1. Our TMS drop-in chat is today (Saturday) from 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM Eastern U.S.(New York) Daylight Time. It's a great way to get quick and interactive peer support. BruceMC is today's host. Click here for more info or just look for the red flag on the menu bar at 3pm Eastern (now US Daylight Time).
    Dismiss Notice
  2. Alan has completed the new Pain Recovery Program. To read or share it, use this updated link: https://www.tmswiki.org/forum/painrecovery/
    Dismiss Notice

Which tool should I use?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Latitudes9, Jul 16, 2020.

  1. Latitudes9

    Latitudes9 New Member

    This question was submitted via our Tell Me About Your Pain program. To submit your question, click here.

    I have a question about the most recent episode, about focusing on positive sensations. Is the pain supposed to change in some way due to focusing on positive sensations, and if it doesn't, am I doing this wrong?

    When I tried somatic tracking, like Emily, my pain didn't move/increase/decrease or change in any way. I think I am pretty fixated on it, but I didn't think I was doing anything wrong, I just thought I needed more practice. So I tried somatic tracking every day for the past two weeks, but...nothing changed. The pain doesn't change, it's just always there. So then I tried focusing on positive sensations, but the same thing happened--neither somatic tracking nor focusing on positive sensations seems to work for my pain. What am I doing wrong?

    I'm definitely frustrated with the pain, and unsure of why these techniques seem to work for other people but not for me. I know trying to "problem solve" and worry about the pain will just keep it going, but I haven’t seen any progress so far. Any thoughts?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2020
  2. Daniella Deutsch MSW

    Daniella Deutsch MSW TMS Therapist


    Both somatic tracking and leaning into positive sensations can be excellent tools for chronic pain sufferers. The caveat is that by using these tools to get rid of the pain, you may actually be perpetuating the pain cycle. Now, I know this can be pretty overwhelming to those of us who naturally inhabit a hypervigilant, problem-solving state of being. But stay with me!

    In instances where you employ these tools, think quality over quantity and overall mindset over a specific outcome. It's important to emphasize that we don't care what happens to the sensation. We are merely getting comfortable attending to sensations, whether unpleasant or pleasant, painful or positive, from an authentic place of curiosity, interest, calmness, and ease. Now, the more you're able to watch from this perspective, the more you train your brain to go there automatically.

    I imagine that the "leaning into positive sensations" technique didn't have the effect you wanted for the same reason that somatic tracking did not. I'm guessing that it was difficult for you to lose yourself in those pleasant sensations just as it was difficult for you to attend to those unpleasant sensations with a sense of ease. By getting practice existing in this state of calm and stillness, you become less likely to respond to the pain with fear, frustration, anxiety, and despair (which only reinforces danger). Think of practicing somatic tracking and leaning into positive sensations as an investment in your future and not as a means to an immediate end.

    So, whether you are using somatic tracking (directly attending to the painful sensation) or leaning into positive sensations (focusing on something pleasant), you are creating a new default setting for your brain to exist in. Through teaching your brain that it does not need to solve, run away from or fixate on something, you are communicating messages of safety and deactivating the danger signals. And that is how you cut off the pain's fuel source! This increases the chance of a corrective experience and ultimately will result in a reduction of symptoms. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves!

    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.

    The general advice and information provided in this format is for informational purposes only and cannot serve as a way to screen for, identify, or diagnose depression, anxiety, or other psychological conditions. If you feel you may be suffering from any of these conditions please contact a licensed mental health practitioner for an in-person consultation.

    Questions may be edited for brevity and/or readability.

    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 5, 2020
  3. Latitudes9

    Latitudes9 New Member

    Thanks for the reply. But you still didn't directly answer my question. Is the pain supposed to change in some way due to focusing on positive sensations/somatic tracking, and if it doesn't, am I doing this wrong?

    The answer I seem to be getting from your reply is "No-- it doesn't matter if the pain changes or not." So does that mean I should keep doing it? I know I shouldn't really care about the outcome, but when do I give up and try something else? 1 month? 6 months? A year? Never?

    You said, "It's hard to lose yourself in positive sensations/focus on pain without fear," but the thing is, I really don't think I'm doing that. For example, when I try somatic tracking, I'm able to just breathe and sit there calmly and be like, "Huh. There's this constant burning sensation on top of my head. It's in kind of a circular area and it feels kind of hot." I try to just be curious about it. I can breathe into it, but it never changes in size/shape/quality. I don't have a problem with stillness-- I can just sit there and be with the pain. So then I just do this for about 5 minutes and then go on with my day. I don't care whether it takes away the pain or not, but I did think that after about a month of doing this, I would maybe expect to see some change?

    How do I know whether to stick with somatic tracking/positive sensations/focusing on my breath or move on to something else?
  4. miffybunny

    miffybunny Beloved Grand Eagle

    She did answer the question but you didn't like the answer lol. I'll try to unpack this. The somatic tracking is an exercise or a "tool" to neutralize fear. You are able to do that it sounds like, which is awesome. The problem is that the latent message of your post is "how long is this going to freaking take and shouldn't I be able to measure changes?". This undercurrent of frustration and impatience is actually undermining the whole exercise. There is no point in using a tool or exercise if there's an expectation of a result. That is actually missing the whole point of the exercise. The somatic tracking (which is one example of a tool) is for the purpose of practicing the mindset of indifference. The more you practice this, the more you are investing in your future because you are literally changing the brain. If you don't like the tool or you find that it causes you to focus and monitor on the symptoms more, then just forget about it. It's not the be all , end all to healing. Success is measured by how little symptoms affect you...how little you care. The truth is you do care, ... and too much. It will take as long as it takes. The more you ask that question though and the more you monitor the sensations and measure quality,frequency, intensity, nature of them etc...the longer it will take to get better. The whole process of "healing" is about letting go and for most people that's counter intuitive. Most of us are used to trying and striving, and wanting to fix and expecting 'results". I hope this clarifies and doesn't sound too harsh. I know how maddening it is but there's really no other way of explaining it.

Share This Page