Did you know that Psychosomatic conditions are a result of a build up of unconscious emotions, often reaching a boiling point of repressed rage? Other emotions fuel this reservoir of pressure such as daily stresses and frustrations, self imposed negative judgments, and archived guilt, sadness, anger and so on. There is a tipping point or saturation point where the unconscious mind fears that these ‘socially unacceptable’ emotions will finally surface, like a damn that is about to explode, and rather than allowing that to happen it creates a strategy within your body to distract you from the emotions – a psychosomatic condition such as neck, back or shoulder pain. Everyone has them … they just show up in different ways, ie. irritable bowel, migraine headaches, ulcers, chronic fatigue syndrome, muscle aches, tendentious, panic attacks, dizziness, etc.
Here’s the main problem though … when people go about trying to heal these conditions they are usually misdiagnosed, meaning treatment is directed at fixing the body, when in fact it is the mind that needs the treatment. Even if we did know that we had a mind-body condition, it posses another obstacle, most of us are not very quick to begin self analysis or some sort of introspective self help. It’s too bad really, because the body’s signal of pain is really wonderful indicator that something within us is out of balance and needs addressing. Our bodies are perfectly honed barometers; if we would just learn how interpret their signals we could grow so much more.
Unfortunately we spend countless hours (and dollars) chasing a cure that will never come. This is the case for all psychosomatic conditions, and if you’re lucky enough to get some relief, it’s only temporary and the pain eventually comes back. Well that’s due to the placebo effect, meaning your mind accepted the treatment as the cure, but those insidious pressures in the unconscious mind are still there … and the ‘need’ for a physical distraction from these negatives is still there too. The pain returns.
Dr. Sarno’s facinating research, which I am directly referencing in all of the above theory and fact, is quite brilliant. He has spent over 30 years studying these mind-body disorders and we owe so much to him for his amazing discoveries and breakthroughs in mind-body understanding. I referenced one of his wonderful books in a recent post, and highly recommend it.
He has given me great insight into healing my own physical outcroppings and over the years I have tried to deepen my understanding of his teachings to help myself, my students and my coaching clients. I have used my most recent back pain condition as another opportunity to learn more about myself and how my mind-body connection works. I am continually amazed at how powerful our minds are. They can build such beautiful bodies … and they can tear them apart too!
Have you’ve ever found yourself at the mercy of an attack of your unconscious mind? If so then you know just how debilitating and painful it can be. The truth is you have to ‘earn’ the awareness that it is in fact a psychosomatic condition. This can take years, and your rational mind fights you every step of the way. No one really wants to admit that they aren’t in control of their inner thoughts or that their very thoughts could be hurting them. But if you get that far then you’re really one of the lucky ones and now you get to move to the next phase – mind-body healing.
This type of healing is a little tricky at first, because the tendency to switch back over to focusing on the physical issue is very strong. We are extremely visceral creatures and habitually focus on what we can see and touch/feel. If we do fully accept the true diagnosis, that the physical condition is psychogenic in origin, now we will ‘want’ to go about mentally healing the unconscious disruptions. The trouble here is, according to Dr. Sarno, we can NOT access the unconscious mind and release these internal pressures – they will always be there. (On very rare occasion can someone actually release these deeper unconscious emotions). Dr. Sarno says his healing program works because by learning about the nature of the psychosomatic strategy (the avoidance mechanism) the strategy is then aborted by the unconscious mind since it has been exposed. Dr. Sarno has thousands of case studies to prove his theory. He also says that about 20-25 percent of his patients require some psychological counseling to help ‘bleed off’ some of the built up emotional pressure before the ‘cure’ sets in. We’ll this not a bad thing, for obvious reasons, but therapy sure can add up ($).
Let me make all of this more personal now. I conquered my mind-body back pain about 3 years ago, but recently it returned. Lately I feared that I had not dealt with some deeper emotional issues or perhaps I never fully accepted the mind-body diagnosis? Since my back pain had been going on for the past two weeks, and the last 5 were days that I couldn’t even walk, actually I was totally bed-ridden … I decided I better try to get to New York to visit Sarno and one of his counselors, ASAP.
One thing kept bugging me though– Dr. Sarno saying that we cannot access the unconscious mind and release the built up pressure. Well I’ve done my fair share of therapy over the years and some pretty intense primal therapy to boot. I’ve definitely felt an intense release of internal pressure while engaged in these practices. Perhaps I have had some of those rarer releases? Anyway, I spent some time yesterday really trying to uncover the things that could be creating this unconscious pressure – daily stress, self imposed pressure, hang ups from the past, etc. What I found to be extremely exciting, yet also very painful, was that when I thought about specific things from the past that angered me, my back pain increased, severely! This was exciting because now I knew for sure that I had experienced a direct cause and effect within my mind-body pathways. It is rare that we think of something negative and then immediately feel it in the body.
I knew I was on to something, but how to use it to unwind my pain? Could there be a way to reverse this phenomenon? How about thinking about a positive experience and allowing my body to manifest a positive result? Well I’d tried that in abundance, and because the negative unconscious emotions were still there they always trumped the positive imagery or affirmation. Rage will always override any niceties we attempt to sooth ourselves with. In my head I kept hearing Sarno say “You can not release this internal pressure” – man this was really bugging me because the pain was getting worse the more I tried following his “think about your pressures” protocols. I was not doubting that they would eventually work, but seriously this was getting extremely painful – I wanted, no I needed this pain to stop!!
I decided to try something different. Inwardly I began saying “I am made of consciousness … and my consciousness knows how to heal this condition”. After a little time of repeating this I went to sleep, open to the possibility of discovering a way out of my mind-body conundrum. In the early morning (about 5am – which by the way is the time your subconscious mind is usually ready to give you answers to your requests) I was awoken by my inner awareness. It told me what to do to release the pressure. I lay in my bed practicing this insight for the next 2 hours. When you can’t move it’s nice to know that at least you can still work with your mind. During this time I experienced something I will call a miracle.
Have you ever woken up and found that you were sleeping on your arm? Remember when you tried to move it is was so very painful, yet that pain was the healing response to your blood circulation being restored. When a psychosomatic condition is musculoskeletal in nature, it does pretty much the same thing; it affects the flow of blood and therefore the amount of oxygen the tissues receive. Magnify the pain you felt from your arm being asleep by about 10 and you’ll have an idea of how painful these oxygen deprivation conditions can be … and that is usually an ongoing experience!
Anyway back to my miracle … over the course of those two hours I was given direct access to my unconscious storehouse of pressure. As I applied what my subconscious mind had revealed (please note that this is a different aspect of the mind and not to be confused with the unconscious mind) the affected areas of my body began to receive the life-giving oxygen they were desperately needing. At about 7am I new that I could walk again. I got up from my bed and walked about, mostly pain free … and have been doing so all day long. I’m not completely healed yet, I still need to practice what I discovered and allow the tissues to completely re-awaken, but I’m confident that a full recovery is on its way. So what did I discover? I’m not yet ready to reveal this. I want to first make my full recovery and then test it out on people who are also having psychosomatic pain in their muscles, tendons and nerves. Then we’ll see … perhaps this is a healing insight that can help many others who are in pain like I was. If you’re having pain or suffer from what Dr. Sarno calls TMS then feel free to contact me and I’ll share with you what I’m exploring.
Yours in health and recovery,