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 "The Way Out" by Alan Gordon

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Jeff Posted - 08/28/2021 : 13:23:37
I'm curious what people on this forum think of this new book. His approach, broadly, seems consistent with Dr. Sarno -- if people believe their pain is not physical, then it can go away over time. At the same time, I felt like much of the book came from Dr. Sarno's work, but without any formal attribution to Sarno (other than a brief mention in the acknowledgements). For example, the discussion of personality traits is very similar to Sarno's books. I also think Sarno would disagree with the viewpoint that the brain is "making a mistake" when it creates chronic pain, or that the pain receptors in the brain are "stuck in the on position." Sarno felt that the brain was acting purposefully in creating the pain. I also was uncomfortable with Gordon's suggestion that people should proactively engage in avoidance behavior (ceasing physical activity when the pain is pronounced). I know Sarno felt that approach often led to setbacks rather than progress. I have to wonder if Gordon's patients experience the symptom imperative -- e.g., chronic back pain turning into some other kind of pain or symptom -- and how he treats that. If the next symptom is numbness/tingling, how can that be explained by saying the brain is stuck in the "on" position? One last point -- I thought it unusual for Gordon to say up front that his mother gave him a mindbody book that changed his life when he was first experiencing chronic pain, but he never identifies the book! I have to wonder if it was one of Sarno's books, but I guess we'll never know.
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MatthewNJ Posted - 10/21/2022 : 09:35:47
Hi Jeff,
I just saw this as Hillbilly responded to it and it jumped up into view. Here is my view on The Way Out for what it’s worth. I read SArno in 2003 and I was a patient of Dr. Sarno in 2004. He sent me to one of his trained counselors in 2005. I have been on this path ever since and I am 95% better. I have studied many approaches to MBS/TMS and ultimately became a mindbody coach in the process. I am not selling service there btw!
I’d be open to further discussion and hear your thoughts on my thoughts!
Alan’s approach comes with studies of TMS and pain that were not available when Dr. Sarno was practicing. One of Dr. Sarno’s regrets was he couldn’t figure out how to study TMS in people with valid scientifically controlled studies. We have many of those now. Dr. Sarno was always a curious and open minded physician and I think he would approve of Alan’s work. I use some of Alan’s PRT (it is another tool in my toolbox) but it is not a mainstay for my own practice (both personal and what I teach clients)
As far as “the brain making a mistake”, I agree this is not the case. But it is a great way to help non-believers be a little more comfortable with the process. #128522; I believe that parts of us (younger parts) do this on purpose (and they are mistaken). BUT, they have a plan, and they are acting as very young children, so they believe what they are doing is correct. (See Dr. Dick Schwartz Internal Family Systems work – you can see this on Wikipedia)
That said, there is something to be said for being “stuck in the on position”, I just don’t believe that is physically in the brain, I think that is controlled by our younger parts and in the subconscious.
I agree with Alan, that proactive avoidance behavior is good, BUT and he says this, for brief periods of time. It cannot be the norm, or we are back at square one. Sometimes you just need a break from “doing the work”, or you simply don’t have the capacity yet to handle the uncomfortable emotions. That is a practice that takes years to improve on.
As far as numbness/tingling, to me that is juts another way we are distracted by our younger parts.

Less activated, more regulated and more resilient.

Organizer of
Hillbilly Posted - 09/19/2022 : 14:03:00

It has been a long time since I posted here. I noticed a few tumbleweeds blowing through town. This used to be a lively and well-attended forum. It has since been all but forgotten. There are plenty of gems here to mine for, however, so I hope the threads stay up for the forseeable future.

I wanted to respond to this topic specifically because it concerns people greatly (as it did me many years ago) that I reconcile every aspect of my life with TMS theory so as not to awaken the specter of my unconscious mind attacking me for actions not prescribed by Dr. Sarno. This is not a recipe for success in overcoming systemic tension as it creates conflict and makes us think. We need to live our lives freely, do without thought or concern for reprisal from our peers on forums, gurus on the internet, authors of “TMS books,” or our own bodies.

My advice is to remember one thing foremost and forever, which should be double underscored in anything you read about mindbody symptoms: you are suffering from a benign condition. Regardless of how the process is explained whereby the nerves affect a contraction in soft tissues and why (and I am guilty of many spirited debates on the subject right here on this forum), be it a mistake or purposeful distraction, the result is harmless. Unpleasant and even scary perhaps, but harmless.

Therefore, you can feel free to dance, stretch, do yoga, run, lift weights, or whatever you can handle without worry. And my own personal experience was that I waited to really move until I was out of pain and prolonged my recovery. Do any movement you wish that feels good and make sure you move the areas of your body that hurt also. They need to move to stay healthy and strong also.

I do wish you well.
bagofwater Posted - 02/13/2022 : 14:59:54
I'm only a quarter of the way through The Way Out, but I noticed too that Dr. Gordon didn't attribute very much to Dr. Sarno so far in this new book. Could be that Gordon wants to present an alternative to Sarno's approach, or it could be copyright issues. I don't know. I'm more concerned with reconciling the two approaches - which, as you point, out are different in a few important ways. I posted in the TMSWiki Forum about this yesterday hoping to hear from someone, maybe Alan Gordon, who has a big presence on that site. Here's what I posted:

I'm about a quarter of the way through Alan Gordon's new book, The Way Out. While it's wonderfully smart and accessible, so far it seems like a fundamentally different approach than Dr. Sarno's. To massively oversimplify: Sarno taught that pain is a defense mechanism to distract from unconscious thoughts perceived to be threats. Gordon's approach (so far) seems more about a fear-pain feedback loop, and not anything about distraction or the subconscious (or is unconscious the preferred term?).

Do I need to unlearn Sarno's lessons to incorporate Gordon's? Like so many, Sarno saved my life when I read HBP many years ago, so I'm reticent to switch horses in midstream. But as a chronic relapser after 12+ years of Sarno I'm open to new approaches. It may be time to unlearn my approach to unlearning my pain (to borrow from Dr. Schubiner) ...maybe Gordon ties it all together with Sarno later in the book, but right now it feels like the more I read the more I'm undermining what has worked for me in the past.

There's a few posts earlier in this old thread that try, but fail (imo), to reconcile the two approaches for me. There must be posts from Alan Gordon or others that address the Gordon v Sarno topic directly - and posts that reject that characterization, now that The Way Out is out, but I can't find any. Thank you!

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