The Difference A Mind Makes

Okay.  Here we go.  Hold onto your logical, little scientific brain like you’re about to lose it.  Because you just might.  I promise you; I have not.  Although I have decided even healthy minds need some remodeling to keep up with the different times of life.  Life changes, so must my mind.

Anyhow, I was talking about Dr.  John Sarno’s Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) (here and here).  I decided to try his techniques mostly, but not exclusively, to manage headaches related to food sensitivities I have to common, healthy foods I’d like to add back into my diet.  I’m pleased with my success.

Dr. Sarno feels many, many symptoms and described medical syndromes are related to our subconscious beliefs.  His books are just averagely long, and the treatment description takes up, oh I don’t know, maybe a mere, simple five pages of the book.

Sarno, Terri-style

I’m going to show how I interpreted and used his recommendations.  This is MY interpretation of his treatment plan.  You’d better read the book to get your own take.

1.   Mandatory:  I must accept that TMS is causing my symptoms as a diversion from unconscious beliefs/thoughts.  I don’t really know about this requirement.  TMS?  I get a headache from eggs as a diversion from deep repression?  But if I don’t eat eggs, I’m okay?  I just don’t know about this… HOWEVER,  I can totally accept that my brain is capable of shutting down the headaches that cause me problems AND that repressed emotions will create a chemical interference that blocks optimal, ideal physiology.  So I tell myself that “TMS” is just a name for my brain not doing what it’s capable of doing for me.  Or overdoing what it is capable of.  In this way, I agree I have TMS.  Check.  I’ll go with it.

2.  Talk to my brain and tell it I don’t need the physically distracting diversion(s) anymore.  (Herein lies the chuckle for you.)  Tell it I’m onto its strategy.  For example, when I’ve been getting a headache, I’ve literally been talking aloud to my brain like this, often in the shower while distracted by shaving or while doing dishes.  (Apparently low-grade distraction times are good times to talk to your deep brain.)

“Oh, brain.  Why are you doing this?  This headache and fog are simply diversions for something deep in there that’s bothering you.  I don’t need this diversion.  It’s worse than dealing with whatever is deep in that limbic system and amygdala emotionally!  I’m old enough, mature enough, and I’ve got a great support network to help me through anything troubling.  STOP THIS.”

And if it doesn’t stop, seriously, I get a little louder and firmer in my talking aloud.

“This is RIDICULOUS.  I’m strong.  I’m healthy.  My body is sound.  STOP this nonsense and show me the problem.  Even if you won’t stop,  you MUST STOP this pain.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  It’s not the eggs.  It’s not the nuts.  It’s YOU.  And I’M TIRED OF IT.  You can heal up the problem and you’d better get on it ASAP.  Yeah.  Parts of life sucked.  I’m mad.  I’m angry about that.  Sure I am.  There’s deep, dark secrets in there.  Sure there are.  Being a mom is stressful.  Absolutely.  But none of this needs to cause these symptoms.  We’ll work on it together.”

Right.  That’s what I do.  (You still with me?)  And you know what?  Usually over the last two months, that’s been enough to talk down a headache.  Weird.  Next step.

3.  Journal all “stressors” from throughout all of your life, past and present.  Both internal and external. (Internal stressors refer to personality traits you have that seem to cause conflict in your life.)  I know.  You want to see mine.  We all want to know others have deeper trash piles than we do.  Well, I’ll share some.  Not all.

  • Homeschooling right now is not going the way I want it to go.
  • The house is messier than I like it.
  • It feels like I always have work to do which I can’t escape because I live in it.
  • I’m a perfectionist in just about all areas of my life.  And sorry, when perfection is the expectation, failure is your reality.
  • I like everybody to be happy and comfortable yet I’m very truthful.
  • Writing publicly exposes me more than I feel comfortable with and I’m afraid.
  • My toddler demands nearly 100% attention, making cleaning, doing school, sleeping, talking/being with my husband, cooking, running errands, and even thinking exceptionally difficult.
  • I like time adequate alone to collect my thoughts and recharge.  In a family of six, this is a near impossibility.
  • I am ALWAYS interrupted.  I hate being interrupted.
  • My parents and in-laws are aging and requiring significant health interventions.
  • I hate to ask for help yet am finding I need help more and more.
  • Friends have hurt me.  Family members have hurt me.  Life has given me some bad eggs to deal with along the way.  I’ve hurt friends.  I’ve hurt family.  I’ve given out some bad eggs for people to deal with along the way.

I guess that’s enough stuff to keep the adrenaline and serotonin and acetylcholine in constant flux daily, not allowing the brain to function to control other symptoms.  (I dare you to make your list.)

4.  After you write your present, past, internal, and external stressors, you continue to elaborate and expand on them and walk through them in your journal daily.  He suggests somewhere in there about doing this for around a month.  Just journal all you can about them.  I’m to the point when I flare, I just write any stressors going on around the time.  If one stressor seems to get lots of lines in the tablet, then I know that’s where my money is.

5.  Start to recognize the repeated thoughts, phrases, and physical actions that cover for uncomfortable emotions that you don’t handle well.

  • Chuckling, laughing, or smiling kind of inappropriately.  Like when you laugh about something your husband does that drives you crazy.  Really you’re mad, but you “laugh it off.”
  • “Well, that’s just the way it is.”
  • “I don’t like it, but it’s okay.”
  • “I might be a little mad at ________ for doing that.”
  • “Someday I’ll get to do it.”
  • “Overall, things are fine.”
  • “I just can’t do this.”
  • “I think I’m going crazy.”
  • “If only…”
  • “This person is irritating me.”
  •  Running to the bathroom to get away from your kids.

Do you say or do any of these?  These are clues to what we are repressing or clues to limiting beliefs we have.  (After Sarno, I have kept reading more on how to recognize these thoughts, intercept them, and retrain them.  Sarno is great, but I want “TMS” gone.  Once I realized how badly I was pushing down lots of thoughts, I decided I needed more knowledge in this area.  I needed/need my mind working FOR me.)

6.  Read Sarno’s books daily.  Pay attention to passages that describe you.  Remind yourself his techniques helped many, many people, and you’re not crazy.  My brain likes to tell me I’m crazy.  I know I have a fear of being crazy.  So the fact that thousands and thousands of patients have really, truly, honestly also gotten relief helps me feel validation.  I’ve moved beyond Sarno’s writings to discover more on what he introduced psychology-wise.  Invaluable.

7.  Start giving up the limitations that helped you control your physical ailments.  For me, that means bringing back in foods.  So far, I have been able to do this.  Yes, several times I’ve gotten headaches.  But they always have backed down either immediately or within an hour or two of doing all this stuff above, instead of lasting a few days like before.

8.  When the symptoms flare, try to do all these things.  Even though it feels hard.  Even though you don’t have time.  And if your symptoms move around, call it TMS (after you make sure to get medically cleared!!!!!!) and get down and dirty again to see if something is hanging in that deep mind that’s doing you no good.

Where does God fit into this?

When you move into discussing the subconscious, it makes people uncomfortable.  Especially Christians.  I fit under the label of Christian.  For me to have given up white flour, gained a truly healthier grip on food, and write questionable stuff on the internet,  I know God is in charge here.  For me to explore my anger, fear, sadness, and shame and how they relate to my physical body and brain which serve Him, well God is in that too.  I know He delights in my drawing nearer to Him as I peel off the layers that separate us.  So do I.  I move forward confidently in this realm; my beliefs are only illuminated by what I am learning.  But on Sarno step number 2, when I’m supposed to talk to my brain, sometimes I feel like throwing in a full gospel “I rebuke you in the name of Jesus Christ.”—- and a bonk on my head with my palm to make it more Christian-like.  Right.

Conclusion

Well, that’s my introduction to mind-body medicine.  I’ve added a few more books to my mind-body reading list thanks to the live studio audience.  Thank you!  This series was a little scary for me.  But, so is writing on constipation (which Sarno didn’t help, although he mentions that a patient of his did cure his constipation–and I am trying some other mind-body stuff for my slow GI but still on magnesium).  It’s one thing to tell your husband and best friends and family; it’s another to share it with the world.  My hope is it maybe benefitted someone.  If not, writing keeps me motivated, and that’s the important thing to me.  Health matters.  Go get it.  And don’t be afraid to ask your mind for some help.

Sorry for the length.  Hope you were on a laptop.  If not, that’s impressive that you’re still reading!  Questions and comments always welcomed.

Terri

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