The latest research in psychology has been putting an emphasis on somatization, or how feelings and experiences show up in the body. It turns out that the body stores information that is not in our conscious minds, meaning our bodies can know more about us that we are aware of!
Pain and illness can be the psyche’s way of trying to communicate something to you. It could be a long repressed part of you begging to be expressed, a reality that needs to be confronted, disconnected feelings wanting to be engaged, a belief system being challenged, or a way of being that has stopped working for you. But until you give it your mental attention, it will continue to try to grab at your attention through physical expression.
Thousands of people who suffered from chronic pain and illness - including back pain, migraine headache, colitis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, tendonitis, chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal disorders, skin disorders, and allergies – have been cured without surgery, medication, or physical therapy. They did it by treating their symptoms not as a medical issue, but as an indication of their emotional health.
Just as grief can cause tears and embarrassment can cause blushing, other forms of emotional stress can cause a physical reaction like pain. Dr. John Sarno, who served decades as a physician at the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center, and Professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine, discovered this phenomenon and called it Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). He used it to describe a cohort of his patients who presented with severe and previously incurable pain that: appeared to have no medical source, didn’t match up with the presumed reason for the pain (a lumbar disc herniated to the left but pain in the right leg), or pain that would move around implying it was not caused by a physical deformity or injury. He also found that many chronic pain patients that tried traditional methods of pain relief like chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, and surgery, would find their pain eventually come back or a new pain disorder arise.
Gaining insight into themselves and becoming more aware of their feelings helped these people completely heal their physical health, when conventional medical methods failed to.
As a mind-body psychotherapist, I help clients connect with repressed thoughts, feelings and parts of self in order to find relief and healing physically, emotionally and mentally. I facilitate self-awareness through guided conversation in a caring, safe environment. Compared with general psychotherapy, my mind-body work is guided by an understanding of common dynamics, personality structures and thought patterns that lead to pain. Once I help clients gain awareness of what’s at the root of their pain, together we identify options of how to respond to it, though even just the awareness itself can be helpful and healing.
What began feeling like a curse can become a tremendous blessing. Your pain is trying to help you - it’s telling you that you are not living your whole truth. My clients often start out very hesitant to come for treatment, but they usually end up saying they are very grateful that they did. By wanting to bring relief and healing to their physical body, they brought relief and healing to parts deeper within them they didn’t even know were hurting.
For more details on the mind-body connection, please see my blog posts Can Your Personality Be Causing You Physical Pain?, and What Your body is Trying to Tell You.
Before treating people psychologically for mind-body pain, I require that clients first:
1)Educate themself about TMS by reading a book on the condition. Books that many have found helpful include:
both by John E. Sarno, M.D. Education helps a person to retrain their subconscious to believe that the physical condition is benign and any disability they have is a function of pain-related fear and conditioning, which is essential to recovery.
2)Be assessed by a medical doctor to rule out serious problems like cancer and tumors. An assessment with a doctor trained in identifying mind-body conditions (you can find a listing Here ) can determine infinitively, but with any doctor if serious illness is ruled out and no diagnoses or a vague diagnoses is given, it could be an indication of a mind-body condition. In N.Y., Dr. Sarno’s successor, Dr. Ira Rashbaum, can be reached at 212-263-6037.
Recovery from TMS means a person resumes a normal life undeterred by pain, and no longer experiences chronic pain. This happens for many people after simply educating themselves about TMS and engaging in emotional introspection. However people are more likely to experience a re-occurrence of pain at a later time, or the pain move into another part of the body, if they don’t engage in adequate psychological work around the pain. I offer therapy to those who: want it as part of their recovery, feel they will benefit from it, or for whom education alone has not helped them to become completely free of pain.
Resources for Healing from Pain Using the Mind-Body Connection (for little to no cost):
TMS Wiki - Website full of education, peer-support, success stories, and resources for recovery from TMS
FREE Online Recovery Program
Books by Dr. John Sarno
Unlearn Your Pain- book by Dr. Howard Schubiner
Back in Control: A Spine Surgeon's Roadmap Out of Chronic Pain - book by Dr. David Hanscom
They Can't Find Anything Wrong!: 7 Keys to Understanding, Treating, and Healing Stress Illness - book by Dr. David Clarke
Think Away Your Pain - book by Dr. David Schechter
The Great Pain Deception: Faulty Medical Advice Is Making Us Worse– book by Steven Ozanich
Pain Free for Life: The 6-Week Cure for Chronic Pain, Without Surgery or Drugs– book by Dr. Scott Brady
Freedom from Fibromyalgia : The 5-Week Program Proven to Conquer Pain - book by Dr. Nancy Selfridge
Pathways to Pain Relief– book by psychotherapists that worked alongside Dr. Sarno- Dr. Frances Sommer Anderson & Dr. Eric Sherman