Psychology has identified many ways in which the mind skews our view of the world. Cognitive dissonance is one of those aspects of mind that intrigues me because the data provides many examples of how our truths and reality do not align. In many ways we see what we want to see and are resistent to see things any other way.
What occurs on a macro level also occurs on a micro level. By this I mean that it makes sense that this also happens internally. Given this evidence, it behoves me to practice looking deeper into my experiece to see where what the think I experience (including my views, outlook and belief system) sways my thoughts, feelings and emotions.
What about my health? For twenty years I experienced back issues after straining while wrestling with a friend. It became a lingering chronic issue for me for many years. Some days I experienced severe back spasms but generally I felt constant pain. I was prescribed an endless supply of pain medication, but it generally didn’t help.
At a retreat a few years ago I talked with a fellow who told me about a issue he had with his hand. He had severly sprained it a couple years back but had recovered. After a break up with his girlfriend the pain returned. He was introduced to a book by John Sarno on back pain. Dr Sarno was a Physical Therapist for many years who discovered many people were not recovering from their physical ailments similarly to my friend and his hand. His discovery was that the mind was using the injury to distract people from their emotional stress – calling it Tension Myosis Syndrom (TMS). His theory is that the body will prevent proper oxygen flow to the effected areas causing pain. The solution was to bring this connection to the patients attention as was the case with my friend.
At first I was in shock that TMS might have any way of effecting me. My pain was real and not in my mind. Today though, suffice to say, my back pain has dissappeared. Not only that, since then, I have been able to determine what causes most my back pain and to avoid it.
A key to identifying cognitive dissonance and TMS is to identify the stress we experience. Paying attention to when it is present and when it is not. My spiritual practice provides the foundation for this. Awareness, alert, mindful, and persistent in looking at stress and it possible causes. All directed inwardly. In this way I try not to avoid my experience, to explain it away, or to blame outward forces (whether they be partially true or not).
It is my intention to bring these possible connections to the attention of others so that they might be free from suffering.