Tag Archives: fear

MBS Blog #24: The “disease” of TMS/MBS: Lori’s story


The “disease” of TMS/MBS: Lori’s story


The last two blogs have dealt with the issue of fear and how fear can often derail the recovery process from TMS/MBS.  I thought it would be helpful to read the story of a brave woman who is confronting her fears head on.  Here is Lori’s story:


“Fear is a big issue for me right now, but I am making some progress in dealing with it. In the blog entry titled “A rose by any other name…” it says people can see themselves as having a disease called “TMS” and see themselves as a victim of their life events, their stressors, or their mind. It goes on to say that people with TMS/MBS do not have a diseased autonomic nervous system (ANS). Until I read that, I hadn’t had the specific thought, “I have a diseased ANS”, at least not consciously. But when I thought about it, I realized that I really did fear that I had a disease or syndrome or chronic problem called “TMS” or “MBS”. I thought that since my physical symptoms were caused by emotional triggers, then those emotional triggers would always cause physical symptoms. I worried that whenever I was stressed, anxious, angry, guilty, or in a confrontation, I’d start to have physical symptoms. And since I often did have physical symptoms in those cases, that reinforced my fear of the emotional triggers.


“I read that blog entry over and over again, several times a day. I started to realize that when I did have physical symptoms, I had been thinking I had done something “wrong” to have caused them. I figured I shouldn’t have put myself in a stressful situation, or gotten angry and not calmed down quickly enough, or felt guilty and not figured out how to stop feeling guilty. Since I knew the physical symptom was due to an emotional trigger, I blamed myself for putting myself in the situation that caused the emotional trigger, or not controlling it well enough. Then I feared encountering future emotional triggers, thinking it was inevitable that they would lead to physical symptoms because I “had” MBS.

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MBS Blog #23: Understanding and Overcoming Fear

It has become very clear to me over the last year or so that one of the biggest impediments to recovery from Mind Body syndrome (MBS) is fear.  It seems to be a part of the experience of so many people that it should be considered as a normal part of the MBS experience and therefore everyone will probably need to deal with fear at some point in their recovery.  In this blog, I will take a stab at identifying the sources of fear, the meaning of fear and offer some thoughts and methods on dealing with fear.

Where does fear come from?  We should recognize that fear is part of the normal experience of life.  We are born with a brain system that is built to protect us from danger and harm, i.e. to help us survive in a dangerous world where we may become stalked by a predator or endangered by one of our own species; another human being.  This system resides in the deeper parts of the brain (sometimes called the “reptilian brain”), it operates all of the time by constantly scanning the environment for danger, and it is clearly in the subconscious (or unconscious) part of the brain, i.e. we are not aware of its actions until after it has acted.  When we sense danger, the brain sends immediate signals from the amygdala (the emotional center of the brain) to the hypothalamus (where the autonomic nervous system resides) to cause some kind of action in our bodies.  Again, this occur without conscious awareness and our bodies are programmed to react to danger by activating the fight or flight reaction pathways.  After our body reacts (with muscle tension, gut or bladder tension, and many other reactions), we THEN become aware of the sensation of fear.  Interestingly, studies have shown that people who are paralyzed have lesser degrees of the sensation of fear (and other emotions).  Continue reading

MBS Blog #22: Confronting Fear Head On: Brad’s Story

Many people find that fear of not being able to recover from MBS and fear of pain are major factors preventing their recovery.  In order to address these issues, I offer the courageous story of Brad in his own words.  Following that (in the next blog), you will find my comments on dealing with fear and several methods that can help.


“In the late 1980s, I became totally crippled with back pain shortly after an incredibly stressful four-month period. I couldn’t do much besides lie around. I saw several doctors, who gave me a variety of diagnoses, and I realized they were just guessing, so I went to the library do some research. By chance (thank God!) I saw Dr. Sarno’s first book, Mind Over Back Pain, on the shelf. I took it out, and after reading it I knew that my pain had been caused by my recent psychological tensions. I also concluded that I had become literally phobic about many movements and decided that the only way to break the phobia was to challenge it with graduated exercise. So I began to exercise and lift weights.  However, I was very timid and therefore didn’t exercise as aggressively as I could have. 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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