For those on their TMS journey, learning more about your mind and how it works is crucial to finding your way back to a pain-free life. While many people may know that stress may be a root cause of TMS pain, not everyone knows that a large part of TMS is also bound up in feelings of narcissism, rage and inferiority. Now, I don’t mean that we get sucked into staring at ourselves in the mirror like Narcissus. I mean, those feelings of narcissism, rage and inferiority are terms used by Dr. Sarno (who came up with the mind-body syndrome) to explain how the body may process certain negative emotions without us even knowing it.

Dr. Sarno’s Narcissism vs. Greek Narcissism

You may be thinking “I’m not narcissistic!” Well, in terms of the Greek definition — the pursuit of gratification from vanity or admiration of self — that may be true. However, Dr. Sarno defines narcissism as “the violent, brooding nature of the unconscious,” as he notes in his book The Divided Mind. The terms both have to do with the self but are radically different otherwise.

Mental Ingredients Causing You Pain

As Dr. Sarno explains, the “violent, brooding nature of the unconscious” is really key to understanding the mind body syndrome. The problem is that most people don’t know how their bodies and minds get the way they do.

One reason is the timelessness of the unconscious, specifically the id part of the brain, as theorized by Freud. The id is childish, primitive and essentially immortal, storing all of our experiences without any regard to the passage of time, allowing for neither major healing nor retrospective softening. What happens and is buried in the unconscious mind — held by the id — is kept just as fresh and real as if it happened yesterday. The problem is that often we don’t know that it is happening or has happened. Our subconscious may have snatched the problematic memory as it was happening, hoping to shield us, but actually potentially causing problems later down the line (as in the form of TMS pain).

When narcissism, rage or inferiority stay locked in the unconscious mind, they can cause extreme damage. When the id is in conflict with the ego and superego, emotional pain can occur. For instance, a mental battle between what you know you should feel and how you actually feel (but is hidden from you in your subconscious).

Helpful Examples

Dr. Sarno gives an example of when he went on a long vacation with his wife. During the trip he started to experience a lot of gastrointestinal pain — which he and his wife chalked up to psychosomatic in nature. He racked his brain for reasons. Was the trip too long? Was he tired? Did he not enjoy it? In the end, after more days of pain, he realized it was because he had gone on the trip to please his wife, but hadn’t actually wanted to go himself. This had led him to resent his wife. Even though his thinking was not rational — and he knew it — he also knew that the id feels what it wants to, unbound by any sort of reasoning.

In this way, what we should do often conflicts with what we truly want to do. It comes up all the time. We go to work (should do) when we really want to stay home (want to do). We exercise (should do) when we want to sleep in (want to do). We eat healthy or diet (should do) when we really want to eat all the dessert we can (want to do). This constant conflict and our “failures” when we do give in and do what we want, instead of what we should do, leads to those feelings that cause chaos in the subconscious and pain.

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