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193 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1991
This book pulled me back from the brink of life-threatening problems. And I'll be the first to admit that the book sounds boring. "Healing Back Pain." Yawn!! I don't remember where I got the book. All I know is I'm glad I did.
The book is nothing as it seems. The second half of the title ("Mind-Body Connection") is really what the book is all about. "Bad backs" are just perhaps the most prevalent form of "recurring and chronic" physical pain, and so Sarno (or perhaps somebody at the publisher) went with the title.
We've all had physical symptoms that we've attributed (correctly) to our minds. Someone cuts us off in traffic and we get a headache. The boss gives us a tongue lashing in front of our co-workers and we get heart palpitations. And on and on it goes. That the mind can cause physical symptoms is disputed by no one.
But where is the line drawn that says the body can cause certain physical symptoms and not others? Sarno would say it's not very clearly drawn, if at all.
'Oh, that's quackery! Certain pains and symptoms are physical!' we cry. Well, yeah, I would say even Sarno would agree with that. If you're in a car wreck, you're going to have pain. But what Sarno argues is that a very great amount of the pain we experience is caused by our emotions and not our bodies. And more specifically that that pain is caused by subconscious repressed emotion. Sarno's theory postulates that the repressed emotion we often have built up through the years is so threatening to our minds, that instead of experiencing the emotion consciously (which our minds consider too dangerous to do), we develop physical symptoms, most often physical pain.
So it's the same principle as getting the headache or heart palpitations but on a macro level. So what sort of things does Sarno say can be caused by this repressed emotion? You'd be very surprised.
Of course back pain is there, as are endless varieties of muscle spasms and aches. But there are things like gastrointestinal diseases (eg. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, recurrent urinary tract infections), myriad skin issues (eg. hives, eczema) and all the way to heart disease and cancer. And again, Sarno wouldn't say such physical problems are never organically caused, but that very often, perhaps most often, they are not.
The good news is that Sarno lays out very clearly the ways to recognize when the process of repressed emotion is causing physical symptoms. He gives great examples of how people subtly and progressively become overwhelmed by the repressed emotion within them and how that leads to physical pain and illness.
But while the repressed emotion is subconscious, it is not unconscious. There is a solution. The first step of which is recognizing (no matter how clearly it seems that the pain is physically caused!) that the pain or disease is caused by the repressed emotion. When experiencing back pain (or whatever) Sarno would say to himself, "What am I avoiding feeling?"
And this sort of thinking opens the tiny crack in the door of our subconscious just a little bit wider--and often the pain (or physical illness) dissipates. Sometimes unbelievably quickly, sometimes over a longer period of time. But the fact is if your pain is not organic, Sarno's method works! I can attest to it personally. A couple of years ago I was so overwhelmed with physical problems I thought I was on my way out. Then I discovered this book. Yes, this book saved me. And if you pick up a copy of this book and you're helped like I was, you'll also want to pick up Sarno's The Mindbody Prescription.