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Why the Symptom Imperative?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by jtperks, Mar 6, 2015.

  1. jtperks

    jtperks Peer Supporter

    I have a question that sounds like criticism of Sarno’s theory, but honestly it’s not. I genuinely want to know the answer so that I can heal and I hope your replies help others who may struggle with this.

    I’m re-listening to The Divided Mind right now, and I guess I’m not listening well enough, because I still have one seemingly fundamental question that I can’t understand. Dr. Sarno says that some of his patients get better just by acquiring the knowledge that the thing that ails them is originated in the mind, rather than a pathological problem. So if the brain is trying to protect us from unwanted feelings, why would it just stop producing symptoms in that case? Doesn’t it still have something it wants to hide from us? Why wouldn’t the symptom imperative start happening.

    Contrast that with a situation like mine, where I do have symptom imperative going on; After each symptom crops up, I have a brief period of worry, but then I realize that the symptom is mind-body in origin, and it loses its power – but instead of being completely healed, it just produces a symptom somewhere else.

    I don’t understand why when I pull the curtain back on what my brain is trying to do, it just keeps going. And yet others, it knows the jig is up?
    Ellen likes this.
  2. IrishSceptic

    IrishSceptic Podcast Visionary

    he readily admits there is a lot of unknowns and a lot of recovery stories are different as a result depending on level of suffering etc.

    hopefully some more experienced forum users can advise but my take would be you are making great progress but perhaps there is a tiny little bit of doubt remaining?
    jtperks likes this.
  3. Cap'n Spanky

    Cap'n Spanky Well known member

    I think there's probably a lot different answers to your question. One is that everyone is different. Some people may only need a little bit of insight and belief and they get better.

    But I believe in many cases they "think" they are 100% cured because their pain went away. They may not realize that their frequent colds, asthma, GERD, hypertension, bad hip or knees, you name it, are also TMS. Their back pain went away by reading Dr. Sarno's book, so they cured. End of story.

    Clearly some people are more prone to TMS and the symptom imperative than others. I know because I'm one of them. Some folks may have very little, or very mild TMS and it may not take much to get better. My mother in law hardly ever has health or pain issues. In fact, I can't remember a time.
    jtperks and Ellen like this.
  4. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle

    When I asked a therapist about how deep the work needs to go, in order to cure the TMS, one response I got was that for some folks, therapy is needed or else the symptoms just change types and move around. Not knowing your case, maybe this explains why the symptoms subside in one person and just move around in others. I do think there are a lot of unanswered questions in Dr. Sarno's work, and that more will be known in another 50 years...
    Andy B.
    jtperks likes this.
  5. Zumbafan

    Zumbafan Well known member

    Psychological conflict causes the brain to keep sending symptoms. Only unconscious feelings produce physical symptoms. Conscious feelings, no matter how unpleasant, do not cause symptoms. Only the repressed, unconscious, frightening ones do.
    Maybe people who heal quickly don't have much inner conflict?
  6. Tennis Tom

    Tennis Tom Beloved Grand Eagle

    It took a long time for your sub-c to develop the the TMS defense mechanisms, perhaps your whole life, and with the help of others. It may take some time and practicing with the knowledge penicillin to overcome your prior conditioning, practice makes perfect--which is a TMS personality trait in itself.
  7. jtperks

    jtperks Peer Supporter

    Thank-you for your replies. If I take your collective responses, and summarize them -- I think it might look something like this:

    There is still a lot we don't know about how TMS works. But what we do know is that people are different, and you can't really compare your healing to somebody elses, especially when you take into account that we all process our emotions differently (especially doubt and fear). Some people are experiencing symptom imperative even though they don't think they are, because the symptoms are minor and untroubling (GERD for example). Others have a lot going on inside, and yet others might not have that much inner conflict at all - and if there isn't much, TMS can be cured with knowledge, thus eliminating the need for SI. Therefore, people who experience symptom imperative probably have a lot of subconscious stuff going on, and it might require therapy to bring it to the conscious level -- and therapy or no, it's likely going to take a fair bit of time.
    Ellen likes this.
  8. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, jteerks. Your summary is right-on. In your case, you probably have long-held repressed emotions that you may still
    not have discovered. That was what happened with me and my back pain. I didn't realize how much my parents' divorce affected
    me when I was 7 years old. I repressed feelings of anger, abandonment, insecurity, and busied myself in my life and career as a writer.
    When good friends divorced and my freelance writing income declined, that all triggered the repressed emotions from my boyhood.
    In journaling while in the Structural Education Program I was able to understand my parents better and that helped me to forgive them,
    which led to my back pain going away. I still suffer from financial insecurity, but realize most people do, even millionaires who want to
    be billionaires. And if friends aren't divorcing, they're moving away. The only real security we have is being secure in God's love.
    And, or course, a dog's love.
    jtperks likes this.
  9. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Interesting what you say, Walt (and even more interesting what it implies): I do notice that my literary imagination did develop at the same time my parents split up and tried to get a divorce when I was 11 or 12 and just about to enter 7th grade. That's when I went inward and starting having a second imaginative life in the world of books, especially in books written around the end of the 19th century, the same period I studied in my Ph.D. dissertation almost twenty years later. The shocks of life generates the inward gaze? The creative imagination as an escape from life's tragedies? Endless topics for speculation. The same things that create your imaginative identity also lay the foundation for your TMS later on? Perhaps so . . . TMS sure seems to be woven into the very fabric of our existence. That's probably why it's so hard to get rid of . . . at least in some hard cases.

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