Tag Archives: emotions

#19–Emotions: What you don’t notice, can hurt you

Emotions, particularly those that are subconscious, were not seriously studied by the scientific community until relatively recently.  For much of the 20th century, psychologists were more interested in studying our conscious awareness and didn’t think that it really mattered what might be going on beneath the surface of consciousness. 

Paul Ekman has gained a great deal of notoriety recently (the new TV show “Lie to Me” is based on his work) and his pioneering work demonstrated that people from all of the different cultures of the world experience and show the same emotions via their facial expressions.  His work is detailed in his book, Emotions Revealed, and is fascinating reading.  Dr. Ekman and others have also conducted research that shows that emotions cause very specific reactions in the body that are distinct.  In other words, emotions are universal and they are indelibly attached to specific physical reactions.  This work has helped to explain why someone may develop back pain when angry and another person may develop headaches.

Another giant in the study of emotions has been Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at New York University.  Dr. LeDoux has done studies to help us understand how emotions are generated and processed in the brain.  His excellent book, The Emotional Brain, details what we know about how the brain handles emotions and we have learned a lot!

We now know that emotions are part of our survival mechanism and are part of the brains of all creatures.  We are hard wired to constantly scan the world around us for danger.  We do this as part of being alive by subconscious brain mechanisms.  When we encounter something that might be dangerous, such as a snake, a menacing look, or a car heading towards us, we instantly react (even before we are truly aware of the danger) in order to avert the danger and save our life.  These reactions are controlled by the amygdala and the autonomic nervous system.  We pick up cues to potential dangers and these nerve signals are instantly transferred to these centers; the amygdala is the center that processes emotions such as fear and anger and the autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls our heart, lungs, bowels, bladder, blood vessels and muscles.  The ANS acts to generate the fight or flight reaction (actually the fight, flight or freeze reaction), which causes our bodies to react to danger.  These systems operate in all creatures on a subconscious basis, meaning we are not consciously aware of these systems.     Continue reading

Dealing with doubt, thoughts and emotions — MBS Blog #14

Several people have asked me how they can deal with troublesome thoughts and emotions that arise.  These thoughts and emotions, such as doubts about really having TMS/MBS or worry if you’ll ever get better or fear about developing pain, are extremely common.  Everyone has those from time to time or even very frequently. 

 

So, how can you deal with doubts, fear and worry?  You may worry about having some medical/physical problems instead of MBS/TMS and how do you deal with others when they challenge your view of MBS/TMS and suggest that there is some medical/physical problem going on.  These questions boil down to two main issues, I think.  The first has to do with doubt about the diagnosis of MBS/TMS.  The second has to do with the issue of the power of thoughts and emotions.

 

Dr. Sarno always (correctly) says that we need to “erase doubt.”  People always do better in the MBS/TMS program when they are convinced that their physical and psychological problems are due to emotions, stress and reactions to stress, both conscious and unconscious.  However, we are in this boat because we are human, i.e. we have minds and bodies and they constantly interact.  Because we have minds, we will frequently have thoughts that make us wonder if we’re on the right track.  I spoke to a lady today who told me that she must have something physically wrong because her pain was so severe, despite the fact that her pain had gotten much better after one week of working with the MBS/TMS program.  So, it is important to erase doubt, but some doubts will undoubtedly creep in.  Severe pain can definitely impair your ability to think and process emotions.  It can lead to depression and more emotions, which can further impair your ability to cope with pain and which can itself lead to more pain.  Some doctors also suggest that severe pain can lead to decreases in efficacy of anti-depressant medications, thus compounding the problem further.  The more pain, the more doubt and then things can get spiraling out of control.  In those cases, you really need to stop and go back to the beginning.  You may need to seek medical advice for reassurance that there is in fact nothing more serious going on and you may even need some more testing to confirm this. 

 

This leads to the second issue: the power of thoughts and emotions.  It is critical to realize that thoughts are uncontrollable, i.e. one can never choose what thoughts will come into their heads.  The mind will continually come up with a huge variety of thoughts, many of which are unproductive, weird, wild, inane, or beautiful.  If we can’t control out own thoughts, one certainly cannot control other people’s thoughts, and therefore we must learn ways of dealing with thoughts and reacting to thoughts or else we will be at the mercy of every stray thought that we (or someone else) comes up with.  And, of course, it is not only thoughts that we need to deal with, but emotions as well, which are basically thoughts that are connected to important material from our past. 

 

After doing a lot of research on how the brain works, I have developed a model to explain how MBS develops in the brain.  You can watch a video about this on my web site, www.yourpainisreal.com.  When pain occurs, it activates nerve pathways which send those pain signals to the brain and particularly to the amygdala, which is the emotional center of the brain and the area that can immediately activate the autonomic nerve system (ANS), which is the unconscious connection to the body to create the fight, flight or freeze reaction.  These reactions are immediate, so that if you feel the pain of a burning match, you will immediately pull your hand away before you can even think about what is happening.  This reaction occurs within 12 milliseconds, much faster than could occur if you had to send those signals up to the frontal cortex where you would become aware of them consciously.  This reaction protects us from danger and happens without our conscious awareness. 

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