This article first appeared in the May, 2010 edition of the TNAA newsletter. To read our newsletter, please visit: Newsletters
The concept of Mind Body Syndrome (MBS) or Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS) is based on the theory that – “Your body is producing pain because it’s manifesting unresolved stress, possibly from your childhood, or from stressful events in your adulthood, or from your present circumstances, and as a result of your personality traits (which affects how you respond to stress and how much pressure you tend to put upon yourself). Your mind has twisted your body into pain as a way to avoid some of the emotions that are inside you.” – Dr. H. Schubiner
Excerpt from “The Structural Model of Personality” by Kendra Cherry
According to the founder of psychoanalytic theory Sigmund Freud – the mind can be divided into two main parts:
1. The conscious mind includes everything that we are aware of. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about rationally.A part of this includes our memory, which is not always part of consciousness but can be retrieved easily at any time and brought into our awareness. Freud called this ordinary memory the preconscious.
2. The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that outside of our conscious awareness. Most of the contents of the unconscious are unacceptable or unpleasant, such as feelings of pain, anxiety, or conflict. According to Freud, the unconscious continues to influence our behaviour and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory – the personality is composed of three elements – known as the id, the ego and the superego – they work together to create complex human behaviours.
The id is the only component of personality that is present from birth. This aspect of personality is entirely unconscious and includes of the instinctive and primitive behaviours. According to Freud, the id is the source of all psychic energy, making it the primary component of personality. Id is driven by the pleasure principle, which strives for immediate gratification of all desires, wants, and needs. If these needs are not satisfied immediately, the result is a state anxiety or tension. The id is very important early in life, because it ensures that an infants needs are met. If the infant is hungry or uncomfortable, he or she will cry until the demands of the id are met.
However, immediately satisfying these needs is not always realistic or even possible. If we were ruled entirely by the pleasure principle, we might find ourselves grabbing things we want out of other people’s hands to satisfy our own cravings. This sort of behaviour would be both disruptive and socially unacceptable. According to Freud, the id tries to resolve the tension created by the pleasure principle through the primary process, which involves forming a mental image of the desired object as a way of satisfying the need.
The ego is the component of personality that is responsible for dealing with reality. According to Freud, the ego develops from the id and ensures that the impulses of the id can be expressed in a manner acceptable in the real world. The ego functions in both the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious mind.
The ego operates based on the reality principle, which strives to satisfy the id’s desires in realistic and socially appropriate ways. The reality principle weighs the costs and benefits of an action before deciding to act upon or abandon impulses. In many cases, the id’s impulses can be satisfied through a process of delayed gratification–the ego will eventually allow the behaviour, but only in the appropriate time and place.
The ego also discharges tension created by unmet impulses through the secondary process, in which the ego tries to find an object in the real world that matches the mental image created by the id’s primary process.
The superego is the aspect of personality that holds all of our internalised moral standards and ideals that we acquire from both parents and society- our sense of right and wrong. The superego provides guidelines for making judgments. According to Freud, the superego begins to emerge at around age five.
There are two parts of the superego:
1. The ego ideal includes the rules and standards for good behaviours. These behaviours include those which are approved of by parental and other authority figures. Obeying these rules leads to feelings of pride, value, and accomplishment.
2. The conscience includes information about things that are viewed as bad by parents and society. These behaviours are often forbidden and lead to bad consequences, punishments, or feelings of guilt and remorse.
The superego acts to perfect and civilize our behaviour. It works to suppress all unacceptable urges of the id and struggles to make the ego act upon idealistic standards rather that upon realistic principles. The superego is present in the conscious, preconscious, and unconscious.
What happens when the ego cannot deal with the demands of our desires, the constraints of reality, and our own moral standards? According to Freud, anxiety is an unpleasant inner state that people seek to avoid. Anxiety acts as a signal to the ego that things are not going right.
The Mind Body Syndrome/ Tension Myositis Syndrome theorise that this conflict, this emotional strain, this “energy” has to come out somehow – it needs to be expressed. So it comes out in the body as emotional symptoms such as anxiety, depression, panic or worry; in physical symptoms such as pain, headaches, migraine etc. These symptoms are real but caused by underlying emotional contents.
What happens in the brain when emotion symptoms are activated? The Amygdala, the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight reactions) and sensory neurons are also activated. This result in a cycle of information and stimulations and reactivations which could continue into days, month or years. The other thing that happens now is – Trigger comes into play. Trigger can be food, time of day, weather, place etc. Part of TMS/ MBS treatment is to recognise these triggers and getting rid of them. How?
In the conscious part of the brain (the frontal lobe ) is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Studies have shown that when the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is activated it can inhibit the autonomic nervous system; this provides the break in the link of the vicious cycle that causes Tension Myositis Syndrome /MBS.
The physical symptoms and emotional symptoms are real,but they are caused by stress, emotional reactions to stress that are built up from childhood into adulthood, exacerbated by our own personality factors. By changing our understanding about what the problem is, having hope, having a positive expectation (that you can get better) – you can take control of this whole situation through working mainly in the mind i.e. – activating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Break the link between the emotional reactions and the physical and emotional symptoms that have occurred.
– “ The Role the brain plays in pain: Dr. H. Schubiner.”
Please note: the above are my notes – any error is strictly mine – Irene Wood.