All the Rage: A Film About John Sarno MD and Psychosomatic Pain
What do Howard Stern, Larry David, John Stossel, Senator Tom Harkin, and pro-golfer Ben Crane have in common? They all suffered from debilitating pain until they met Dr. John Sarno. All the Rage is a feature film about Sarno and others who are pioneering mind body approaches to treating chronic illness. I am one of several psychotherapists who treats people suffering from psychosomatic pain, and may be interviewed in the film. To take a look at All the Rage, go to this link after you've read this blog or while reading it It will be a real eye-opener.:
In an earlier blog, Chronic Pain Syndrome and Other Psychosomatic Illness, I wrote about my friend, on bed rest and awaiting the back surgery recommended by several orthopedic surgeons. I urged her to have a consultation with John Sarno, M.D. at the Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine in New York. I had worked there at the beginning of my professional career and found that there were certain patients who did not get better, despite state of the art medical treatment. Some, however, started to improve after talking candidly with me about painful lifetime experiences, matters they had never fully disclosed to anyone.
According to Dr. John. E. Clarke (2007), in more than half of all medical patients, diagnostic tests cannot find the cause of symptoms because most of them are psychosomatic. Yet physicians continue to send patients for batteries of tests that continue to show nothing,running up enormous bills for insurance companies. Most physicians in the western world are not knowledgeable about psychosomatic illness and do not know what to do about it. Sometimes they will tell the patient that it is all in the mind and may refer them to a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, which makes them angry because they feel that their doctor has not been really listening to them. Their pain may originate in the mind or psychic pain might greatly exacerbate the pain of a physical disorder. But in any case, it is not all in the mind. It is in the mindbrainbody. It is psychosomatic.
Sarno said in his recent book The Divided Mind The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders (2006):
The enormity of this miscarriage of medical practice may be compared to what
would exist if medicine refused to acknowledge the existence of bacteria and
viruses. Perhaps the most heinous manifestation of this scientific medievalism
has been the elimination of the term psychosomatic from recent editions of the
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the official
publication of the American Psychiatric Association. One might as well eliminate
the word infection from medical dictionaries (2006, p. 3),
As I wrote (Farber 2012) in my book Hungry for Ecstasy: Trauma, the Bain and the influence of the Sixties ,
Long before Descartes (1637) said that the mind and body were separate,
even as far back as Plato, in Western medicine there existed a philosophical
dichotomy between mind and body, while Eastern traditions saw the mind
and body as coming from the same energy or source. In the West, this mind/
body disconnect has directed the clinical evolution of Western medicine. It
has had a powerfully negative effect on how patients are perceived and
treated, based on the assumption that there is mental pain and there is physical
pain and never the twain shall meet (Farber 2012, p. 166)..
Descartes held that that the mind is a nonphysical substance. This is true but what he did not understand was that the mind is a function of the physical brain, interacting all the time with the body's various systems and hormones and chemicals.the body produces. The body has been described as an enormous switchboard housing trillions of interconnected pathways, and as a giant pharmaceutical factory that manufactures powerful, mind-altering chemicals. (Milkman and Sunderwirth 1987). This is how the mind and body are connected.
The title of the film, All the Rage, is provocative. It refers to unconscious rage, believed to be a major contributor to psychosomatic pain. And it occurs in some of the nicest people you will meet. In fact it occurs because they may be too nice for their own good If you tend to be a people pleaser, caring more about pleasing others than doing what you need to do to take care of yourself, then you may be among the huge group of people Sarno described as tending to have psychosomatic pain.
John Sarno , a few physicians, and a number of psychotherapists, myself among them, know what to do about psychosomatic pain. Filmmakers Suki Hawley, David Beilinson and Michael Galinsky (RUMUR Inc) are currently in post-production on All the Rage. It took ten years to make, beginning as a profile of Dr. John E. Sarno, a back pain and rehabilitation specialist who has pioneered a successful mind body approach to treating chronic pain.. He wrote several books on the subject, including the New York Times best-selling Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection (1991) .Others include The Mindbody Prescription: Healing the Body, Healing the Pain (1999 )and The Divided Mind (2006). The first three focus on muscular-skeletal pain because that was what Sarno was most familiar with. In The Divided Mind, Sarno broadened his understanding to include all kinds of mind-body illness. Amazon.com described it as follows.
The Divided Mind is the crowning achievement of Dr. John E. Sarno's distinguished career as a groundbreaking medical pioneer, going beyond pain to address the entire spectrum of psychosomatic (mindbody) disorders.
The interaction between the generally reasonable, rational, ethical, moral conscious mind and the repressed feelings of emotional pain, hurt, sadness, and anger characteristic of the unconscious mind appears to be the basis for mindbody disorders. The Divided Mind traces the history of psychosomatic medicine, including Freud's crucial role, and describes the psychology responsible for the broad range of psychosomatic illness. The failure of medicine's practitioners to recognize and appropriately treat mindbody disorders has produced public health and economic problems of major proportions in the United States. One of the most important aspects of psychosomatic phenomena is that knowledge and awareness of the process clearly have healing powers. Thousands of people have become pain-free simply by reading Dr. Sarno's previous books.
Sarno retired recently at age 90 but continuing his work at the Rusk Institute is Ira Rashbaum, M.D., who studied with Sarno there. He wrote a chapter in The Divided Mind about how he came to understand psychosomatic illness Several other physicians contributed chapters as well,
Beginning in the 1970's at Rusk, Sarno came to understand the problem and predicted the epidemic of chronic pain. When comparing his patients’ charts, more than 80% had a history of at least two other psychosomatic illnesses like ulcers, migraines, eczema, or colitis. It occurred to him that the stresses of life might be causing the pain. When he talked to his patients further, he found that most were perfectionists who put themselves under unreasonable pressure to be perfect and good. When Sarno suggested his patients make the connection between their emotions, their tendency to put themselves under such pressure,- and their pain, most rapidly improved. He came to understand that the unconscious mind was activating the autonomic nervous system.
Chronic psychosomatic illness is all about experiencing terrible physical pain in order not to tolerate feeling the emotional pain in one's life. In other words, as bad as the physical pain is, for the person who has it, it is preferable to feeling the emotional pain. The workings of the unconscious mind make this possible. Sarno popularized these ideas, which come from a psychoanalytic understanding, and made them quite understandable to the reader. The great majority of people suffering chronic psychosomatic pain start to feel better after becoming educated about the nature of psychosomatic pain. To heal, Sarno's recommendations are two-fold: Individuals need to address their unconscious anger and, since the pain they are experiencing is psychological, should resume all normal physical activity. For some, however, this is not enough. They require psychotherapy with a psychotherapist experienced in treatment of mind-body disorders.
I treated one man who had had the back surgery recommended by several orthopedic surgeons, and still suffered terrible pain. It began lessening after the first session. As much as I understand intellectually how this works, when I see people who have suffered for years start moving around without pain, it feels like magic, to them and to me. It is an extraordinary experience. Around a year ago I began treating a woman who had been bedridden for six weeks with a severe case of shingles, a dermatological condition for which a pain management doctor had prescribed hydrocodone, a narcotic painkiller. She knew of Sarno's work and went online to find a psychotherapist experienced in treating mind-body problems. By the end of her first session, after telling me of a painfully abusive childhood, she was feeling so much better that she stopped her pain medication, to which she had become addicted, and tolerated the withdrawal symptoms so that she could be free of it. It was such a dramatic recovery that it seemed to her, and to me too, like the religious miracle healings seen on television.
If you suffer from pain that does not respond to conventional treatment, a wonderful resource is the Tension Myositis Syndrome Wiki (TMS) online, at http://www.tmswiki.org/ppd/The_Tension_Myositis_Syndrome_Wiki
Read about it. You will also find a list of physicians and psychotherapists who can help you. This website is concerned primarily about muscular-skeletal pain but if you suffer from dermatological pain or pain associated with the digestive system or any other system, you might find some help here as well.