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The long journey......"No Guarantees" & New Rage(?)

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by efed19, Feb 23, 2023.

  1. efed19

    efed19 New Member

    At times I wonder if TMS-oriented podcasters/practitioners are scared to say "There are no guarantees.... You may never get better."

    I reflect on this as someone who has gotten somewhat better. Some symptoms have disappeared. Others are the same or slightly worse after 3 1/2 yrs of delving into Curable, JournalSpeak, ISTDP, et al.

    I have met on forums and in a workshop others who discovered Sarno's work and have been exploring, like myself, for at least several years. Meanwhile I've noticed the "success stories" always feature people from a few weeks up to perhaps a year or two into this work.

    I'm beginning to feel like there is a growing number of us who aren't being spoken to. I recently talked with a friend who felt that at a certain point if the success stories haven't done their job in helping, they can begin to make one think, "What's wrong with me?" I have felt similar thoughts, more along the lines of "Am I somehow different?" And, of course, "Why haven't I gotten better?" At times it feels like the "not having gotten better" in a world of "6 month success stories" has become a new source of rage for me.

    Anyway, interested in any thoughts you may have. As noted, I'm starting to feel that for those of us who are finding this journey a bit lengthy that we are perhaps not the target audience of many podcasts & books. We may need to be encouraged in different ways. It's hard not for me to feel at this point that just telling someone who is years into this to "just do the work" is irresponsible. This is a new enough path for us all and life does not come with promises. Maybe some of us will never get better. I'm not trying to sound hopeless or cynical here. I actually don't feel hopeless; but I feel like more honesty is needed.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
  2. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    I feel this has been somewhat addressed, but “quietly” - because nobody really wants to tear away anyone’s hope. A
    Sarno had a screening policy, screwing out those who he did not feel would be successful. I read this in an interview of a doctor who had worked with him.
    Dr. Hanscom has also spoken about some of his patients who lacked success, and he speaks of it as a mindset; those who really can’t do “ the work” and resist getting in touch with their inner self - usually folks who Hanscom describes as easily expressing rage and unable to live in other emotions (especially “positive” ones). I have seen some interviews where people have taken 2-3 years to feel better.
    My question would be why don’t YOU feel you have not gotten any better?
    JanAtheCPA likes this.
  3. efed19

    efed19 New Member

    Thank you, Cactusflower for your response. I see from your profile description that you are someone who has been working at this a while yourself and who has, like me, embraced ISTDP. That might give you some insight into my struggles. I know IDSTP is something I have had trouble explaining to others who have done more traditional talk therapy. Anyway, also, seeing your story in your profile inspired me to write my story in my profile.

    I definitely would not describe myself as someone who can easily express rage. So, I'm not in that category. In fact, I'd say anger was the least modeled or expressed feeling in my household growing up. I would say that I'm someone who was quite suppressive of many of my feelings until recent years. I think that's one cross to bear many of us men have, perhaps even more so generationally. I'm young enough to be in an era where therapy is more accepted but old enough to have been socialized in a time of "boys don't cry".

    Although I've tried through the years many modalities that run the gamut from purely physical (e.g., physical therapy) to brain-training-oriented (Les Fehmi's Open Focus) to expressive emotional work (JournalSpeak), I still am challenged in how to reconcile the different techniques currently out there, e.g., like the vast difference it feels to me between Alan Gordon's PRT approach and Nichole Sachs' JournalSpeak. Certainly they speak to the brain differently and neither has been a "cure" for me. I'd say, if anything, up to a certain point JS was and has been more effective for me than PRT. The problem with PRT--which I see as similar to Les Fehmi's Open Focus--is that it causes changes, but then those changes abate--usually within seconds. I think of it as a stretching a rubber band and then letting it go or throwing a boomerang. You end up back where you started.

    So, anyway, I'm getting around to answering your question. What I've seen is that my nervous system is responsive. I can even do visualizations now that will change pains or muscle tightness in seconds, but again, the rubber band returns to its normal state, so to speak. So, it feels to me like some aspect inside me is holding very firmly (I suppose I could take that to a metaphorical point in terms of rigidity, fear, etc.). Anyway, I've had some experiences on my own & in therapy with muscle movements & extreme, bodily-contorting muscle contractions--sometimes in an emotionally storied context, sometimes not. It generally leaves me with the sense of having had some sort of powerful emotional experience(s) very young that seem unresolved and unwilling and maybe uninterested (?) in change. Again, this is where I run into the challenge reconciling techniques.... if it were as simple as retraining my brain, then after thousands--maybe tens of thousands--of attempts, I feel I would have seen more progress. But although my power to change my pain, tight muscles, tension in the body has expanded, it has done so very slowly. I think my path of resolution likely lies more in the emotional realm, if I can encourage at least some of what is inside me to express itself. I know we're told often that you don't need to do that, but it's felt so far that as more comes out, I improve emotionally. Just understanding & believing that those feelings are there inside me has not uncoupled the relationship between them and my pain.

    Hope that answers your question, at least to some degree :)
  4. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi @efed19 - I was just about to hit "Post" on my message below when the page told me there was a new post to view. This is a really helpful response to Cactusflower's excellent points and her great question. Accordingly, I've edited my response a bit, but I've left the original text in case it's useful to you or someone else.

    In addition to what Cactusflower has said, there is, unfortunately, nothing black & white or linear about this work - and many of us here are more than willing to say this regularly. Unfortunately, it's just one aspect out of MANY different aspects of this work - when you add them all up they can't possibly all be encompassed in a few posts that are currently being viewed, so it's information that is often not front and center. I as well have seen plenty of posts from people who said that it took well over a year - sometimes two or more - to change the mental stress habits of a lifetime - but I've been reading the new posts on this forum for a long time.

    The other thing that simply can't be discounted is that the world in the last decade is substantially different than it was when Dr. Sarno was working and writing and when today's practitioners were studying and developing their own concurrent theories. And the last 3 years? Holy crap! It's a completely different world, encompassing what is widely acknowledged as a world-wide full-blown mental health crisis and just today my therapist acknowledged that it's only getting worse even as the pandemic seems to be fading.

    Things were already bad enough before 2020 - they are a freaking mess now, and I don't see enough people talking about it - which means that there is a lot of existential dread which is being repressed by the TMS brain mechanism. And repression, as we know, results in symptoms (best case scenario) or illness (worst case scenario)(see Gabor Mate MD, When The Body Says No).

    In any case - the fact is that overcoming the TMS brain mechanism - which by the way is a completely dysfunctional mechanism in today's modern world - CAN be done. It requires emotional vulnerability and it requires being able to find, acknowledge, and accept the existence of repressed negative emotions. Many people simply never figure this out because their brains are so resistant and so good at repression. ANY amount of childhood adversity is almost guaranteed to make the process much harder, because the childhood brain has to shut down the trauma in order to survive. This is why Dr. Sarno said that some people need therapy. When people with resistant brains do the writing exercises, they don't realize that their TMS brains are editing what they're writing, avoiding certain topics and worrying about what ends up on the page. Unfortunately, unless they are with a very skilled practitioner, they can do this in therapy as well.

    Additional edit: it's excellent news that you already sense that writing is more effective than PRT - and in fact I completely agree with you about the effectiveness of PRT for people who need to address emotions. My writing recommendation follows.

    The fact is that for some people, self-help only goes so far, because our brains are incredibly skilled at repression. The best advice we can give is to find a way to let go of calendar-watching and embrace what Alan Gordon calls "Outcome Independence". Focus on convincing your TMS brain that you are safe and healthy while you work on emotional repression. Cactusflower's question is a great one for an expressive free-writing brain-dump exercise. Just start scribbling whatever comes into your head onto old notebook paper without editing or worrying about readability - and throw it out when you're done. David Hanscom MD has a great super-short article about what he calls expressive writing. (His advice concurs with Nicole Sachs).

    Additional edits: My favorite consistent piece of advice is about how our resistant brains will edit what we write - and they are REALLY good at it. When I realized this is what my brain was doing (back in 2011 when I did the SEP) I was astonished. I was even more astonished at how incredibly hard it was to force myself to write down the things that my brain was telling me weren't important or were too embarrassing to write down. When I did write them down they weren't even earth-shattering (in fact I had a pretty good childhood) but like everyone, I had my share of embarrassing and guilty incidents that my brain had been repressing for decades - and it was very illuminating and freeing to write them down and consider them.

    If you're interested in adverse childhood experiences, read the article and take the test here:

    Take The ACE Quiz — And Learn What It Does And Doesn't Mean : Shots - Health News : NPR
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2023
    Ellen and efed19 like this.
  5. Cactusflower

    Cactusflower Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think you and I are much alike.
    I only got so far with ISDPT and then felt like I needed to step back.
    I was totally pressuring myself to heal everything, and err on the intellectualization side of things. I absolutely see I need to work on emotional aspects especially where my personality comes into play. In the future I’d like to try EMDR..but that can wait.
    Learning to be kinder to myself and dealing with things that stress me out and just watching my personality and divorcing myself from timelines comes first. I think your confusion as to TMS healing theories is your perfectionist oc brain wanting to find the “right” way instead of just being open to YOUR way and sticking to it. I read a variety of TMS or chronic healing books and I found they all vary in method, but not in theory
    Open your mind to the possibility it can get better (take the healed 100% better out of the equation -too much pressure), open your heart to the fact that how you interpret things may not be the truth; that there are other ways to see things, don’t play a victim - the outside world isn’t against you nor can it heal you; you can heal you - in other words find a way to have faith in something. Recognize that your personality intertwines with everything and you need to step away from that to learn to relax - open your mind to ways of relaxing! Maybe you need to meditate, or fidget, of work out, or dance naked under a moonlit sky.. open your mind and accept that it’s a challenge but a treasure hunt to find a way to relax. ACE’s is good. Look for the “mild ACES” - I scored a 3 but came from a seemingly normal family.
    Go to the “anger is forbidden” and begin to see yourself stopping feeling it. Then reassure yourself it ms normal. Check on substitute nor acceptable emotions you swap for anger..
    You can do this!
    I too am on the long and winding road.
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  6. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hoo boy - my therapist has to point this out to me all the time. Let's see, how does she put it... Pressure leads to Judgement which leads to Repression which leads to Symptoms. PJRS for anyone who loves acronyms.
    Bonnard likes this.
  7. efed19

    efed19 New Member

    When I read this it made me curious to ask you... are you familiar with Kristen Neff's work on self-compassion? If not--and if the idea of exploring that catches your attention--you might want to check out her book or at least her TED Talk:

    Best Regards...
  8. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    IMHO it's not enough to learn how to process the pain differently (though helpful). We have to get at the reason the pain is being generated in the first place. What Dr. Howard Schubiner calls Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy gets at this.
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  9. JanAtheCPA

    JanAtheCPA Beloved Grand Eagle

    Following on what we're all saying about the emotional source of our symptoms (repression) it occurs to me to point out that expressed anger and repressed rage are two completely different things.

    I get what you're saying about growing up in a household where anger was not freely expressed or encouraged - that's how I was brought up (with four kids, it was probably a matter of survival) but the kind of rage that Sarno (Freud really) talks about is more existential, much deeper than the things that make you angry day to day.

    In my case, I learned that my biggest source of rage, and probably the reason my lifelong TMS symptoms were coming to a critical head at age 60 (in 2011) was the fact of mortality. Mortality, and especially our knowledge of mortality, is, imo, a curse upon humanity. There, I said it. It's not acceptable to say this. It makes others uncomfortable. I'm supposed to not talk about it, not think about it negatively, and I'm supposed to gracefully age and ignore the ugly and terrifying reality.

    Well, thanks to Dr Sarno (and especially one of his other authors in The Divided Mind), I discovered and acknowledged the biggest source of my personal rage. It's not the only one, but it's a significant one, and it set me on the recovery path right away. A vital technique was being able to express the true sources of my rage on paper. Absolutely no need or desire to start expressing anger out loud!

    Besides Mortality, other existential sources of repressed rage are Isolation, Freedom, and Meaning. Great topics for expressive emotional writing. They can be applied to personal or work relationships, to work or educational choices, to emotions surrounding upcoming events or plans, and to all interactions, big or small, that are hanging out in the back of your mind and bugging you.
    Ellen likes this.
  10. michaelg21

    michaelg21 Peer Supporter

    Very interesting topic. Acceptance of the uncertainty that I may or may not ever get over my physical symptoms was critical for me, and something I had to relearn several times. I fall more in the camp that reckons fear of symptoms themselves is the main issue that needs to be overcome for most (by no means all) to regain their sense of health. For many, the understanding that their symptoms are not due to a structural abnormality seems to be enough to nullify the fear of their symptoms and kickstart their recovery (hence the miraculous stories of incredibly fast recoveries). For me, that was never enough, and I could only reduce my fear of my symptoms by letting go of the fear that I may never recover.

    Nothing I actively tried, whether it be PRT techniques, journaling etc, got me anywhere with letting go of that fear. I only got there through accepting my present situation and living my life to gain adequate exposure to my discomfort, while choosing not to do anything about it. I suppose, I unknowingly used a process of self-directed exposure response prevention, though I didn’t actively attempt to do this. I did sometimes make an effort to dispute my irrational beliefs around my pain, but never tried to ignore it or dispute obsessive thoughts/rumination about my pain, which was also a large part of my problem.

    All in all, my journey has been ongoing for 1.5 - 2 years. It took a long time to figure out what worked for me, and in the end, doing less as opposed to more has proven much more effective.
    efed19, Ellen, tgirl and 1 other person like this.

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