and so I internalized that voice and obeyed it, made it an unconscious mechanism.

    All my life this part of my mind has felt like "me" and I haven't been able to detach from it. Now, finally, there's a little daylight between me and it. I'm working to catch these thoughts when they arise, take a deep breath, and let them know that I am in charge now, and I only entertain positive, beneficial thoughts.

    It's taking some daily effort. When the fear arises I feel an immediate feeling of powerlessness, but I reassure myself that I am anything but, and that fear's days are numbered. My core is strong enough now to begin the flourish and the rest will die off.

    I have also gotten in touch with how much rage and frustration I feel towards this internal bully. It's amazing how much rage these inner voices can evoke. I've had enough... ready to be done.
  5. Marian

    Marian Peer Supporter

    I like that... the attempt of a four year old to keep himself in the field of perceived love. Kind of a 'when in Rome' approach, which is what young children do. Thanks for that thought... helpful.
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  6. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Marian, it sounds like you're dealing real well with your feelings of negative thinking and powerlessness.

    Keep in mind, your doubts are just in you, not in anyone else. Maybe make a list of things you've done that make you feel great about yourself. You're a lot better person and stronger person than your negativity has thought. Maybe go back to your childhood and tell your young self that you had nothing to fear and that you were loved because you certainly were.

    Your mother inherited her fears and anxieties from her mother and then your mother passed them on to you.
    You can break the cycle by telling yourself this and forgiving your mother and her mother.
    nowtimecoach, Colly and Marian like this.
  7. Marian

    Marian Peer Supporter

    Oh I do forgive my mother. I'm enraged at her programming at the same time as I forgive her and adore her. The rage will subside I'm sure. I totally understand how she became who she was.

    Good suggestions about making a list of things to make me feel good about myself. I have not done that.

    Thanks Walt, yes, the buck stops with me. It ends here. :)
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  8. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's wonderful that you have forgiven your mother. I guess now totally forgive yourself and love yourself.

    Lucille Ball said everyone needs to love themselves, then anything is possible.
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  9. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    I feel as if I walk a fine line on this step of the program. I have a sibling who has long blamed our parents for just about everything. My perspective is that they did the very best that they were able to, and that they did a pretty bang-up job raising 4 kids.
    I think my recovery depends upon acknowledging some unhealthy attitudes of mine, but realizing that I have the power to change those. At this point, the ball is entirely in my court, and I like the freedom that this gives me!
    nowtimecoach, yb44, Ellen and 2 others like this.
  10. David B

    David B Well known member

    This part of the program helped solidify many approaches I had tried in the past to relieve myself of unhappiness and create better self understanding. Looking back at your childhood can explain a lot and I think its worth doing, it was for me.

    But in my experience ultimately moving on comes from finding and believing in that voice inside that says "Hey, I have value. I'm trying hard. I'm proud of myself for xyz. Its ok that I'm not perfect, no one is even though other voices tell me other people are happier, smarter, etc. I like me".

    If you have trouble hearing that positive voice in your head, listen to or think of positive things others have said about you. They are usually more honest about us than we are with ourselves. Start there. That positive voice is the Big You, the one that you have to follow and cultivate. It's also the one that accepts and calms the other not so positive voices when the act up.

    Years ago I went to a Hoffman Process retreat. If you go on line and look it up you can get the gist of the framework Bob Hoffman created to help us understand the structure of our mind. Like Freud, Dr. Sarno and many others he was trying to help us understand the different parts of ourselves. It might help
    nowtimecoach, Gigi and Msunn like this.
  11. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    I did quite a bit of "family of origin" work with a therapist quite a while back. I really understood at that time what happened in my family when I was a child, and was able to let go of a lot of that, with her help. So when I started journaling as suggested here I felt I was rehashing a lot of that material.

    I've found recently there's a deeper level I hadn't gotten to. I think I was neglected, abused at a very early age, probably pre-verbal, and I think the root of my problems with anxiety and other issues go back to that early in life. I've been doing meditations recently to try to connect and nurture that part of myself and I've been surprised to find a deep level of grief, fear still within me. So I've just try to be open and feel the emotions while soothing and nurturing myself. It's been a crazy process but I do find that when I let myself feel my feelings without censoring or judging them it also leads to less symptoms of TMS. Emmett Miller has a great guided inner child meditation that has helped me a lot.

    I also, in recent times had issues with my inner bully, especially judging myself harshly in relation to my career, creativity, aging, small items like that:)

    I've stopped allowing much of that and at this point I'm much more accepting of myself exactly as I am, imperfections and all. I can see the inner bully is just a replay of what went on in my family. I never got approval for what I did right just criticism, and no matter what I did it wasn't good enough. Recently through things I've learned here on the forum I have much more self compassion for myself. It's an ongoing process but it feels good to extend kindness to myself.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
  12. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    Recognising and preventing the onslaught of abuse from my inner bully certainly wasn't something I could stop immediately as in the quote above. I suspect I will be keeping a watch on this now shrunken bully for the remainder of my life to ensure I don't feed it too much so it grows strong again. I recently took a trip home and learned some very interesting facts and heard opinions of other family members which helped me gain an entirely new perspective on my childhood. I am currently re-processing and re-framing all the shameful, hurtful incidents from the past in light of this new information. I had no problem originally acknowledging my main source of abuse, myself, and how I came to be such a big self-abuser. Over the years people have made off-handed negative comments which gave my inner bully additional ammunition to the already well-stocked arsenal. For instance I had an English professor at college who called me to his office one day to tell me in so many words that an essay I had written was total crap. My writing style was appalling sounding as if I was just trying to impress him but he wasn't buying any of it. Had I done this on purpose I would have accepted it on the chin but this came as a complete surprise to me. Is this true? Is this how I actually write? It was harsh and unconstructive criticism that I carried with me through life. This was just one person's opinion yet I took it on board as if it were the word of God. Had I been raised by more nurturing and encouraging parents, I presume I may have shrugged this professor's opinion off and not even remembered it today. But they taught me well on how to build-my-own-bully. However I don't want to continue to be like Gigi's sister anymore, blaming my parents for everything. I spent the first half of my life doing just that and look where it's got me! Time to make some changes.​
    nowtimecoach, Msunn and Ellen like this.
  13. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    A little kindness and encouragement can go a long way.

    When I was in journalism school at Michigan State University I got a note in my dorm mail box from
    one of my professors. He asked me to come to his office for a visit. I was scared, when when I got there
    he said that each year he singled one one student he thought was doing the best work and had the
    brightest future in journalism, and that he had chosen me for that year.

    I nearly levitated! I kept doing my hardnest to live up to his expectations and believe I did,
    both in class and on the student daily newspaper where I was one of the editors.

    I've never forgotten Bud Meyers for his kindness and believing in me.
    nowtimecoach likes this.
  14. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    I get a lot of negative talk from my inner bully, especially lately. "You're worthless," "You'll never achieve anything," "You're incompetent at your job," and the list goes on. I'm not sure where my inner bully came from, but I seem to have linked my self worth to my achievements in life, and like most of us TMSers, I have high expectations of myself. Growing up, my teachers and my mother seemed to have very high expectations of me. Usually I was told I was going to be a good writer, because of the stories I would come up with in class. My father on the other hand was very negative about me and not too supportive of my more creative side. Both the high expectations and negative attitude from my father could be a bad mix that formed the basis for the inner bully. TMS pain aside, this is something I really need to overcome. Seems like whenever things are going well and my self esteem is starting to grow, something happens to cause it to come crashing down again.
  15. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    Hi Cirrusnarea, thanks for your very honest post. I think many of us who grew up with abusive childhoods deal with those same voices. What's helped me the most is to see the difference between self esteem and self compassion. Self esteem is many times tied to achieving something or measuring myself against others. Self compassion on the other hand is just being kind to myself. It's extending compassion and kindness to myself as I would to a friend, a child, going through a difficult time.

    I think another aspect for me is accepting my life as it is, including the challenges with TMS and other issues. It helps me to believe that the universe, my higher power, (however you might term that), didn't make a mistake. The challenges I have in my life are exactly the lessons I need to learn, and it will take as long as it takes to to get it figured out. There are a lot of paradoxes in life. The more I push TMS away, and fight, the more pain I've had. When I calm down and accept it, the pain is much less. I'm not sure that's a Sarno approved technique:) but it really works for me.

    I've learned about some great books here that have helped me with self compassion, Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach / Self Compassion by Kristen Neff / The Mindful Path to Self Compassion by Christopher Germer / The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

    You might find one of those helpful.

    All the best
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2014
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  16. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    Thanks, Msunn, I've read your posts and as a fellow musician, I can identify with your struggles in that area as well. I'm going to read one of those books, thanks for the suggestions. It could be that over the years as I've been building up these negative emotions, I've been repressing them and it has led to the pain condition. Now that I'm working on it and the pain is diminished I'm feeling the emotions more vividly.

    "The more I push TMS away, and fight, the more pain I've had. When I calm down and accept it, the pain is much less. I'm not sure that's a Sarno approved technique:) but it really works for me."

    I'm certain this is a Sarno approved technique. On the daily reminders lists, he has "I will not worry or become concerned about the pain." I think it's crucial to overcoming the pain. I still haven't learned it 100% myself. But on days when I don't care about the pain, it will usually go away quickly. But if I decide to fight it and get aggravated by it, it gets worse and lasts longer. Lately it's mostly just fatigue after work.
    Msunn likes this.
  17. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    The first five years or so of my life I lived with my parents and three brothers on a three acre orange grove in California in a lovely home that my father's mother had built in the 1930's. It was the 1960's and my parents were experimenting with all kinds of things. My mother was trying to finish school while raising four children and my father was a criminal defense attorney. His mother had passed before I was born and left him quite a lot of property. His father had died when he was eleven years old and he was an only child, a mama's boy. My father was brilliant, unconventional and a rebel. He preferred to live outside of the box. He was restless, a drinker, and yet enjoyed life like no one I have ever met. He was filled with a myriad of contradictions. We were very close. My mother had lived a sheltered life and was the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister. Her family had always been very poor. She met my father as a freshman at Berkeley while he was in law school. My father always told the story of seeing my mother playing ping pong in a dorm hall and his very first thought was "there is the mother of my children." They were married right away and when my mother was only nineteen years old she lost her first child in the ninth month during delivery. She had called him Thumper during the pregnancy and she often spoke of him when I was little. There was a sadness in my mother, there still is. When I was five or six my parents told us we were moving to Alaska. It didn't make sense to me but as we were driving off and the vision of my beautiful home in the orange grove was fading in the rear view mirror, my parents began to laugh and informed us we weren't moving to Alaska, we were moving to Canada! For some reason, they didn't want anyone to know where we were headed. For the next nine of ten years of my life we lived a somewhat Bonnie and Clyde existence. I am not saying we were criminals, my father defended criminals for a living. But we were always on the run. I wish I had a good explanation for it. The answer lies somewhere with my father and the kind of adventure and chaos he liked to create in his life. He was never a victim. He was a powerful man and he actually thought he could control the weather with his mind. He did not like to use that kind of power unless absolutely necessary. He was the Admiral on a battleship, and life was about navigating all the potential disasters. Only for him, he found it exciting, energizing. There was not anything predictable I could count on in my childhood. One day we were rich, the next poor, and it would alway change. I guess that is what was predictable, change. One day we might be living on welfare hitchhiking around and the next living in a beautiful horse ranch and our Arabian horses would come to live with us again. I went to perhaps one hundred different schools and making new friends was second nature to me. I started college very young and was supporting myself by the time I was fifteen years old. I preferred to create my own stability and I clearly remember thinking at that age that I create my own future. No matter how chaotic my childhood was, it is the future that counts, and I can create my own destiny. Well, I think you can all clearly see where that line of thinking has gotten me. I don't like surprises, and yet life is full of surprises. My father passed away suddenly four days before my first son was born. That was a big surprise. My internal bully developed when I was very young. I am glad Alan Gordon points out that it is not part of who we are. It feels very much like a big part of who I am. It is such a challenge for me to feel safe and secure, but life is not safe and secure all the time for any of us. But we do need to allow ourselves to feel safe in the moments when we are. I have been living on high alert most of my life. It doesn't help me and I am not better prepared when the bad things do come. I am just exhausted and in pain. It is good to realize that I am not really to blame for that and that for most of our lives we are safe and can feel good and enjoy it.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2014
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  18. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Anne, thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to quite a bit of it, mostly the moving around so much when you were younger.
    We did too, although always within Chicago neighborhoods, north and south. I had repressed emotions about the moving and leaving friends and anger because of that. Living in the moment was not for me, back then. I lived in movies, going to see movies as often as I could to escape reality.

    Feeling safe and secure is what we all wish for. I've been working for that all my life. It is very hard to achieve, and I believe it can be only in one or two ways or both. I think some people are lucky and they have a strong religious faith so they put their trust in God to make them feel safe and secure.
    I haven't been able to achieve that, so I've focused on making my work bring me safety and security. Family -- sister and brother and parents didn't bring me safety or security. A few close friends did, but they all moved away and I was on my own again. I found love in dogs, giving and receiving, but great as that is, it isn't the same as getting safety and security from the Lord or people.

    No, we are not to blame for any of the feelings of lack of safety or security we grew up with. Our parents did their best and we can forgive them, but it's harder to forget the anger we stored inside us.

    We just keep trying and believing our pains are caused by TMS repressed emotions and/or our perfectionist personality and our "goodism" to be liked and approved of by everyone. Take some comfort in knowing, Anne, that we TMSers are all part of a family that approves of, loves, and helps each other.
    I feel great safety and security in knowing that. Lucky us, because a lot of other people haven't achieved that yet. I hope they do.
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  19. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    That was very interesting, Anne. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Walt, I too use movies to escape everyday life. One of my issues is that I'm always hiding from life in movies, games, or other things so I don't concentrate on bettering myself or my life.

    I think I'm in the opposite of you two though, in that if anything I was too secure in my childhood and have not been prepared for the changes and challenges of life as an adult and ultimately the insecurity.

    Yes, Walt, we are a family and quite an amazing one. This is certainly the only online forum I've been on where everyone gets along and tries to help one another. There's never arguments, at least that I have seen anyway.
    Anne Walker and Ellen like this.
  20. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Cirrusnarea, I rarely escape to today's movies. They are often more grim than my present or past life.
    Today I called my satellite tv provider and put my service on hold indefinitely. Most movies and tv shows
    just make me feel dumb or angry because of the stupid stories and violence. I have a good collection
    of my favorite old movies on dvd and will watch them, as well as nature, animal, history, and otheer
    documentaries I have recorded.

    Maybe try to fit in at least an hour or two a day getting in touch with your present self, then
    escape into movies or games.

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