Principles to Maximize Your TMS Healing
Principles to Maximize Your TMS Healing
By Dr. Justin Barker (Psy.D)
There are more TMS and mindbody healing resources available than ever before. This is both wonderful in that more and more people are appreciating the connection between mind and body, and also has the potential to be overwhelming.
In the TMS Healing Group that I co-lead with Dr. Schechter, one of the most common questions we get is: which tool, insight, piece of knowledge, or strategy to use for healing? You might relate to some of the following questions:
Which form of journaling do I use? Do I tear it up after writing, or do I reflect on it? How long should I journal for?
If I’m afraid, do I blast through fear and just resume all physical activity, or do I take a gradual approach?
If I’m stuck, do I “dig deep” into my unconscious or do I need to try something else?
And the list goes on.
These and questions like them are all great questions and unfortunately rarely have one-size-fits-all answers. However, there are some tried and true principles about directing your healing journey that will apply to almost everyone:
1. Commit. Whether you are going to read Think Away Your Pain, Healing Back Pain, or The Way Out, commit to an approach and make sure the approach resonates with you. There is a large body of research on psychotherapy that has shown again and again that the type of therapy (for instance, CBT or ACT or psychodynamic) to treat a mental health issue has very little impact on the outcome. What has a very significant impact on the outcome is the relationship between the client and therapist. Similarly, you want to have a positive relationship with your healing approach. If it makes sense to you to focus on unconscious emotions as a pathway to healing, commit to that and trust that your commitment and practice will help you heal! At the same time, if you are drawn to somatic tracking or another modality, commit to that! Where people get into trouble is when they half-commit to too many different TMS approaches and then feel lost, confused, and unsure of what to practice every day. One of the reasons Dr. Schechter and I created the MindBody Healing Journey was to offer a comprehensive healing program so that people could clearly understand and follow a healing pathway and not get stuck trying to figure out which approach to use.
2. Gain knowledge about the MindBody connection and healing each day. Pain is scary. It’s unpleasant and before you learned about TMS you also probably thought it would never end. This creates a lot of fear circuitry in the brain. Gaining knowledge each day helps you lay down new circuits in your brain that are hopeful and oriented towards healing. At the same time, more is not always better, which is why we recommend around 20 minutes per day. There are two important reasons for this: first, you need time to let your learning settle in to your mind, and second, the ultimate goal of healing is to live the life you want and so most of your energy throughout the day should be focused on building the life you want. People that spend hours each day reading about TMS or listening to podcasts are usually not spending enough time cultivating joy, engaging in play, and building meaningful relationships.
3. Practice what you learn (especially around movement). There are so many great TMS resources with many wonderful ideas, strategies, and tools to implement. Building new neural circuits requires practice and repetition! It is relatively easy to learn more about TMS; it is harder, and also more important to really practice what you have learned. So, for example, if you have learned that journaling is an important part of your healing journey, make sure to practice journaling most or every day! Similarly, if you are learning about the importance of resuming movement, make sure to move! Movement is especially important because it is often the activity someone with pain most avoids. I have worked with many people dedicated to healing from TMS that gain tremendous psychological insight but get stuck because they struggle to get moving and resume exercise. One other common area of needed practice is around people-pleasing. Are you a Type-T personality and usually accommodating what other people want? If so, you need to practice assertiveness and taking your own wants and needs seriously. Knowledge without action rarely leads to healing. Knowledge with action is incredibly powerful.
4. Build the life you want to live – right now. In pain it is easy to become obsessed with trying to get out of pain. It is also easy to think that once you are out of pain then you can go on living or then you can go on and build the life you want. The problem is, getting out of pain does not equal living an enjoyable life. Additionally, building the life you want is actually the way to get out of pain, not something you wait for. This is sometimes hard for people to accept but it is critically important to understand. I had back pain for four years that was chronic and relentless. I remember telling myself that if I could get out of pain, I would be happy and grateful for the rest of my life. I got out of pain, and in fact there was a period where I felt endlessly grateful. And then life caught up with me and I went back to my high-stress ways (and also developed new TMS symptoms). The way to experience joy, purpose, meaning, and to get out of pain and stay out of pain is to start building the life you want right now. This is why in the MindBody Workbook Volume 2 we include two “Dream Days” in which you elaborate on your dreams for life.
As a final note, remember that you are the expert on you. Therefore, you can trust that whichever tools, resources, or approaches you gravitate towards for TMS healing will be right for you. Then make sure to commit, gain the knowledge needed, practice, and build the life you want to live.