The first key to curing TMS, mind-body syndrome, or neuroplastic pain is to get medically evaluated and prove to yourself that there is nothing physically wrong with you.
The next key is self-compassion. While there are many other wonderful ways to heal from this psychogenic syndrome, self-compassion is the royal road to most of them. Self-compassion allows you to patiently and kindly pursue a path of self-inquiry. Looking at personality traits, habits, and fallout from past trauma is not an easy gig. Doing it with warmth and self-compassion lightens the load and makes it more likely that whatever insights and changes you make will stick.
Not all people who deal with TMS are highly sensitive, or empaths, but many are. If that describes you, and you fit the type T personality (you have one or more of the following traits: perfectionistic, do-gooder, stoic, overly reliable, uber-responsible, harboring unconscious repressed anger, self-critical, impatient, anxious, and easily frustrated), your biggest hurdle in recovery might be developing self-compassion.
Self-criticism, stoicism, and over-giving to the point of feeling overwhelmed or burned out, are the opposites of self-compassion. Self-compassion is the ability to respond with kindness and patience to yourself in all realms of existence: physical, relational, emotional, and intellectual. (You can find more on self-compassion here: https://holisticdivorcecounseling.com/self-compassion-the-way/)
If you are a highly sensitive person or an empath, it may be far easier for you to have compassion for others than yourself. That can be heightened if you grew up with a harsh, critical, or punitive parent. It’s natural for a child to absorb those messages and perpetuate them with internal negative self-talk.
Many adults have had a history of being bullied or shamed in childhood, whether that was by a peer, coach, teacher, or parent. This is fertile ground for developing TMS. (Childhood trauma predisposes some people to have somatic issues. You can take a very short questionnaire on adverse childhood experiences here: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/media-coverage/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean/)
If you had a parent or a sibling with mental health issues, addiction, physical challenges, or developmental issues, you could easily get the message that your issues were less important and less deserving of compassion. Since a child’s brain is so malleable and porous, those lessons are easily ingrained.
If you’re female, you grew up in a society where women are expected to take care of everybody, no matter what the cost to themselves. Anything less is considered selfish. Thankfully, that’s changing a bit, but it was prevalent when most adults were growing up.
In addition, society tends to give a lot more credibility to physical issues than emotional ones. Until fairly recently, emotional issues were considered weaknesses. The unconscious mind is aware of society’s predilections and will unconsciously convert difficult or painful emotions into physical conditions.
Under these circumstances, it’s easy to see how developing and maintaining self-compassion can take a Herculean effort.
Thankfully, our brains are neuroplastic and flexible. We can rewire them by actively changing our internal monologue.
First, notice the slightest negative self-talk. That can be quite challenging as it’s easier to notice a negative emotion because it’s usually felt in the body. Anxiety, depression, and anger at yourself are a few trailheads leading you to discover what you might be thinking when those emotions arise.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when you sense a negative emotion:
What could I be telling myself that makes me feel X, Y, or Z?
Once you detect a negative, self-critical, demeaning, or harsh thought, ask:
Is this how I want to talk to myself?
If it isn’t, think of other ways you might change your narrative to something kinder. If that’s too hard, ask yourself how you would talk to a child if they expressed the same thought.
Noticing and naming negative self-talk is often enough to shift your mental script as it brings to light the self-downing that is often habitual and barely conscious.
Classic vipassana, or breath-based meditation, with its emphasis on watching thoughts and labeling them can be incredibly effective as it builds awareness and strengthens the habit of watching those thoughts pass. (I highly recommend the free Insight Timer app for guidance.)
While it may not be obvious, both gentle yoga and qigong practices can be great paths to self-compassion. When we allow the body to inform and support the mind through moving forms of meditation, we unleash stagnant emotional energy and let it flow in fresh, unfettered ways. This can deeply enhance your cellular sense of well-being, rebalance your emotions, and miraculously shift your self-talk. It’s a self-compassionate act to take time to nurture your body, mind, and spirit in these ancient somatic meditative practices. (https://holisticdivorcecounseling.com/qigong-for-trauma-stability-strength-flexibility-and-emotional-balance/ https://holisticdivorcecounseling.com/yoga/)
Vigilance, consistency, and a heartfelt intention to create a new inner landscape of safety and self-compassion are necessary to make this tectonic shift.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang