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Official Thread Section 3.6 Identify Source of Repression

Discussion in 'Alan Gordon TMS Recovery Program' started by Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021), Jul 17, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is the official thread for Section 3.6 of the TMS Recovery Program donated by Alan Gordon of the Pain Psychology Center (PPC). This section is entitled "Identify Source of Repression." Neither Alan nor the PPC necessarily endorses this thread or any of the viewpoints presented in it.

    Please keep these official threads on topic and put your best thoughts down, as these threads will be read by many people. All posts in this thread should all relate to section 3.6 of the TMS Recovery Program:

    In section 3.6, Alan writes the following:
    Identify Source of Repression

    There are different reasons we learn to repress emotions.

    You may repress sadness or anger because these emotions weren’t validated when you were young. Perhaps you were even shamed for expressing them.

    Maybe your parents got so sad or so angry, that it was terrifying and you unconsciously decided you never want to be like them.

    Perhaps it simply wasn’t modeled by your parents and your four-year-old brain interpreted this as meaning that it must not be okay.

    Maybe you didn’t want to overwhelm your parents with your emotions if you felt they couldn’t handle them.

    Or maybe you don’t know why, which is okay too.​

    Many people say they remember a happy childhood and don’t think they have any repressed emotions about those formative years. Some say they get anxious or depressed thinking about their childhood. Psychologists say events good or bad in the first six years of our lives stay with us all our lives. Journaling can bring those repressed emotions to the surface, and that is for our good, to help heal us.

    In journaling, I thought about two major repressed emotions, one related to my childhood, and another from my adult years. First, my childhood. My parents argued a lot when I was a boy and had a year-older sister and a brother four years older than I. This was during the Great Depression of the 1930s and we, like millions of others, were in hard times. Sometimes my parents found work, sometimes there was none. We were on government charity called “Relief,” which didn’t pay the rent on the apartment we had, or the utilities, but each month a truck would deliver potatoes, oatmeal, prunes, and a few other staples. The rent and electric and gas bills came every month and even when my parents worked, their salaries were small and sometimes they didn’t have enough to pay the gas or electric bills so we lived by candle light and there was no gas to heat food on the stove. My mother sometimes ran through the apartment screaming that she was going to commit suicide. My father gambled with his small salary in hope of making more money but most often he lost.

    My mother finally gave up on my father and divorced him. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that left me with feelings of anger and abandonment. I repressed them because I did not want to add to their problems. My mother married another man just because he had a house, so she and we kids would have a roof over our heads. She divorced him a year later and remarried my birth father. The same financial problems came back, but he died 10 years later. A few months later, my mother married one of my father’s brothers who had been married twice before and was very jealous of anyone who even looked at my mother, including me. I had to repress my anger at him because, again, I didn’t want to add to their problems.

    The adult repressed emotion had to do with my mother. She was in her 70s and impossible to please. My sister tried for several years, my brother never tried at all, and they asked me to try. I found her an apartment near me but after about two years of trying to do everything she asked of me, I gave up in order to keep from having a nervous breakdown. She moved away and lived to be 94, but I felt repressed guilt all those years because I had to give up on trying to help her. We never discussed the matter and I believe she forgave me, but I have had trouble forgiving myself. I think a lot of people have problems like that…they may be able to forgive those who caused us emotional problems, but they can’t forgive themselves. It’s sometimes easier to forgive than to forget.

    It isn’t easy to bring these memories of repressed emotions back to the surface, even after journaling about them and forgiving my parents. So I totally understand when others say that journaling is stressful to them. I do, however, think it is an essential part of TMS healing. I found it helpful to put myself in my parents’ shoes, and my stepfather’s, too, and realized they had their own repressed emotions causing them TMS emotional and physical pain. Knowing that, I was able to forgive them.

    Identifying the source of my repressed emotions was the key to me healing from severe back pain. The process of identifying the source is, I think, best done by journaling. One psychologist suggested that his patient, a man whose mother had told him to repress his anger when he was a boy, visualize beating her up. He mentally nearly beat her to death, then said he felt better, but guilty. Another psychologist said imagining beating someone up who caused you grief as a child is a bad thing because it brings guilt. I couldn’t imagine striking my mother, father, or stepfather. I found it more helpful, instead of beating them, to forgive them. That didn’t cause me any guilt. It left me with peace and compassion.
    seeker and cirrusnarea like this.
  2. Gigalos

    Gigalos Beloved Grand Eagle

    Is it really necessary to identify the source?? This can be a very frustrating road that leads nowhere, especially when the source is a result of very early childhood experiences. My advise would be to put some energy in journalling and trying to identify sources, but mainly be aware that emotions are trying to surface and acknowledge those.
    Also I consider the possibility that there could be a kind of placebo mechanism at work. If you are convinced that something is the source, then identifying it as such will work in your favour, even when it isn't the thing responsible at all.............
    Msunn, Ryan, cirrusnarea and 2 others like this.
  3. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    Thanks for sharing Walt.

    I think the root of my repression, is fear of my father. Growing up I was never able to express my anger towards him because he would yell at me and beat me if I stood up to him. So I no choice but to repress these feelings. I did have a very happy childhood, but this fear of my father was perhaps the main negative aspect. Secondly, would be my feelings of being different. Although I had friends and wasn't teased to much, I did have an issue with not fitting in or having good self esteem.

    Gigalos, yes I agree it isn't always necessary to identify the source. It can be an important part of the therapy though to go back through these parts hurts and try to reconcile them. Once you've done all you can in this area, yes I wouldn't be so worried about what specific issues led to the pain, just acknowledge they are there, and the pain is your mind's way of dealing with them.
    Msunn and Forest like this.
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    cirrusnarea, maybe try to figure out what made your father yell at you and beat you if you stood up to him.
    He may have had someone doing that to him, so he took it out on you.
    The more I began to figure out what TMS my folks had, the more I was able to forgive them.
    bobdds and cirrusnarea like this.
  5. cirrusnarea

    cirrusnarea Well known member

    Walt, yes my grandfather was very hard on my father, it made my growing up look like a picnic. My father always told me that he was a bit easier on me than his father had been on him, and that hopefully I would be easier on my kids, and so on. I'm sure he hated me standing up to him because inside he had his own insecurities. He had a rough time of it growing up. Only very recently I've found myself able to forgive him and while don't talk a lot, I've noticed we get along better.

    He suffers from bad lower back pain, that is obviously TMS, but he would never go for it if I mentioned it to him.
    Msunn likes this.
  6. Gigi

    Gigi Well known member

    I agree with Gigalos and Cirrusnarea. Sometimes identifying the source can play an important part in healing--as in some things have to be recognized before we can move on. But for me, the deep-rooted "why" has never been as important as the "OK, so now what can I do about it?"
    Sarno's greatest gift to me was one of empowerment. I now have the tools to redirect my subC toward healthier responses.
    Msunn likes this.
  7. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    I relate to what others have posted. I did a good amount of journaling early on, and finding the source of the repressed emotions and even journaling about them didn't do much for me, to relieve pain. I see that it works for others that way so I know it's good tool, but in my case I'm realizing more and more TMS is much more about what I'm feeling, or suppressing, in the present moment.

    I do feel like holding on to resentments or blaming others from the past was something that kept me depressed for much of my younger years, so I think it's important to know what happened, feel the feelings as much as possible, and move on by forgiveness and acceptance. I think this is a process that takes a good amount of time for most people. (IMHO it creates a lot of unnecessary pressure that so much of TMS literature is geared toward quick or rapid results.)

    I fit the goodist description very well. I've been trying to better myself over the last several years by being of service to others, trying to be a little less self centered etc. Being angry, petty, or out of control emotionally doesn't fit well with that image. As I've gone through this process I've been learning to just let myself feel what I feel.

    I recently read another TMS book, (it's good that I'm not obsessed or always thinking about TMS:)) called Pathways to Pain Relief written by two therapists that worked with Dr. Sarno's patients.
    These quotes really hit home for me:

    "Many people fear that if they dare experience a feeling they will inevitably act on it. If you recognize a feeling it becomes real. Therefore, experiencing, recognizing or expressing certain emotions pose a threat, which can be obliterated from their awareness by physical pain."

    "And when patients can accept that their feelings are just private, internal emotional experiences and not indicators of morality, sanity, or virtue, then they can tolerate the anti-social and politically incorrect impulses that seize all of us--without risking a loss of self esteem or a withdrawal of love and affection from others."

    I realize that I've had a more black and white view of feeling my emotions and if I admit them it meant I might have to act on them. I didn't see them as "private, internal, emotional experiences". This really helps me to not repress emotions, and to be more open and accepting of my feelings.

    Last edited: Jul 21, 2014
    Ryan, Ellen and Gigalos like this.
  8. David B

    David B Well known member

    Thanks Msunn, you really hit the nail on the head with the quotes. I found many sources of repression but in the end it was acceptance that it is completely human to feel these feelings. That they are a part of me but dont have to control me or even my well being. Im not afraid of the crazy stuff that pops out of nowhere. Yes sometimes I get carried off into a blind alley of anger, fear, lust, whatever, but since I came to recognize that most of what pops up is a pattern, and usually a negative pattern or at least a pattern that takes me away from the the here and now I can put the breaks on.

    It all started with accepting and seeking control over my internal life. Now its about doing my best in the world to be the person I want to be regardless of the impulses that are to the contrary.
    Msunn, Ellen and Ryan like this.
  9. Msunn

    Msunn Well known member

    Thanks David,

    I appreciate your thoughts. I do think not wanting to face that shadow side of myself has led to repression and probably TMS.

    I wish I could say in my case that all these observations of mine have led to being pain free, but they haven't. So I'll keep learning from you and the other kind souls here.

    All the best
  10. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    If anxiety or worry or pain comes on, I remind myself that nothing that happened to me yesterday was fatal.
    I could get though whatever the fan blew at me. So I can get through today and tonight, too. God is with us.
    Msunn likes this.
  11. Cog

    Cog Peer Supporter

    Hey there.

    I think I'm realizing that I suppressed anger at my father. When I was a boy I looked up to him like most kids would. And slowly his flaws started to come to my awareness and I came to not like him, not respect him, and I'm sure became angry at him. I found out that he spent a lot of time away from us because he was either hanging with his buddies or with his mistresses. He wasn't working like I thought. He made my mother cry and made my "Leave it to Beaver" fantasy crumble. Mabye there's some sadness there too that I've been repressing. This is all very interesting....
  12. blake

    blake Well known member


    Walt, I was really inspired by your story. Thank you for sharing it. I really like what you said about forgiveness of yourself and your parents.

    I have a question, if I may. You said that at one point you admitted you could not take care of your mother. How did you go about forgiving yourself for this? How did you process that guilt?

    I am struggling with this my own mother. It seems I never call enough, visit enough or stay long enough when I do. I am so stressed by this situation and have been for many years. On the other hand, I feel so much guilt about not wanting/being able to take care of her better. In reality, she has very competent caregivers and lots of support from he family, so this problem is in my head and between the two of us only. I think that this feeling of obligation is causing me to hang on to anger from the past to justify my "bad" behaviour toward her in the present.

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