I had been suffering from back spasms and chronic pain for years. Then one snowy day when my flight was delayed, I came across a book titled, “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection,” by Dr. John Sarno. This book confirmed something I had suspected all along: chronic pain is may be a mind-body condition. Other terms used are psychogenic and psychosomatic, but what do they mean?
In short, mind is the real source of a condition that manifests as pain in the body. Deep breath. That doesn’t mean the pain isn’t real or nothing’s going on physically. It’s not “all in your head” either. Yet, something taking place in the mind is resulting in pain in the body. This was good news for me for two reasons.
First, I need explain what was going on at the time. My pain was getting to the point where I really thought I had an undiagnosed degenerative disease. I was scared, thinking if it didn’t kill me, it would soon leave me disabled. So, to hear Dr. Sarno say that Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) – the mind-body chronic pain condition he identified – results in no severe or lasting physical damage was a tremendous relief.
Secondly, my extensive background in Buddhist philosophy and mindfulness meditation had taught me that it’s possible to resolve our issues by working with our mind and emotions. In a way, I already had the skill sets needed to beat this thing. I just had to figure out how to apply them.
Understanding the mindbody connection and the influence mind has on the body can help anyone feel better, be more active, and even overcome disease. A healthy mind is the basis of a happy life. Furthermore, knowing how to relate to the thinking mind and process emotions are important skill sets, yet few people take the time to acquire them.
Getting back to me…
I’m still learning how to overcome pain, however I experience much less pain daily and it’s been months since I had any serious muscle spasms.
Most importantly, I’m discovering how to relax with being just who I am (even with all my foibles and flaws). You see, perfectionism and people pleasing are strong indicators of the personality type that tends to develop chronic pain (yep, that’s me). So I’m learning how to use mindfulness to release self-judgment and appreciate myself just the way I am.