Tag Archives: John Sarno MD

How Your #Rage Can Harm Your #Body; How Awareness Can Cure You


“The subject is pain. But we’re not talking about pain that’s due to some sort of structural abnormality; but rather the pain that is generated in us when we put ourselves under pressure to be perfect and good.” –Dr. John Sarno, M.D.; Rehabilitative Medicine, New York University Medical Center

“I have never met Dr. Sarno. I have seen miraculous results of people I’ve sent to him. Results from people who just read his books.” –Dr. Andrew Weil, Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine

There’s a film documentary coming out that might change your life, spare you surgery, save the country millions of dollars, get people off drugs and change the way we think about pain. The pain we’re talking about here includes:

  • TMJ
  • Migraine
  • Back ache (me!)
  • Plantar fasciitis (me!)
  • Tendonitis (me!)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (me?), and more

I say this with a ton of confidence because the movie is based on the proven work of John Sarno, M.D., whose many books have changed lives.

Whose lives? Senator Tom Harkin, John Stossel, Howard Stern, Larry David, mine, friends I won’t mention because that’s their personal business.

I’ve been in contact with one of the staffers on the film’s promotions crew and we’ve been emailing back and forth. She was so interested in my story that she asked me to share it with you on my blog and mention the movie in hopes to get more people to support it or at least spread the word.

Here’s the public pitch for “All the Rage” (of which I am a proud Kickstarter backer):

“All The Rage” is a film that can save America from untold suffering and economic collapse. This isn’t hyperbole. The cost of pain has risen from $56 billion per year in 1986 to $636 billion in 2012. Dr. Sarno knows the reason. The pain is caused by stress related to the repression of our emotions. Sounds crazy, but it makes sense. In the 70’s he predicted this epidemic. The cure is knowledge and this film can deliver it.

Here’s the trailer for it (my favorite place at 2:22 is when Senator Tom Harkin is speaking at a formal hearing about his successful experiences due to Sarno and the man on the other side of the table can’t seem to answer him):

I have written here and here about my own journey with mindbody and chronic pain. I have written here candidly and humorously about my eye-opening journey regarding PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD — the opposite of “euphoria” is “dysphoria”) and it wasn’t until last week when I was corresponding with a member of the promotions team for “All the Rage” that I made the connection about my personal Sarno-related issue (which I’ve yet to really talk about because I suppressed so much of it), that it revolves around my anger; my deep rage that I have relative to my own personal story; and the fact that my PMDD is quite likely related keenly to mindbody medicine.

I want to include a clip from the film. It’s an interview with Dr. Sarno’s wife, Martha, who was a revolutionary speech pathologist. In her work she made the connection between the indescribable (no pun intended) trauma in her patients’ personal lives and their inability to speak. I can’t share it with you because you need to be a Kickstarter “backer” to see it. But I’ll quote her:

…They were so focused on the disability; ‘fix the speech,’ ‘fix the language,’ forgetting that these poor people were going through horrors in their lives. They couldn’t express themselves. Their families were desperate. And nobody ever talked about how they felt…

Martha Sarno changed all that. She made that connection and now because of her work and incorporating the psychological aspect into her healing regimen, she radically changed treatment of speech pathology issues. In the clip, she continues to speak about how her husband’s work is a threat to established orthopedists and rehabilitative specialists and surgeons everywhere…  What Dr. Sarno has uncovered will end a lot of country club memberships for a lot of fancy doctors and health insurance people…

All of a sudden the pain was gone, it was the closest thing I’ve ever had in my life to a religious experience, and I wept. –Larry David

I’ve tinkered for years with the concept of writing a memoir. I even wrote a fictionalized one about three years ago. At the time, my mother was still alive and I never felt “correct” about what I wrote or shared. I felt as though I owed her some sort of coverage or protection despite the years of emotional trauma and neglect. I still, at 47, am reluctant and almost fearful about writing anything really personal on my blog or in a book because it would offend my father, who is still living. Regardless: I suffered in my childhood and adolescence due to my mother’s addictions and mental illnesses. I also believe there was a great deal that could have helped her and it wasn’t done. She endured a tremendous loss: her second son was born and died three days later and she never met or held him. In those days, 1965, you didn’t talk about your problems. You bucked up. I can’t imagine her grief. She self-medicated for that and enormous anxiety. She told me a little about her grief from losing John a few months before she died, but it was masking her rage. She said that too.

I’ve never disclosed a lot of what I grew up with. I’ve alluded to it and I know it doesn’t compare to some other peoples’ issues, but it’s my story so it’s real to me. I’m sure I’ll catch hell for saying this much; some form of silent treatment, but I’m an adult and I realize that if I continue that narrative, that everything was roses and carrot cake, that I will continue to have muscular pain, tendonitis, undiagnosable GI stuff (food sensitivities and reactions which make no sense) and sciatica.

How do I know they’re not real? Because they come and go. Because X-rays and MRIs (yes, lots of insurance billing going on) tell me that they see nothing. That there’s nothing wrong. But the pain and the symptoms are real. What do you do then? If you’re me, you learn to compensate. You build muscle anyway; go for a row anyway; run a few miles in pain anyway; do push-ups with elbow or shoulder pain and downward facing dogs with sciatica burning down your leg. Why? Because when the stress is gone, the pain is gone. I also choose the push through it because my mom didn’t.

When I shared a friendship with someone, I never connected the unbearable neck and shoulder pain I had during a conflict and then just as a matter of course as time wore on. Even now, I can feel it creeping back in. When we separated, the pain almost melted away. If I think of her, the pain comes back. Last week, I considered reaching out to her because I felt bad about how things have gone, but then two nights ago I had a dream that I was in her car and she took me on a wooden roller coaster in her car (I couldn’t buckle my seat belt) and I couldn’t get off the ride. It was as vivid as reality: my stomach swelled upon the rise to the crest of the first hill and then I felt the plunge and g-forces of the drop and my body ache on curves and my head hurt on the loop-de-loops. When I woke I was nauseated and exhausted and my back hurt. I know now that there’s no chance I can be well — I would be ignoring my very body’s signals! — if I ever resumed that relationship.

If you can allow yourself to allow the experience (yes, lots of allowing going on) that your throat gets a lump in it when you feel like you’re going to cry, then you can allow yourself to allow to understand how continually bracing yourself against a psychic and emotional tidal wave composed of unexpressed feelings ( disappointment, anger, fear, jealousy or other heavy emotions), can leave your body looking caving in to protect itself or … for a way to express it.

And that’s what this is about: your body’s expression, quite literally, of that emotional repression. In a yoga sense, a lot of this ties in so beautifully with the chakra systems and the sides of our body which experience “dis-ease.” In mindbody medicine, concept is that your psyche can’t deal with the emotional pain, so it “distracts” you by referring the pain to your back, jaw, brain, digestive system… it’s not that different from a panic attack. How does a panic attack get you to not think about the emotional stuff, what’s really bothering you? By telling your body you’re dying.

Dr. Sarno talks a lot in his books about “goodism” and “good-ists” — those people (all of us) who feel pressure to Do The Right Thing, Always, based on what is morally or socially correct and acceptable. For example: sometimes you just don’t want to go to a _____________ but everyone is going to be there and having a great time, so instead of honoring your needs, you go to ______________ and then you get a headache or your back goes out or your stomach hurts. It’s all related, trust me.

How to stop it? Well, in the meantime before the movie comes out, read any of the books Sarno has written and join thousands of other people who feel relief just from READING A BOOK. Why does that work? Because you realize you’re not crazy OR alone. There’s no placebo, no waiting room, no patronizing nods of sympathy from a jaded receptionist. No looking for a parking space.

Most of Sarno’s patients don’t require psychotherapy or other similar interventions (some may) and there’s no fear about changing your personality. You don’t even have to talk about it or consider a memoir like yours truly. You’re fine the way you are, but your pain can go away.

I read twenty pages [of Dr.Sarno’s book] and my pain almost cuts down by 75%.
–Jonathan Ames

What this movie and book and movement are giving to me is the confidence to move forward with writing my memoir because I feel like I have a relevant space to hook it into: health and personal advocacy. I’ve already decided that my first line would be, “I never knew how angry I was until I wasn’t anymore.” My well-being and health had been held hostage by my anger at my parents for the lies I witnessed and the confusion and pain I endured. Thanks to the emails I’d shared with the movie publicist, I connected that my food issues began in the spring of 1994 when I was planning my wedding. That was my first trip to the Gastroenterologist. All my “flare ups” happen in the spring when I was planning the wedding. I also saw a cardiologist then because of panic attacks (this just came back to me right now); my heart was all wonky but brought on by anxiety. I am convinced my PMDD was related to my rage from growing up with all that dysfunction as well.

You don’t have to hail from a dysfunctional family to benefit from Sarno and this film (even though about 80% of us are from dysfunctional families or are in families with some measure of dysfunction surrounding them). You could simply be disappointed that you never felt ______ in your life and are dealing with chronic pain and nothing you’ve done so far seems to help.

I don’t think I’ve ever asked you for help, but today I am. If nothing else, please spread the word to help support this cause. The Kickstarter campaign ends December 17, 2014.

Thank you.


30 Days of Brené Brown — Day 6: #vulnerability #TMS #courage #Sarno #suffering #innovation


Welcome to Day 6 of “30 Days of Brené Brown” wherein I’m relating, on my blog here, to each quote as determined by Goodreads.

Here is today’s quote:

 Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.
― Brené Brown

Today, I’m taking a risk of vulnerability to tell you about the physical pain we create in ourselves without knowing it.

Any volunteers? Oh. Me. Ok.

Never in my life have two people (until now), whose clinical work I admire, crossed jet trails: Dr. John Sarno’s and Brené Brown’s. Brown writes compulsively about vulnerability, emotional freedom, courage and the harm of perfectionism. Sarno just puts it all in a different framework:

from http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Personality_Traits - click on link for the complete online list

from http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/TMS_Personality_Traits – click on link for the complete online list

That chart. That was basically my FBI profile. I’ve dialed way back on my people pleasing, legalistic and perfectionism stuff. Check out that chart… if you see yourself on it (and you will), high-five me.

On Day 1, Brown said something about the challenges in owning our stories versus running from them and that when we own them, when we step into the darkness we can come to know the power of our light.

Today, we’re here to talk about how vulnerability drives change. I owe it to myself to really do this right.

But first: I can’t tell my big life story on this blog because it keeps coming out in chunks. I need to sit and compose it in one place. I remember a friend saying last year, “Why would you write your memoir? You’re not famous.” The resultant shame I felt inside, burning and humiliating and basic resignation was unbearable; I remember my stomach immediately sinking. Sometimes friends suck at being friends.

Indeed, I thought, who would want to hear my story? Who the hell am I to think that anyone would give a damn? I don’t know who, but but I do know this: Keeping it inside breaks down my body, joint by joint and ligament by ligament. Maybe the best thing which comes from telling your story –once and for all– is that you can finally put it to bed.

This putting it to bed is something I have never done. Instead, I have repressed a bunch of heavy duty emotions to the tune which Sarno would determine as the catalysts for all manner of -itises on my elbows, knees, shoulders, stomach stuff, food allergies I ignore and some freakin’ sciatica that I want to heave.

The good news: is that I live my life despite these ailments, as many of us do. I’m dependable, I’m not a social mess, I’m physically active, and I do my best to be honest with myself. The other great news is that like a lot of people out there, I’m emotionally balanced, I’ve been married almost 20 years, I’ve got three great kids and my friends like me. I really try not to be a burden.


Ok. Vulnerability leads to change.

In 2009, a relative told me about Dr. John Sarno’s book The MindBody Prescription. This relative plays her cards close to the vest and thus seldom recommends anything, so when she told me about this one, I had to believe it. She sent it to me, actually, as a gift.

Anyway, the book changed my life. I read it in three weeks (I’m a diligent, deliberate reader) with all manner of annotations and highlights. When I was finished, my gastric stuff cleared up completely. I mean… goneski for the entire season. Then it returned, but I understand it better and it’s under control.

Sarno’s other books, The Divided Mind, and Healing Back Pain talk about the same issues; The MindBody Prescription is his most recent book. He has a theory, to which I subscribe completely, that all these ailments I mention, AND some others including (I’m wincing, don’t get mad at me) such as migraines, fibromyalgia, Epstein-Barre, chronic fatigue, IBS, TMJ and allergies (yes!) are all symptoms of our mind’s ability to repress negative emotions until our bodies can’t take it anymore and then we have these issues.

He’s a medical doctor. He’s a pariah in his community. He has changed lives. His books piss people off.

These fruitless pursuits: invulnerability, perfectionism, people pleasing, rigidity/stoicism, “legalist” (being right) … and so many more all work against us. Our bodies simply can’t take it and the longer we fight it, the weaker we get, just from “trying to keep it together, man!” and we burst either by our muscles giving out, our bellies blowing out (sorry), our brains shutting down with migraines, or our bodies saying “fuck it” with fibromyalgia.

According to Sarno, the culprits (hang on to your hats) are unexpressed, unattended, pent-up, repressed, suppressed, denied, projected and completely ignored hidden narcissistic rage from our childhoods — stay with me — which can come from a shitty childhood, a horrific childhood, or a completely normal childhood.

Just because you had a normal childhood doesn’t mean you weren’t pissed when you didn’t get the red lollipop instead of the orange one and that when your little sister got the red one you wanted to smash it into her face. Admit it. You wanted to grind that red lollipop into her stupid sweet, smiling, ugly perfect, little face. (I feel better already and I don’t have a sister!)

Feeling those feelings is normal. Acting them out is frowned upon. Even (especially) in polite company we don’t share such feelings, but man… that’s where we done screwed up.

I’ve read The MindBody Prescription three times. Each time I do, I am relieved in one form or another. The crap I’m going through right now, this stupid sciatica, is bullshit. Plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with me physically, it’s in my head. You should hear me talk to my ailments, I’m like a cyber bully: “You’re nothing, useless, you don’t exist. You have no value… You suck…”

I discovered this morning on my walk with The Murph, that I have put off reading it this time because I said, “I don’t want to read nonfiction; I’m tired of it.”

Well, how urbane and smart I sound.

The bottom line, as I admitted to myself, is that reading nonfiction means reading reality and reading reality means I have to live in my reality and living in my reality means I need to admit and allow some feelings and allowing some feelings means I have to … see? I can’t even go there.

Oof! Butt pain!

Because I subscribe to all things woo-woo (Western medicine is so far from having everything figured out) I also know that the sides of our bodies have distinct messages to share with us.

The right side is the masculine side.
The left side is the feminine side.

All my pain, for most of my life, has been on my right side.  Since four months before Mom died, I’ve had this nagging sciatic stuff on my right. It’s mostly been nagging, nothing too major. But the last three weeks? Get me a gurney. It must be the holidays.

The joint and ligament stuff, it’s a bear. I really hate it. The fact that it’s on my right side is telling me that it’s about the masculine energy in my life. The fact that it’s been bugging me since spring, when my father stopped speaking to me because I made demands about my mother’s care, tells me that it’s likely about him and that I need to do some Work, emotionally, to truly give the pain the heave ho.

It means I have to let go. Let go of the resentment and the control. After all these years — decades upon decades of my life — I suspect I will feel lost. Is it better to hang on to the resentment that I knew forged me or let go and float down?

Letting go for me means have to live in the now and the reality of Mom never coming back and my never being able to fix her and the fucking frustration I have had inside me all my life about wanting her well. Phuuuuck. It’s acting up again. My right hamstring is howling at me; it feels like it’s about to snap and I’m just sitting here.

To me, a lot of what is causing our sadness, our Sarno issues, is that people are afraid to admit their fragility. We are gossamer, but we have limits.

We have an attachment to brawn, to guts, to bravery, to courage and strength and all attachments lead to suffering. This attachment concept is more than metaphorical: in the case of my elbow tendonitis — the grasping mechanism, I was told lonnnnng ago by my acupuncturist, “Sometimes we hold on to things too tightly.”

NnnnNnnn. What did he know?

I was “holding on” to Mom then, she was making headway, but it was elusive. The codependence was at an all-time high: it was as though she did it for me to witness it for her to do it for me to see her be well for me to see her do it… get it? There is no way to keep that up; it results in disappointment. We must pursue our health for ourselves; if we hinge it on anyone else, it’s too much — there will always be missteps. We are human; we make mistakes.

Brawn, guts, our modern attachment to them, they are all façades for the real action of vulnerability: it takes guts to admit flaws and sensitivities, to put ourselves (myself) out there.

The things I do for you people… 😉

So here’s the finalé of this post: if you’re suffering physically and you suspect you’re repressing emotionally, do yourself a favor and get one of Sarno’s books. Check it out on the cheap: read Mark’s Daily Apple about the physical effects of repressing negative emotions. Go to the TMS / PDD wiki website and learn more.

You don’t have to suffer. All attachments cause suffering. That’s your first truth.

For me, I hope this step into vulnerability will usher my innovation and change in the form of freedom from lies I’ve been hearing all these years.

Thank you.

ps – apologies for the length of this one; combining two writers in one post is bound to be verbose.

Quickie: Gratitude

Quickie: Gratitude

I have a lot to do today but I wanted to take a moment to give thanks for a very simple thing: lack of physical pain.

I caved yesterday and had the 2nd cortisone shot in my left elbow for the tennis elbow I’ve been dealing with since January.

I’ve done all manner of interventions: acupuncture, massage, strength and physical therapy. I even did a wacky self-induced masochistic torture which did provide some relief, but never took it away.

I am a Big Believer in psycho-genetic pain. I have read several books by Dr. John D. Sarno on the matter of “Tension Myositis Syndrome” (the link will take you to his site, but his work goes way beyond back pain) and I believe what he says has legs. I have friends who think I’m nuts — they actually look at me like I’ve got three heads when I start talking about the connection between emotional repression and physical pain or the chakras and how they manifest what we’re up against. I still love these people and I don’t care if they think I’m nuts. I end up feeling better and they continue to repress. I’m digressing…

I have personally experienced relief of physical ailments by participating in the exercises (mental folks, so the only sweating you’re gonna do is emotional) Sarno proposes. This tennis elbow is included in that experience, but it hasn’t gone away completely because I believe two things: 1) I haven’t done enough of The Work he proposes and 2) I am still holding back a few things which leads me back to #1. I am digressing again, I apologize.

The point is: I am grateful for the shot of cortisone. My pain is gone, completely, for the time being and that means I can concentrate on healing inside because I won’t be distracted by the manifested physical pain. Maybe I will write a post about it. Maybe…

I am extremely aware at this moment of people who are in pain. I am conscious of it because now I don’t have any and I know what it’s like to wake up with the pain I’d had for about nine months as my body gradually adapted and muscles compensated for the injury. This morning, I woke with the phantom of that pain: anticipating it but not feeling it. Worried about it but not experiencing it. Obsessing over it, but not having it. I am sort of out of sorts — the pain had become a part of my existence and my identity. I have fear in my heart that it will return; part of this (the return of the pain) I can not control; the fear I can. And I will have to work on that.

I know that everyone out there who lives with pain on an hourly, moment-by-moment and daily basis is in my heart today.

I am putting together a post because I have won three blogger awards in the last three weeks: Versatile Blogger, Very Inspiring Blogger and the Liebster Blog Award.  I am thrilled and grateful for the recognition; there are fantastic writers and photographers and artists out there that I’m gonna share. I hope you will take a peek at that post! If you love movies, I’ve got a site for you. If you love painters, I’ve got a couple sites for you. If you love holistic health, I’ve got a site for you. If you love woo-woo psychic stuff, I’ve got some sites for you. I’ve got you covered, is all I’m gonna say. So, stick around. We’ll be right back.

Thank you.