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What do you say to fear and subsequent pain?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Celestialstar, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. Celestialstar

    Celestialstar New Member

    Hi all -new here. I am off to do a trigger activity that I have stayed away from for some time- playing tennis.

    I introduced myself in the support forum so will save the long story but the short version is that I have had chronic tendinitis throughout my right arm and a strained bicep muscle for 2 years. This started due to a medical condition but I believe it continues due to TMS.

    Tennis is a loaded activity for me, emotionally. Prior to my medical issue, I played competitively 3-4 times a week. My once scrawny body became something I was proud of - healthy, bigger, not so gaunt and I felt stronger. It was liberating. And then it all changed one day and I lost it.

    Today, my 10 year old plays competitive tennis and so does my husband. I miss playing with my family so much. It's hard to watch. My friends still invite me 2 years later- just in case. And other replacement activities aren't working either, like yoga.

    Yesterday, I got so irritated while doing my TMS activities that I got up from the computer, went outside and smacked a tennis ball around against the house for 5 minutes. It felt amazing. My arm began to get sore later but I don't care. It was worth it. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I have been sad for two years but my TMS work is starting to reveal anger for the first time. I am angry about this and I have never felt that way.

    I am trying to look fear in the face. My daughter asked me to go with her to the courts today. I am going to hit some serves. I last played a match in May 2017 (through total agony) and last hit with her two weeks ago (some pain during but it went away and then returned with a vengeance that night).

    My question is: What should I tell myself during this activity? Where should my focus be? What should I say to myself if I feel pain during this activity?
  2. Ewok2

    Ewok2 Peer Supporter

  3. Celestialstar

    Celestialstar New Member

    Great post, Ewok2. Thank you- that was very helpful!
    Ewok2 likes this.
  4. Duggit

    Duggit Well known member

    Dr. Z's snow shoveling anecdote is an example of conditioning and overcoming it. Dr. Sarno talks about conditioning in each of his last three books. Here is some of what he wrote in Healing Back Pain:

    "The process of conditioning, or programming, seems to be very important in determining when the person with TMS will have pain. . . .

    "Many of these conditioned responses stem from the fear that people develop when they have back pain, especially in the low back. They have been told and they have read that their back is fragile, vulnerable, and easily injured, so if they try to do something vigorous like jog or swim or vacuum the floor, their backs begin to hurt. They have learned to associate activity with pain; they expect it, so it happens."
    Sarno attributes conditioning to being told or having read that the back is fragile, vulnerable, and easily injured. I think modern pain science research indicates another source of conditioning. Suppose a person has a physical injury that makes normal activity dangerous. The brain creates pain to protect against further injury by inducing the person to become inactive so healing can occur. If the injury persists for too long (takes many months to heal), the brain learns to associate normal physical activity with danger. Then even after the injury has fully healed, the brain creates pain because of the conditioning--i.e., the learning that associates normal physical activity with danger. Lorimer Moseley, a leading researcher on the neuroscience of pain, and his co-author David Butler say your brain will create pain whenever it concludes (whether consciously or unconsciously) that there is more credible evidence you are in danger than there is credible evidence you are safe. Conditioning is a big part of what the brain processes in deciding whether you are in danger or safe.

    With regard to danger, Butler and Moseley coined the term "thought viruses." Some thought viruses are obvious. Some are subtle, and they include harmful metaphors we don't even notice when we talk. I think Butler might say that to speak of tennis as a "trigger activity" and a "loaded activity" is a thought virus because it subtly reinforces conditioning that your body is too fragile, vulnerable, and easily injured to play tennis without damaging it.
    birder likes this.
  5. fern

    fern Well known member

    You're taking such an important step, reclaiming something you love - especially doing it with someone you love! How did it go?

    When I first started doing TMS work, I tried the advice that has worked for so many others, which was to scoff at or yell at my pain and tell it I wasn't going to let it make me afraid anymore. I can see why that works for some people, depending on the deep down sources of their emotional pain. So you might try Dr. Z's approach and see if it works for you, too.

    That approach doesn't work for me, and now that I've delved deeper into the underlying emotions, I know why. Much of my tension has to do with fear of rejection, a curling up against bullies and the strong feelings of my caregivers swirling around me, and a fear of my deepest needs not being met because I had to be the strong, stable one in my family even as a baby. My pain (and anxiety) needs to be talked to softly and reassuringly, thanked for trying to protect me, and confidently assured that I see it and am able to give myself compassionate care. I remind myself that I'm safe. And I give the pain permission to let go and give up control, because I've got this. It works wonders.

    So you'll know what to say to your pain the more you learn about its source. Nobody knows better than you! I hope you find it and that tennis becomes something 100% joyful and energizing for you again.
    Ewok2 and birder like this.

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