I Don’t Need To Be Perfect – Pain & Self-Pressures

Back pain psychosomatic TMS
Conventional treatments often do not help pain
in the long term & act as placebos
but what if T.M.S offers the answer and we had
the answer within us all along?

How many of you experience physical pain? How many of you experience anxiety, depression, allergies, IBS and more?

Well, in 2012 I experienced my second bout of intense pain. I thought I had pulled my back during Pilates, and as anyone who has had back spasms knows, they can be incredibly painful. We tend to limit our movements and even fear moving at all.

In 1999 I had intense knee pain at a job I was working at, so much so I nearly fell down the stairs in tears as my legs gave way. My knees locked and I was in intense pain. I was told by the doctor that I had ‘dislodged kneecaps syndrome’, and with my back in 2012 I was simply told I had probably pulled a muscle. I tried to explain that I have had backache most of my adult life, mainly middle back pain and occasional lower back, but no notice was taken.

In late 1999 my knees gave way again on a backpacking trip in Australia. I was only 2 weeks into my 1 year trip. The doctor in Oz told me I would not walk again if I didn’t go home. Fortunately a physiotherapist put my mind at rest and I continued my trip basically pain-free for most of the year.

What Was The Common Factor Here?

Well I notice looking back now that certain character traits and reactions were taking place when all of these pain episodes occurred. In my last job I was feeling pressured to perform (both by my boss and by myself), pressures to be perfect. In Australia I was feeling a lot of fear from being on my own in a strange land having to get to know a lot of new people in my house-share, and as someone who had suffered anxiety most of my life this was a challenge (so more self-pressures and perfectionist feelings).

And now in 2014, back ache has come back, middle back mainly, but also neck ache causing headache which then moves into my jaw, my elbows, my knees… oh yes, these pains move around. Then recently I discovered something called TMS.  ‘Tension Myositis Syndrome’ aka ‘Tension Myoneural Syndrome’, and ‘The Mind/body Syndrome’.

T.M.S is:

“The physician suggests that emotional issues trigger the autonomous nervous system, which inhibits blood flow to muscles, nerves and connective tissue. Without adequate blood flow, tissues undergo oxygen starvation, which produces pain. By repressing feelings of anger, anxiety or rage, the body responds and produces physical results. The pain becomes a physical distraction to psycho-emotional issues as the patient feels the pain, seeks means of alleviating the symptoms but does not recognize the correlation. Once patients realize the connection and resolve repressed issues, the pain disappears.” from tensionmyositissyndrome.org

So in layman’s terms, the mind creates pain and health issues as a distraction from some deeper emotional shit taking place in the unconscious, feelings that we’re repressing and feelings that may be repressed because of how we are in life.

The main personality types that may experience TMS are:

Perfectionist types.
People who feel they must be good or be good people.
Caring for everyone types.
Self pressure a lot types.

So to me this rang alarm bells.

Now I am really new to this, I mean really really new. I recently read ‘The Divided Mind’ by Dr John E Sarno, who is the pioneer and Doctor who has been studying and educating people on this for over thirty years.

Recent Mind/Body Connection

Now in January 2014 the back ache began more intensely while I was sitting at the computer. I have changed my chair 3 times now. I have changed the position of my desk, the height of the monitor; I walk every day so I am not lacking in exercise, but one thing I noticed when the pain began again was a feeling of sadness in my heart chakra and my throat. And as I had started to put my writing out there for the world to see, self-pressures and fear were coming up in bucket-loads.

I can see the connections here and I am keen to allow emotions to come up into conscious awareness, and to not repress anything.

What Has This All Got To Do With Being Perfect?

The pain was not staying in one place for me. It moved from my lower back to my middle, to my neck, to my head, to my jaw, to my joints, arms, elbows, feet, toes and occasionally to my stomach where during the night I would get a sharp pain in my back and a hot molten lava feeling in my stomach that made me feel sick.

And so, after being introduced to the work of Dr John E Sarno and his book ‘The Divided Mind’, I began to feel that these symptoms were not some painful disease I was powerless to resolve, but that the pain was created by my mind to distract me from deeper emotions about needing to be perfect, to be good, and from the pressures I placed on myself.

In my unconscious there was rage and anger and sadness.

Dr Sarno says:

“The drive to be perfect and good are reactions to feelings of inferiority, which are always unconscious (and sometimes conscious as well). Such tendencies to achieve and be nice are typical of people trying to demonstrate by their performance and behaviour that they are worthwhile, not inferior.” 

~DR SARNO (‘The Divided Mind’).


Child Boy Expressing Rage

So the inner drives and self pressures to be perfect, to be good, to be caring cause the inner child to feel boiling anger and extreme rage. This is because children naturally do not think about others, they think about themselves and what they want. When we pressure ourselves to be a certain way, this causes the inner rage and anger, and to prevent this anger from exploding out into the world, the mind creates pain as a self-protecting distraction from what is going on inside us.

Pain, anxiety, allergies, doubt… the list goes on. The mind is very clever and may even convince us that it’s certain activities that worsen our symptoms (playing sports, sitting in a chair, bending etc…).

This Is All New To Me 

Even though I knew about the mind body connection, I had not linked the back pain and aches with emotions, mainly because I had been practising mindfulness, and I thought I was in touch with any anger or sadness taking place. However, I now realise from observing my own behaviour and my ways of being in this world, just how much I repress certain emotions, how much I do not listen when I am over-working or pressuring myself too much. This is a journey I am just beginning.

What Can We Do?

Firstly I am no expert. So if you have had a serious accident or are in severe pain I recommend you consult the experts, but also open your mind to the work of Dr Sarno and others. Most Doctors do not take seriously the mind/body connection and tend to merely look at symptoms, so you need to begin to view things a lot differently.

Self-awareness is the beginning as knowledge can cause a shift in your understanding of the pain or health issues.

Begin to feel your feelings through mindfulness. When an emotion comes up, stop and feel it. Don’t distract yourself with activity or over-indulging through eating.

Ask if there are any feelings you are avoiding, anything you could make peace with or anything you need to forgive yourself for, anything that needs more kindness within you?

Do you pressure yourself to be good or perfect? Do you feel the need to be the care-giver, the person who cares for everyone and offers support all of the time, someone who finds it hard to turn away from someone who needs help?

Are you open to the possibility that your pain or health issues could be created by the mind to protect you from something else?

If you have tried everything, had surgery, been to every Doctor in the land, had so many medications and still nothing has changed, would you be ready to see if there is something else going on here?

If you are, check out the book ‘The Divided Mind’ by Dr Sarno and for more info on this topic and to chat with people going through this or to see the success stories from this process, check out the forum: www.tmswiki.org/forum

And to find out more I highly recommend listening videos by Dr Sarno on You Tube for further information.

My Journey

I am new to this. I finished Dr Sarno’s book a couple of days ago and I will update as I learn more on this and what my experiences are. This is an interesting journey, not easy but interesting nonetheless.


Good Luck!


And let me know how you get on. 


Does any of the above ring true for you? 
Are you going to look into this too?


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Photo 1 Credit: Original source unknown. If you are the creator please contact me. I can either remove or credit you here.
Photo 2 Credit: tomek.pl via photopin cc

Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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  1. January 30, 2014 / 3:02 am

    It's all new to me too, but thanks for the insight, and glad you managed to finish your trip in Australia. 🙂

  2. January 30, 2014 / 8:13 am

    Hi Sara, you are welcome, its a big learning journey for me on this topic. Have you considered the mind/body connection before in any health issues you may have?

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