Tension myositis syndrome (TMS), also known as mind-body syndrome, was described by Dr. Sarno, a doctor trying to help his patients manage their back pain. He described TMS as a condition where the mind causes physical pain symptoms, most notably back pain. Dr. Sarno believed that if a patient could refocus their mind and train their brain then they could overcome the pain their mind was producing to distract them from underlying psychological issues.
The Mental Battle
TMS is deeply grounded in the subconscious mind. When the unconscious is full of guilt and shame, a person may start to experience TMS symptoms without knowing why. In order to distract from those painful memories, the mind may cause physical pain as a distraction. The tension between a person’s psyche (id, ego and superego) all heap on guilt as well, when a person’s ideal life is not realized. The mind is actually trying to protect you, but it is doing so by giving you immense pain.
Personally, my guilt and shame felt like rage and anger just turned inward. All my emotions were raging in my unconscious mind. I was feeling so much shame and guilt, which was causing me pain. I needed to find out why I was feeling that way so I could let it all go and heal. In order to do that, one of the things I accomplished was assessing my personality traits and asking myself how they may be negatively impacting my mind. There was one that stood out larger than the others: perfectionism.
The Dangers of Perfectionism
While perfectionism is just one of many personality traits associated with TMS, it can cause a lot of damage due to the lasting impact it has on day-to-day function. People with perfectionism aim to produce flawless work at exceptionally high standards. They’re also often extremely self-critical, analyzing their every creation for errors and things to improve upon for next time. This can have deleterious consequences for those who create impossible goals or self-analyze way too much. It can lead to lower self-esteem and even depression.
Perfectionism is found so often in those with TMS because every single time a goal isn’t met or a perfect outcome achieved, that person may be storing guilt, shame and blame in their subconscious. They may not even know it, but every single action may be piling up higher and higher until the guilt is too much, and your subconscious mind may decide to hide it from you. How? By giving you physical pain in order to distract you. Your mind is trying to protect you from your own perfectionist tendencies.
My mind goes on overdrive to protect me from my own perfectionism. My mind used to give me anxiety, acid reflux or excruciating pelvic pain. But I said no more! Once I realized that a part of the problem was my way of dealing with life (controlling everything and trying to be perfect), I took a serious look at how I was handling things. Something needed to change. Over time, I learned that it is better to be perfectly imperfect. Being less controlling and worrying less about tiny details or mistakes is a way of being imperfect while allowing my mind to relax a bit.
The key is to honestly see that your actions don’t have to be perfect all of the time. This kind of thinking can only lead to guilt and shame. No one is perfect all of the time. Why set the bar at an impossible height? Instead, keep on striving, but at reasonable levels. If you make a mistake or don’t meet a goal, keep trying but don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn from your mistakes and move on. Don’t fixate on every little thing you did wrong. You’re perfectly imperfect and the sooner you embrace that then the sooner your brain can relax. A relaxed brain is a great step toward loving life and being pain-free again.