CONSIDER: HOW IS MY PAIN RELATED TO TENSION?
Here are some thoughts after reading The Mindbody Prescription (1998) and the Divided Mind (2006) both by John Sarno, MD.
Using tons of valid evidence, Sarno asserts that many of our maladies are caused by Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS):
We unconsciously feel an unacceptable emotion, which causes muscular tension, which constricts blood supply, which decreases oxygen to the area, resulting in pain (and acidity, I must point out). We don’t even know we are doing it.
Right before it happens, our unconscious inner child is reacting to a painful thought, while our inner parent squashes the angry behavior of the child. (These inner parts of us correlate to Freud’s id, ego, superego.)
To really “get” Sarno’s work, imagine a two-year-old throwing an all-out temper tantrum. That screaming, red-in-the-face, too-mad-to-spit attitude. This is the kind of energy we repress, which kicks into TMS and pain.
When I first read Sarno’s work, I judged it a bit extreme, especially his claim that we have so much buried rage. However I began to observe it playing out in my own life on a subtle but strong level.
For instance, one morning I wanted a rare cup of coffee, and I love the cream that goes with it. But I discovered “my” cream had been all used up by others in the household. I rationalized away my disappointment. Meanwhile a sharp pain started in my left temple. I paid attention to it. I realized, underneath everything, I actually felt as enraged as a two-year-old: “Why do I have to share my stuff??” This was immature behavior that I almost suppressed — after all, I’m a nice person, I wouldn’t scream at such a silly thing, would I?
As I recognized and allowed my anger, I saw it as valid and acceptable. I spoke to my inner child, ‘yes, you were so looking forward to this, you like that cream, you have every right to feel angry, it is not fair.’ Lo and behold, my head pain stopped. It did not expand into a headache, which it so easily could have done. I’ve had similar experiences in various body parts (wrist, back, knee, foot), which I’ve observed since adopting Sarno’s approach. (A strong Inner Observer, acquired through meditation, helps to see these incidents more clearly.)
For those people willing to admit that their pain or illness is exacerbated by tension and may have a psychological component, Sarno has had a 90% success rate in quelling virtually every kind of chronic pain and disorders of the gastrointestinal, genitourinary, skin, circulatory, and immune systems.
The “cure” is truly dependant on the client’s acceptance of the TMS idea and their ability to find the points of hidden anger or other issues within themselves which contribute to their ailment. Sarno recommends a process of bringing the subconscious into awareness, and then telling one’s brain and body that you won’t stand for this habit of repressing the dark emotions. (However I suggest to approach oneself in a soft supportive way rather than fighting oneself.)
Normal Personality traits contribute to TMS because they impact the irrational inner child:
Low Self-Esteem – the inner child’s feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, childish feelings. Perfectionism – holding high standards; ambitious, hard-driving, self-critical.
Goodism – the need to be good; to be seen by others as good (big pressure on inner child).
Hostility and Aggression – which may relate to anxiety and depression (repressed rage).
Guilt – imposed by the inner parent, which further enrages the inner child.
Dependency – the inner child wants to be taken care of, but often our needs go unmet.
We all have the above traits, to some degree. They are normal. This is just something to recognize in ourselves. We’re only human.
What to do: Make a written list of all the pressures in your life, no matter how small. They all contribute to your inner rage. Your inner child, your id, wants you to know that you endure a lot. You force it to do stuff it doesn’t want to do. Even tiny issues not worth mentioning are worth mentioning on this list.
Watch carefully the way you cover up subtle irritation so your ego can shore up your niceness.
Most important→ For each of the pressures on your list, develop the ability to DROP this old story, after you bring it to light. Yes, there’s the anger or the fear or the unmet need; yes, my inner child wants what it wants right now. It’s irrational and that’s okay with me. I embrace my childish and socially-unacceptable impulse right now. See it, breathe through it, release it. I embrace my inner child.
Seeing my irrational tantrum is okay with me. It is all right to feel my rage and breathe through this moment of intensity. I would rather see it and feel it than let it shift toward restricted blood flow and physical pain.