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Shut Up Brain!

I am not one of those bloggers who gets paid to write about stuff. (That is not to say that I wouldn't accept some cash if you want me to blog about your diaper cream or rashguard brand or whatever, so go ahead send me the money!) But I normally do not use this space to endorse the things I've bought, or watched, or read, unless it is someone else's words and they have pissed me off greatly.

But it is a new year and everyone is trying to make resolutions and better themselves and all of those good things so I thought I would write just one tiny post about this dude:

If you are friends with my husband you have probably already heard all about Dr. Sarno and his books. In fact, if you know him well he has probably already handed you a copy of this book and ordered you to read it. Especially if you have pain.

And we are all martial artists, so who doesn't have pain?

Dr. Sarno's theories are not new at all. This book in particular was published in the 80's. So you may have already heard of him. If you haven't, consider this an introduction.

It is actually difficult to summarize and explain what he talks about in his books. Not because it is scientifically complicated (it isn't), but because it is very easy to say it wrong, to say it in a way that sounds crazy and to instantly turn someone off to the entire thing. So I am going to recommend that you just read the book for yourself. It is not long, and not difficult.

However, since most of you won't, here is the tiniest fraction of an explanation. Basically your life experiences, your childhood, your job, your family, everything you go through causes emotions. (Duh!) Some of them are good and some of them are bad. Some of them are right up there in your face where you can feel them on a daily basis. Others are way back in your subconscious because your brain has decided that you should not have to mess around with them. Nice brain, right? Except that sometimes when our brain represses bad things in order to protect us, it creates something else in its place, a distraction so we do not discover the little game it is playing. It creates pain. Often chronic. Typically lower back pain, or neck and shoulder pain, but sometimes tendon pain, or migraines, or even things like chronic heartburn. Often we even have had a mild injury at some point (an MRI may even show one) but then the pain persists long after such an injury has actually healed.

To be clear, you are not imagining your pain. This pain is very, very real, sometimes debilitating. But the reason for the pain is not what you think it is. 

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Most modern doctors do not talk about this kind of mind-body connection. Maybe they do not want to for fear of alienating patients, or maybe they do not actually know much about it. It is not a part of your standard medical school education. But it is very real. Yoga practitioners know it is. Martial artists know it is. So do many cancer patients. Basically anyone who has ever had a stomachache when they are nervous can understand how our emotions effect our physical state. Dr. Sarno just goes into more detail.

Why am I writing all this? Why do I care? Well first of all, reading this book has changed the entire way I view my body.  It has also put me in touch with some thought and emotions that I was not aware of before. This knowledge, although sometimes painful, is a good thing. 

And secondly. My neck and shoulder pain is gone. Not magically, it took time and I am sure, there will still be moments of pain. But the injury is not there anymore. Who knows, maybe it never was. And more importantly, the fear that went along with it, is gone too. I can punch full power again. I can do pushups. I can train jiu-jitsu. I no longer tell people about my "bad neck" or my "bad shoulder" because I know without a doubt that I do not actually have one. 

Let me be clear, I have not become some magical X-Men-like superhero. I have not become reckless. I am still an athlete who bikes and rolls and rock climbs and does karate at is fully capable at any point of getting an injury. So I wear a helmet. I avoid being smashed when I can. I take breaks when things are sore. I sleep, a lot. I am just aware now of the difference between real injury and something that my brain is creating and I treat each accordingly.

Listen, I get it. This all sounds really weird and cultish. Next you are going to ask me when the mother ship is arriving. So I will just leave you with this. If you have been suffering with chronic pain, ANY chronic pain, whether it is back or neck or arm or stomach, just read this book. Especially if doctors say there is surgery in your future. Read it before the surgery. And then wait a few weeks. Or maybe even a month if you can. This stuff takes time, and patience. And then after a month, read it one more time. Just in case. Because of course you might have a very legitimate problem that absolutely requires surgical intervention. If so, in the end, all you have wasted is a few hours of reading. But you might not. And what do you have to lose?

I am not sharing this to be smug or self righteous. I am not a doctor. There are many, many ways to treat injury and pain and many of you are already doing a great job with that. For all I know, I will wake up tomorrow with the worst shoulder pain of my life. If I do, you will be the first to hear my whining.

But this book has really helped me. It has helped Matthew. It has helped a few other people we know. So I am sharing it in the chance that maybe it will help you too.

Ok, I have done my duty. I will now go back to blogging about guns (how bout that OBAMA!) and small children throwing punches.

Wishing you a pain free 2016!
Happy New Year!


  1. Osu kyoshi. .. good job summarizing sarno. I read it and have known about him for a long time and actually personally know people who credit him with saving their lives. I think this is a good book but I also think it is only an intro and that dealing with TMS requires his other books on HOW to actually address and even attack our thoughts and repressed anger, so my only caveat would be to advise people that this is just an intro to a new way of thinking about chronic pain and if it resonates or is of interest his other books teach you HOW .... so call me when the shuttle lands 😉😉😉 ... xoxo

    1. Those question marks were supposed to be winking faces!!

    2. Thanks for the response and you are absolutely right. I read one of his other books also and it goes into much more detail about the how. I think the best thing I gained is what you said about gaining a new perspective on pain, one which I had never known about or thought of.


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