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Dr. Hanscom's Blog Failing Well

Discussion in 'Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner)' started by Back In Control Blog, Mar 20, 2016.

  1. Back In Control Blog

    Back In Control Blog Well known member

    Patients frequently come into my office excited about the early improvement in his or her pain. Some even go to pain free within a few weeks after suffering from years of misery. The pure positive energy emanating from them is palpable and inspiring. After enjoying them sharing his or her story some of my first words are, “I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you are going to go back into the hole. These pain pathways are permanent.”

    Why Me?

    Many of us hold on to the idea that we can create a world for ourselves that has minimal pain and suffering. So when adversity hits we become even more upset because we feel it is unfair and it should not be happening. One of the ways we do this is to control and limit our stress. It is a viable strategy at some level and it makes more sense than seeking out or creating problems. However, your world will become progressively smaller over time.


    It is more rational to accept that what we term adversity is simply life. We will all die and most of us will experience major illnesses. We will have close family members that will suffer the same way. I am not going to go into detail about all of the small and large wrongs that happen to us personally and globally. They are infinite. So why would we expect that we will not be exposed to all of this?

    Firing up Your Nervous System

    The problem from a physiological perspective is that when we become frustrated at having to endure our tribulations we have now fired up our nervous system even more with stress hormones, which magnifies the physical response. These symptoms may include insomnia, obsessive thought patterns, body image issues, ringing in the ears, burning sensations throughout your body amongst over 30 symptoms.

    I have an additional problem is that I teach these principles of processing stress, including the stress of pain. When I get triggered and “fail”, I become incredibly upset that I am failing and I feel that I should be skilled enough that I should not be triggered. It is a double hit. As the pathways are deeply imbedded and severe I always have the same extreme bodily response, which includes a skin rash showing up on my wrists, I can’t sleep, my ears ring, and my feet start burning. Interestingly enough these symptoms often occur before I consciously feel stressed. I work backwards to figure out what the trigger might be and I often cannot solve it for a few weeks.

    “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”​

    To be successful at any endeavor requires taking risks and experiencing the attendant anxiety. If you are not willing to deal with it then it is probably not worth taking the risk. You have heard the overused saying, “If you can’t take the heat then get out of the kitchen.” It is actually incredibly accurate phrase.

    So when you “fail” you are welcome to beat yourself up. It is critical not to suppress negative thoughts and emotions. But is important to recognize what you are doing to yourself. Then you have to forgive yourself, get back up and move on.


    One metaphor that hits me is that of a bamboo grove being buffeted by a storm with high winds. The grove bends and immediately stands back up when it is calm. What about if the wind blows over your garbage can? Are you going to go out and stand it back up while the wind is still at a high velocity? You will take care of it after the storm has passed. It is not helpful for you to fight a sustained battle against something or someone that you cannot solve. You will consume your life energies. When you are down you are down and I think it is important to be able to be OK with it rather than being hard on yourself. No one is asking you to be happy when your circumstances are bad. But you also do not have to pile on yourself and keep beating yourself up.


    The essence of the DOC project is connected and engaged thinking through awareness. It is a process of learning how to fail and using your tools to get back up quickly. I am like everyone else in wishing that there was end to pain and stress. That is not life. Life keeps coming at you. Forgive yourself and move on.
  2. Grateful17

    Grateful17 Well known member

    Gigi likes this.
  3. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    I'm with Grateful. We CAN learn new responses to our triggers. Besides, even if you believed otherwise, why would rain on someone's parade like that, when they first experienced success?!?
    Grateful17 likes this.
  4. jrid32

    jrid32 Peer Supporter

    After following Dr. Sarno's and Dr. Schubiner's program for recovery, I am little confused by Dr. Hanscom's statement of "After enjoying them sharing his or her story some of my first words are, “I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you are going to go back into the hole. These pain pathways are permanent.”"

    I do believe (and know that Sarno and Schubiner believe) that the pain pathways are permanent but "detour" pathways can/will be learned by the brain to permanently heal one from the feeling of a certain pain. In other words, the pathways will continue to be there "like an unused abandoned road" but the brain will use new "detour" pathways (road)...

    Am I missing something here?
    Forest and Grateful17 like this.
  5. Grateful17

    Grateful17 Well known member

    From what I have learned, those pathways are NOT permanent. We can prune them away and Yes, like you mentioned, we can sprout new ones or even unmask others. This is how neuroplasticity works. Practicing True Indifference is an example of how we prune away those conditioned responses.
  6. danny1943

    danny1943 New Member

    Grateful17 likes this.
  7. she333

    she333 Peer Supporter

    I'm confused by this post. It seems completely inappropriate. Why would it be rational to tell a person they are going back in the hole when they clearly climbed out of it. If they do go back in guess what, they have demonstrated the ability to climb out and will do so again. I get that we have adversity. I know sometimes working on acceptance of hardships can help. But suggesting our negative thought patterns or pathways are permanent? I do not appreciate this post.
    Susan1111 and Grateful17 like this.
  8. joe house

    joe house Peer Supporter

    If someone is suffer from sever cronic pain the last thing you should do is tell them sorry to reck your day but it's coming back. That's just mean even if it true which it may not be only time will tell. Something seam off about this article. I know a lot of people in sever cronic pain including myself and we don't expect to have a pain free life with no problems. After reading the succes stories people get better and stay better. Some have flare ups but get them under control. No one needs to tell anyone I know that life is a cruel place and can be unfair. The real stregth of a person is to rise above what their fate maybe and accomplish something that defies the norm.

    It's natural to say why me when your life is nothing but pain day in and day out I don't care how strong you are your going to feel that way at some point. This doesn't mean you live there and most of the people I know when they get there will call them selfs out and make an effort to snap out of it. Sometimes all they need is a little encouragement including myself. Being mean helps no one.
  9. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's interesting to see how strongly people have responded to this post. I think we're missing the main point of the post, though, which is basically like the second line of the serenity prayer:

    Sometimes some TMSers are so tense and perfectionistic that they can try to run and hide from things that scare them. Alternatively, they may deny that those bad things (like relapses) can happen. Some people will say that if a relapse happens, then it is the relapser's own personal fault. That seems like a rather unkind approach to someone who is already in pain. Dr. Hanscom just wants us to not "blame the victim" of a relapse, especially if that victim is us. As Dr. Sarno says, TMS is just a part of the human condition (in fact, if I remember correctly, he says that he's had many TMS equivalents in the rough cut of the documentary that is coming out about him). As a result, relapses are not uncommon, though some people can feel ashamed about them and may not talk about them. We TMSers can get all tied up in knots about things that scare us and I think he's just saying that life is better if we don't give our fears power by denying them.

    Regarding the permanence of nerve pathways, there is a substantial amount of neuroscientific research that says that once a pain pathway is formed, it is permanent. A friend of mine was raped as a teenager and now whenever she smells a specific perfume, her body has an immediate and very powerful stress response (PTSD). It is a nerve pathway in the amygdala which causes this. Some people refer to this as an amygdala hijack. It turns out that amygdala has a direct connection to the sense of smell. You can read more about this in Anxious or The Emotional Brain by Joseph Ledoux, the person who, more than anyone else, helped us understand the importance of the amygdala (these discoveries were chronicled by Daniel Goleman in his groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence:

    The point is that my friend will always have those nerve pathways. That doesn't mean that there isn't hope, though. As @jrid32 wrote, you can create new nerve pathways that replace those nerve pathways and act as detours. This is where nerve plasticity comes in. You can get healthier and healthier by making the new healthy nerve pathways much stronger than the old, traumatized nerve pathways. In fact, that is exactly what my friend is doing, and I'm very proud of her.

    However, those pathways will always be there in her amygdala and elsewhere in her brain. It doesn't mean that she can't heal, but when she smells that perfume, there will be part of her that will be more vulnerable.
    I think you got it right. Dr. Hanscom says the same thing in his book. He's just referring to what I was saying above, about how the original nerve pathways will always still be there, even if you heal.

    Everyone's TMS is different and we all learn about TMS via our own experience of it. That's why different authors have different experiences and different books help different people. It's important to let people know at the start that there will be ups and downs and that they need to be prepared for that. Perhaps he didn't explain it the best way in that post, but no one is perfect. I think he was just trying to be honest. Personally, I'm someone who wants the bad news up front, so I like that approach.

    Different strokes for different folks, right?
  10. Grateful17

    Grateful17 Well known member

    Here is a short video of how you CAN prune away those neural pathways, and add new healthy ones...............( We do this with True Indifference, NLP, CBT, Tapping, etc, etc, etc,)

    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
    Bunneh likes this.
  11. joe house

    joe house Peer Supporter

    That's was cool thanks
    Grateful17 likes this.
  12. Jacqui9

    Jacqui9 Peer Supporter

    I was very disturbed to find this information from Dr. Hanscom for a few reasons. One) there really is no way he can tell that the pain will come back for a particular person; Two) I spent quite a bit of time on his Internet site and watching his videos in other places and he said he has overcome his pain; yes, he may get some pain back or some new pain but he can then again get it to go away again using his methods (forgive me if I did not explain this exactly as he did); Three) It seems to me that his DOCC Program is designed to stop pain permanently. On top of these things, the way he presented the possibility of pain coming back for some patients was presented in a very unkindly manner. I'm hoping that this particular post of his was not well thought out and that he will be willing to back on and make this post clearer. I will contact him on his site and ask him if he will be willing to do this. He obviously has upset/confused some people on this site.
    Grateful17 likes this.
  13. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    To be honest, I don't know the details of the idea. I would trust Dr. Hanscom to know more about it than me, and I was just piggybacking on what he wrote. I have definitely heard about the idea before, though.

    With all that said, there is also the idea of memory reconsolidation. It says that an emotional learning can be unlearned if you first recall the memory (i.e. remember it) and then feel a disconfirming (i.e. different) memory. Turning back to my friend, this would require her to 1.) smell the perfume, 2.) get scared, and then 3.) do something that makes her feel very safe. Some people feel that it is the process of recalling the memory that "unlocks" the emotional learning. However the whole idea is still fairly new and may be controversial.
    http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/changing-memories-to-treat-ptsd/379223/ (Changing Memories to Treat PTSD)
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3099269/ (Does Reconsolidation Occur in Humans?)
    Grateful17 likes this.
  14. Andy Bayliss

    Andy Bayliss TMS Coach & Beloved Grand Eagle


    You have a very important reaction, essentially "don't lead me on and then disappoint or confuse me!!" I hope that you do express this to Dr. Hanscom. I love some of his videos because of his honesty, and the personal perspectives he brings.

    I would say to you, in a friendly supportive way, I hope: When we're suffering, we want relief, we want support, and we want some good solid ground, finally, to stand on. And when some of that ground seems to shift, or drop away this is upsetting. I know the feeling.

    I also urge you to not believe a damn thing the man is saying, if it undermines your personal process. Dispense as best you can information that is not supportive, even from experts. As Forest said, it is an individual, personal experience.

    Andy B
  15. Jacqui9

    Jacqui9 Peer Supporter


    Thanks once again for your kind and thoughtful advice and for your support.

    And yes I feel he did shift the ground from me at first (and also I think for others based on some of the other posts here) but luckily I caught it in time and did not spend too much time on it.

    I don't believe that portion of the Blog (last two sentences of the first paragraph since I didn't make it clear in my first post) based on what many practitioners and others have said in other TMS Forum posts and based on what Dr. Hanscom himself has said elsewhere, and what I am learning myself.

    Thanks again Andy.

  16. Jacqui9

    Jacqui9 Peer Supporter


    Just wanted to mention also that I found some very useful information on Dr. Hanscom's site so was even more surprised when I read the sentences mentioned above.


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