A three-level fusion??
Bill is a middle-aged executive who has experienced many Mind Body symptoms. He had a structural low back problem that required a multiple-level decompression. He initially was not open to any of the ideas of the DOCC project until about a year later when all of his pre-op symptoms recurred. I offered him a three level fusion to relieve his leg pain but I was also suspicious he had triggered his old pain pathways.
WHEN A PRIOR PAIN PATHWAY IS TRIGGERED YOU CANNOT TELL IT APART FROM IT BEING CAUSED BY A STRUCTURAL PROBLEM. THE PAIN IS IN EXACTLY THE SAME LOCATION AND HAS THE SAME INTENSITY.
Nothing to Lose
After some discussion he decided to dive into the DOCC project, as he did not have anything to lose. Surgery was still on the table. Within two weeks his pain abated and by six weeks it disappeared. What had set them off were serious issues with his marriage. A few months later his wife left him. Although he accepted his responsibility for her needing to leave he had a difficult time dealing with it.
Over the next couple of years he worked with a pain psychologist, psychiatrist, and with the DOCC principles. Not only did his pain abate his entire personality transformed from being obsessive and controlling to extremely warm and engaging. (Of course it was always there) He came off all of his psych meds.
His Wife is Returning
I saw him a couple of weeks ago and he was beaming. His wife was coming back. This is the second couple I have seen re-unite in the last several months as pain issues have diminished. Here is a recent letter from him.
Dear Dr. Hanscom,
Fantastic to see you. During our meeting today Sue e-mailed me her travel plans. She leaves Michigan Monday, driving the car I bought her before we wed.
Nevertheless, my outlook is “open hands”. (David Burn’s concept)
I can be and am happy (enough) on my own with or without Sue. Or with or without any romantic partner. I stand on my own.
I checked the DOCC site for the printed version of Back In Control and I just bought it.
As a DOCC project participant I want to share:
I’ve nearly eliminated my physical pain and my residual “background” pain from psoriatic arthritis NO LONGER HURTS. This pain no longer gets to my emotions, UNLIKE the Princess in The Princess and the Pea. But I still feel exquisitely vulnerable to emotional pain. To me, emotional pain really hurts badly. There’s just no other way to describe it.
But I have made progress. And just as in life my progress is NOT a straight line. I’ve had setbacks followed by advances then a stumble – just like real life.
Here is what I credit, first and foremost:
First, without a doubt: Writing and throwing away the paper IMMEDIATELY afterwards. I regard throwing away the paper as equally important as purging the bladder & bowel. Writing and throwing away the paper MUST BE done to avoid systemic toxicity. (My analogy is that it is similar to brushing your teeth)
Second: Physical exercise. Three times a week minimum of vigorous “break-a-heavy-sweat” exercise. It also MUST BE done to avoid systemic toxicity.
Third: I read (For the record, the very first book that I read was: BACK IN CONTROL <online pre-release early editions. Were it not for Back In Control by Hanscom I wouldn’t have been nearly as motivated to read all these books:
- THE PAIN CHRONICLES
- FORGIVE FOR GOOD
- THE TALENT CODE,
- THE TRAVELER’S GIFT
- EPICTETUS in THE ART OF LIVING
- FULL CATASTROPHIC LIVING
- JOURNEY INTO LOVE (Kani Comstock!)
- DEMYSTIFYING LOVE (written by a shrink for shrinks: Stephen Levine)
- MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING
- AWARENESS: THE PERILS AND OPPORTUNITIES OF REALITY (de Mello)
- THANKS! (Compiled by Dan Zadra)
- FEELING GOOD TOGETHER by David Burns
Needless to say I hadn’t read a single one of these books before embarking on the DOCC Project.
Lastly I’ve got a personal recommendation: Cry. Not like an actor on TV, I mean really cry. And cry hard. You will feel better. It might take 3 hours or 3 days, but you WILL feel better. Show me a man with no cry in him. I’ll show you a severe case of deadly MBS and denial!
One item: The “think positive” myth:
I know it’s just bull but I can clearly describe why…it’s about phonyness… or trying to pretend something bad is actually good? I mean this section on DOCC delves into the fallacy of positive thinking:
- “Positive thinking is another way of suppressing negative thinking. This is a tricky concept in that by committing to a process of true forgiveness the results are very positive. You first have to go through the steps to achieve the positive result.”
Can I convince my Dad to stop saying, “think positive son!?” Maybe I’ll let him say his thing and ignore it. I once tried to articulate this point to Dad but I couldn’t clearly describe the fallacy of the “power of positive thinking”.
There are numerous points I could emphasize about his transformation as it has completely enveloped him. I would like to touch on a few.
1 – Do You Need Your Pain?
The first is that he clearly expressed what I have observed for a long time: Humans consciously and unconsciously will do whatever it takes to avoid emotional pain. That includes experiencing physical pain, even if it is self-inflicted. I feel this is one of major reasons that patients won’t engage in that they need their pain.
2 – Anyone Can Get Better
The second is that with engagement in Mind Body Syndrome (MBS) treatment principles you simply will get better. It is just a matter of time and commitment. He was in as bad a mental and physical state as anyone I have worked with. He is pain free and thriving.
3 – The Absolute Block – Obsessive Thought Patterns
The third is that one of the symptoms of MBS is an obsessive thought pattern. This is a huge problem in that it also a symptom that blocks treatment. The one variable that predicts success is openness to engagement. In chronic pain the rule is that you are legitimately angry, which is a destructive impulse. This includes self-destruction. Often the obsessive thought pattern is, “I am feeling the pain right here. It is not imaginary. The doctor must be missing something.”
You Don’t Believe Me
Then when I tell them that their spine looks pretty good and surgery is not indicated they will often explode with anger. As I am not offering them an operation or a procedure I must not really believe that they are experiencing severe pain. I do believe them but there is nothing I can do to convince them. I feel very badly but I have to let go quickly and hope they circle back around again.
It took Bill over a year to be open and a few months to really immerse himself in MBS principles. I don’t why he decided to engage and I don’t think he does either. I do know that he is one of many examples that keeps me fired up about moving forward with this project.