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Daniel L. Struggling with new symptom

Discussion in 'Ask a TMS Therapist' started by Guest, Dec 28, 2014.

  1. Guest

    Guest Guest

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

    Approximately two - three years ago I had horrific bout of sciatica which had me popping opioids like I wanted to trash my liver. Two doctors advocated surgery and another suggested Lyrica as a more conservative option - at that point reading a book seemed like the way to go - and it was. I was back at work within a week and the pain was completely gone within two. Which is why my new symptoms are so upsetting. Pain under my right shoulder which runs down my arm, hits the elbow and ends with some numbness in my thumb and ring finger and significant numbness in the index. My assumption? Carpal tunnel syndrome, basically a TMS relapse. My problem is it's been a week and the pain in the mornings is debilitating. How do I get rid of this? I know the theroy - I preach the theory! Yes, there are plenty of stressful things in my life, but when aren't there?
  2. Daniel G Lyman LCSW

    Daniel G Lyman LCSW TMS Therapist

    Sounds like you are where a lot of us have found ourselves in the past. We know how TMS works, yet sometimes it tricks us into a new pain and somehow finds a way to stick around. First of all, I’d encourage you to go see a doctor to first get anything else ruled out. Chances are that you’re 100% right: this is TMS. So why not go to a doctor and just get it double checked – the process of going to see the doctor will act as a psychological intervention for you, because the relative uncertainty that the doctor will have regarding what’s going on with you will only convince you further than this is TMS! If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with a TMS doctor (check the wiki for listings), then go see a TMS doc! Even better!

    Let’s get to the good stuff:

    So, after you’ve gone to the doctor to verify that it’s TMS, what next?

    Here’s the best and trickiest thing to do: Nothing. Absolutely Nothing.

    Because you’re writing here on the wiki, it says to me that you’re slightly freaked out and/or irritated by the pain. Which further demonstrates that your TMS pain is doing exactly what it’s trying to do – distract you! Get a rise out of you! Preoccupy you with its misery!

    When these unpleasant symptoms come up, the absolute WORST thing you can do is to worry about them. The BEST thing you can do, however, is to notice that you’re having a sensation of pain, place NO JUDGMENT on it (total equanimity), and move on with your life. Difficult, I know, but placing any sort of judgment on your symptoms creates an attachment. And attachment means that things stick around – it’s literally the meaning of the word.

    I just went to dictionary.com and looked up attachment (an intellectual amusement for my own sake - bear with me) to get their exact wording and it said: “a feeling that binds one to a person, thing, cause, ideal, or the like.” Once you have any sort of response (fear, dread, anger) to a sensation (pain, in this case), you end up becoming attached! And that means that you are BOUND to that experience of pain. Reacting to an experience of pain with negative thoughts and emotions means that you are only solidifying your relationship with that pain. When you respond with fear, anger, etc. you are basically opening the front door of your house and welcoming the pain in as a houseguest. “Stay as long as you’d like – I promise to keep making sure that you’re comfortable!”

    So, how do you decrease attachment? It’s tough – and it takes lots of practice. Without going into a detailed meditation exercise, let’s just make this as simple as possible:

    Next time you have an itch that you are consciously aware of – don’t scratch it. That’s right – don’t scratch it at all. Notice it, and the move on with whatever you’re doing. Don’t judge it – don’t think about it again, just observe it and move on. It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s possible. Do that every single time an itch shows up. Itches go away on their own (try it – they always do), but we’re unconsciously used to responding to an itch with a negative reaction:

    “Let me scratch this immediately so the unpleasant feeling goes away as soon as possible.”

    Okay, I know nobody consciously thinks like that, but that is exactly what is happening in your unconscious every time you scratch an itch.

    Instead, we want to rewire your unconscious brain so that it says:

    “I notice that I have an itch, but I am 100% positive that it will go away, so I won’t spend my time, energy, and feelings on responding to that itch.”

    To be clear, this is not an exercise in learning to fight through our pain – it’s an exercise in recognizing that no sensation, no feeling, no experience lasts forever. And because everything in life is impermanent, developing an attachment to these sensations is a dangerous game that will only cause your suffering and misery.

    *Phew * That was a long answer. But let me end with some good news: If you practice not scratching that itch (and having NO JUDGMENT on that itch), you’re halfway to becoming a Buddhist monk – which means you’ll be emotionally healthier than everyone you know. Kudos! Your first step begins the next time an itch arises! :)

    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.

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    tarala, Anne Walker and North Star like this.
  3. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Hmm...non-attachment? Itching exercises? Someone sounds like they just came back from a ten-day meditation retreat.
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  4. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Daniel, your post *almost* makes me eager for an itch to arise so I can put into practice what you posted. ;) I also loved the reminder on the state of impermanence. The whole post was a gold nugget….thank you!

    Guest, I hope you were encouraged by his reply as much as I was. :)
    tarala likes this.
  5. Anne Walker

    Anne Walker Beloved Grand Eagle

    Working a lot with dementia clients and having raised several children, learning the art of redirecting has been essential in maintaining peace and calm. Telling someone with dementia not to feel anxious or think about going home just does not work. But if you can offer an alternative, something else to think about, or explore, that generally does work. I spent months working with my somatic experiencing therapist learning how to mentally focus on parts of my body that are not in pain. The practice was very tedious and in the beginning I actually thought there was not any place in my body that was pain free, but eventually I was able to bring my focus there. At first for only a few moments, but the more I practiced, the longer I could stay in the places in my body that felt good. They were there all along. Eventually my obsessive focus on the pain faded, and the pain along with it. Trying not to think about the pain was impossible for me. Becoming sensitive to where our mental focus is and developing the ability to redirect it, is very helpful in many situations. Meditation really helps to support this.
  6. Alan Gordon LCSW

    Alan Gordon LCSW TMS Therapist

    Anne, that's a great post and a very important point.
    North Star and Anne Walker like this.
  7. tarala

    tarala Well known member

    Thanks Anne, this seems useful in a wider sense too. With a choice of two or more thoughts about any situation, pick the one that feels best!
    North Star likes this.

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