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Official Thread Section 3.5.1 Address Repression - Sadness

Discussion in 'Alan Gordon TMS Recovery Program' started by Walt Oleksy, Jun 30, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is the official thread for Section 3.5.1 of the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon of the Pain Psychology Center (PPC). This section is entitled "Sadness." 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 3.5.1 of the TMS Recovery Program:

    Section 3.5.1 is a part of the larger section 3.5 Address Repression. In his introduction to section 3.5, Alan writes the following:
    Address Repression

    Part of treating yourself nicely is learning not to neglect yourself. I'm not talking about ratty t-shirts or chipped nail polish, I'm talking about emotional neglect.

    Often, people have feelings come up that are difficult to tolerate, and unconsciously send them away. This is known as repression. To avoid these uncomfortable feelings, our minds employ defense mechanisms like pain or anxiety.​

    In section 3.5.1, Alan writes the following:

    The following is a 7 minute segment of a session with Ginger. Ginger didn't get her emotions validated when she was young, and subsequently developed a number of defense mechanisms to keep feelings of sadness from reaching the surface.

    Listen to Alan's session with Ginger

    Click here to download the mp3 audio

    Sadness is one of the most common emotions that people repress. Ginger’s unconscious mind is working hard to keep her from her sadness. I ask her what she is feeling and she tells me what she is thinking. I ask her about her sadness and she starts telling me why she is sad. These are defense mechanisms in action. And we can see why her defenses are so entrenched. She (her emotional brain, not her logical brain) has the belief that once the floodgates opened, she will never be able to shut them.

    Assuming it’s an emotion you tend to repress, increasing your capacity to tolerate sadness is important, but there’s more to it than that.

    Linking the sadness to the way that you’re being treated (by your own destructive side) can really give it meaning. It’s a healthy form of grieving for the suffering you’ve undergone. Additionally it’s a wonderful way to further generate self-compassion.

    The following session with Kelly exemplifies this concept.

    Listen to Alan's session with Kelly

    Click here to download the mp3 audio

    Sadness can come to us in many ways, from grieving over the death of a loved one or the end of a significant relationship or general emotional suffering. There are many reasons we repress sadness as well. Perhaps we have been conditioned to not show emotions, or not show weakness. Or perhaps we somehow feel that feeling sadness is dangerous to our well-being. Or, maybe we think feeling sadness simply isn't an option because we have others to take care of, such as an elderly parent or a sick spouse or young children.

    In the audio above Ginger and Kelly both talked about how they feared feeling the emotion of sadness. Ginger said she was scared that if she let herself feel sad she would "go crazy." Kelly told Alan that she felt she had to repress her feelings of sadness to protect her young children. In the end, though, they both took steps to work through their fears and were able to see that there wasn't so much danger in fully experiencing sadness. Rather, it felt like a relief.

    If feelings of sadness remain repressed, they will continue to give us pain. We have to take the next step to overcome our fears and finally feel sadness. Otherwise we'll continue to give our unconscious mind ammunition to shoot us with pain.
    Laleah Shoo Shoo likes this.
  2. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Acknowledging and expressing sadness is something that is still very difficult for me, and I know this is hindering my full recovery from TMS. I have a good understanding, I believe, of the origins of my need to repress sadness. I grew up in a family in which expression of any emotion, but especially negative emotions, was not tolerated. I can still hear my father saying, "If you don't stop crying, I'll give you something to cry about." Also, I was the youngest of three children, and therefore, the primary target of teasing and ridicule by my older brother and sister, which is a common phenomenon among siblings. I have a distinct memory of my father taking me aside when I was about 4 years old when I was crying due to teasing from my brother and sister. He told me that making me upset was the goal of my siblings, and that the best way to get the teasing to stop was to not show that it hurt. I learned this defense mechanism of not showing emotions very well, and was less victimized by my siblings after that, which reinforced this behavior and ensured that it became a lifelong pattern. I also developed TMS around this time in the form of migraine headaches.

    I can relate very well to Ginger's statement in the recording that she is afraid that if she lets herself feel sad she will "go crazy." My father had bipolar disorder, and I grew up watching him descend into the pits of depression at times, and I developed the fear that if I let myself feel sad, I too would become totally dysfunctional. This is all very powerful programming to try to overcome.

    I also feel that there is a strong cultural bias in this country against expressing sadness or anything that can be construed as negative. It goes beyond just the cultural pressure that males get in our society to "man-up" and not be "cry babies". There is a societal trend to view negative thinking as harmful, and to prescribe positive thinking and reframing as a panacea. While there is certainly much value in adopting a positive outlook, I fear that this trend is becoming too widely used and reflexive, and can result in repression of sadness and other emotions labelled as negative. Dr. James Alexander, in his excellent book The Hidden Psychology of Pain addresses this issue quite well. Here is a quote from his book (pp 144-146):

    "Although it has become something of a cultural anathema, having the courage to explore such negativity as hurt feelings, unhealthy relationships and damaging experiences is one of the keys to improving health. Whether we want o acknowledge the reality of the negative or not, it remains a reality in everyone's lives. .....if we choose to deny and suppress strong negative emotions, there is little chance of them actually going away. They tend to just go underground, deep into our unconscious, where they will manifest in one way or another. These repressed feelings may seep out in inappropriate responses which are out of proportion to a particular situation. .......studies in neuroscience confirm that allowing space for negativity is associated with decreased neural traffic between the pre-frontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, and with less chronic pain. ........Is the suggestion here that we should be deliberately cultivating negativity in order to lessen the risk of chronic pain? No. The suggestion is that we would be well served by consciously acknowledging the negative aspects of our reality (not generating them), rather than attempting to force a cultivated positivity."

    I began to have the experience described in the quote above of having repressed sadness "seep out" a few years ago. I am a child mental health therapist and am often involved with children in a professional context who are in the midst of very difficult childhoods for a variety of reasons. Having had a very difficult childhood myself, it would stand to reason that my work would trigger my repressed childhood emotions. Still, I had no conscious awareness of this occurring, and hadn't yet learned that all my physical symptoms were due to TMS. But this phenomenon began to occur where I would be discussing one of my clients' cases during a case conference with other mental health professionals, and suddenly my voice would quiver and crack with emotion. Yet I had no conscious awareness of being upset about this particular child's situation. This continued to go on from time to time without any pattern or predictability that I could discern. This phenomenon continued until my chronic pain and other symptoms reached a crisis point, and fortunately, I learned about TMS and began on my path of healing and self-discovery. But I still have much work to do in this area.
  3. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    I notice there aren't a rush of posts on this subject! I really like what you had to say Ellen. Thank you for your honesty.

    Quite a while back at this point, I saw a therapist as I was going through a divorce, and over a period of time she encouraged me to feel my feelings, particularly sadness and anger. I wasn't great at processing feelings in our sessions. She suggested renting a sad movie, watching it alone and allowing myself to cry. I did this and it really opened up a flood of emotions that took months to process, but it was very freeing and helpful. We did a lot of "family of origin" work.

    When I found the SEP here I thought as far as childhood emotions go, I had processed most of that through the therapy I just described. I've been realizing recently there is a much deeper level of feelings I hadn't gotten to which I think contributed to problems with anxiety, addictive behaviors, and my TMS. I think in my case much of this is pre-verbal. My mom was a rage-aholic and I also had an older brother who was a merciless bully. My dad was also an alcoholic. I'm not saying any of this generate self pity etc. but it is an accurate description of my childhood.

    As part of my TMS journey I discovered a guided meditation by Emmett Miller for the inner child. As I invited my inner child as a 3 year old to speak, the response I got was that he was very sad and very scared. I invited that part of me to just feel what he feels and it's opened up waves of deep grief that I didn't know were there. I feels crazy at age 61 to just let myself cry without censoring, but that's what I've been doing. There's been a big improvement with TMS symptoms as I've done this. Maybe what's really crazy is to keep all those feelings in, or not even know they are there!

    I did meet with a TMS therapist online, but unfortunately it wasn't a good fit for me. I still think processing this with a therapist would be helpful and am open to doing that.

    I'm still not the best at knowing what I'm feeling but I'm hopeful that I'll get better at that by having compassion for my inner child and just allowing that part of me to express whatever emotions come up.

    As we say in the recovery community, "progress not perfection"
    BridgetE, srton, intense50 and 3 others like this.
  4. hecate105

    hecate105 Well known member

    i like your therapists idea of renting as sad movie. I find I get incredibly sad at films and novels - definitely processing more than just the content of the film/book! I cannot always understand why it makes me so sad. Sometimes its just cos its a film I associate with childhood, sometimes its the emotional content - the lost love, deep sadness etc. I remember my mother banning me from watching any more Lassie movies - as I used up all the tissues in the house. Even now - I cannot watch The Incredible Journey - animals suffering is even worse than people...!
    cirrusnarea and Msunn like this.
  5. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    I also find it very hard to watch movies in which animals are mistreated or suffering.
    If that comes up unexpectedly as I watch, I stop watching the movie.
  6. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    I know I think too much, (my downfall sometimes):) but here are some further thoughts on this.

    In traditional therapy they say the only way out is through, meaning if I have repressed sadness and anger and other feelings as a child, the way out is to feel the feelings and let go of some of that internal pressure. (BTW I'm no expert on this, just my basic understanding of the process.)
    A baby expressing emotions can go through rage, joy, frustration, in minutes. I learned at an early age the emotions I had which my parents didn't want to deal with, weren't allowed.

    With TMS healing it gets a little confusing. It seems the lucky ones are able to be exposed to information, (the pain is due to repressed emotions and certain personality traits etc) and be able to be pain free without processing the actual emotions or even changing personality traits, if I understood Dr. Sarno's video correctly. He also says that inner rage is for the most part not even accessible to our conscious mind.

    I'm guessing Alan's program for the most part is for those of us who didn't get that immediate release. He's suggesting present moment techniques, pain indifference, self compassion, and allowing myself to actually feel the repressed emotions that I am able to get in touch with etc. Those techniques have worked the best for me. If I do much more journaling about my past I think I will be exploring my past lives:) but I also have seen from experience, the value of just letting myself feel my feelings, which isn't the easiest thing for me to do.

    I would have preferred option A but it hasn't worked that way for me. I've seen real improvement with my symptoms, but lately I've also seen the symptom imperative at work moving to other areas of my body, so I'm still working at understanding this whole process. I know being kind and patient with myself has been very helpful.

    I'm really onboard with the suggestions to stay stay positive, with gratitude, acceptance and other techniques, but I think it's also important to recognize and voice discomfort, doubts, fears, sadness etc. I think talking about them takes away their power. Also if I don't allow myself to express those feelings how can I deal with them and change my reactions?

    Steve O. quoted Jung in his book: "Everyone carries a shadow and the less embodied in the individuals conscious mind, the blacker and denser it is."

    I'm hoping my shadow is a lighter color these days:)
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2014
  7. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Msunn, about childhood repressed emotions,
    you'll be interested in my comments about Dr. Gordon's interview with Dustin, a father of two adopted children,
    one of them a girl only 3 months old, a boy under the age of 2.
    It will be posted Monday, about repressed anger.

    Gordon's new method of dealing with repressed anger is new to me, and I think rather controversial.
  8. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    Thanks Walt. I'll look forward to that.
  9. Colly

    Colly Beloved Grand Eagle

    I am blessed to have a Mam that encouraged my siblings and I to express sadness. Perhaps it was all those ‘Lassie’ movies, and ‘Little House on the Prairie’. Having moments of sadness during childhood meant Mam would comfort me, so expressing sadness was never feared. As an adult however, living on the other side of the world I don’t have that luxury now, and it’s not socially acceptable to still want Mam’s hugs when feeling vulnerable and sad at the age of 45. For this reason I’ve had to smother my sadness of being homesick, but since discovering TMS healing, when I now have those moments, I have a good cry, and then phone her and/or book my next flight to Ireland.

    Since TMS healing I have bonded with my Dad for the first time in my life, so that heavy-heart feeling has also been lifted. I did have to sit with the sadness of not having had a close relationship with him, and that was difficult, but through this experience I also realised I was partially responsible for that relationship, and decided the way forward was to forgive him and myself. If I hadn’t discovered TMS healing, I don’t think I would have had the strength to address this repressed sadness.

    Giving sadness permission to be felt takes a lot of courage, but all the TMS literature tells us not to be afraid of allowing these feelings, as it gives us the opportunity to explore why we are sad. Just recognising that can, in itself give relief, as it did with Ginger in the recording above.

    I think there's a fear that by allowing sadness to surface it identifies what’s “wrong” in our lives, and that can be overwhelming, when there are no easy-fixes for big life issues. Another fear could be: "what if I can't climb out of the pit if I let myself feel sad", so "I better not risk it"...

    The cause of sadness never goes away by repression. Allowing it to flow gives us the opportunity to attempt to resolve issues, and regain a sense of control over them. A renewed sense of hope is our reward for allowing sadness to surface and deal with issues head on.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2014
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  10. yb44

    yb44 Beloved Grand Eagle

    I was listening in on the original recording of Ginger’s session with Alan and I too was struck by Ginger’s fear of opening up the floodgates, starting to cry and not being able to stop. I may have started to cry myself when she did. The floodgates have opened several times for me over the years and I survived each crisis. But these episodes were triggered by specific events.

    Sadness has also leaked out spontaneously. I was unaware of my feelings at the time but in hindsight the triggers were definitely there. At the closing of my high school graduation ceremony my entire class leapt into the air with sheer joy. I stood and sobbed my heart out. Another time I was talking about my health issue with a GP. I don’t know what prompted me but I suddenly started talking about my husband’s health issues, how the doctors kept promising to but never treating him. The tears seemed to come out of nowhere.

    Through therapy I know that I am forever searching for a meaningful attachment to people in my life because I was never properly attached to my alleged caregivers. Accepting this lack, loss, emptiness or well of sadness is easy on an intellectual level but is taking me quite some time to get on an emotional one. No surprises that some of my symptoms persist but no one problem incapacitates or keeps me from what I want to do. They just ‘hi, we’re still here with you’. One day soon they will have lived out their useful life.
    Carmela, Msunn and Ellen like this.
  11. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    I may have a lot of repressed sadness as for the past few years I've found that I cry very easily when talking about my problems. I've also found that I may be consciously suppressing negative feelings as I constantly get those memories of past events I beat myself up over. After reading this session I found that instead of suppressing these feelings and memories to allow myself to use mindfulness techniques to just sit down with these memories and allow myself to feel the emotions that go along with it. Living in the past and beating ourselves up over our perceived mistakes is very common in those of us who experience TMS and by lying down and meditating on these feelings I think we can bring out a lot of that pain we've been suppressing/repressing and speed up the healing process.
    intense50 and Msunn like this.
  12. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    A TMS practitioner I read about recently even suggested imaging ourself beating up on whoever caused our anxiety
    when we were young. It relieves the repressed tension.
    Msunn likes this.
  13. Maribel

    Maribel New Member

    "Through therapy I know that I am forever searching for a meaningful attachment to people in my life because I was never properly attached to my alleged caregivers. Accepting this lack, loss, emptiness or well of sadness is easy on an intellectual level but is taking me quite some time to get on an emotional one."
    hecate105 and Bodhigirl like this.
  14. Bodhigirl

    Bodhigirl Well known member

    I am feeling sad instead of pain, so I searched for sadness here on TMS-wiki this afternoon.
    I dreamed I was alone in a swimming pool, holding on to the edge and not wanting to leave the safety of the wall.
    I was wracking my mind for who I could call to make me feel better.
    Nothing outside myself can heal me, I have to take responsibility for feeling my feelings and not necessarily acting on them.
    I wonder if it is easier to recover from TMS alone, unchallenged by the conflicts of living with others?
    As I write, I remember this sadness arises because I have expectations that lead to disappointment, which in turn leads to tension which tells my brain I am in danger.
    I read once that a woman's greatest fear was the loss of empathic attunement.
    Yet, I must listen to me, give care to me, I cannot make that my husband's job.
    I have heard the term "adulting" lately. It's handy.
    Letting this go now. Time to listen to the ocean waving.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
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  15. Bodhigirl

    Bodhigirl Well known member

    Yes, Walt, it helps.
    My motto is: convict them...till you gave forgive them. Without the anger the forgiveness is superficial, hence more TMS.
    hecate105 likes this.

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