How MBS/TMS develops (cont.)
Our emotional memories are imprinted in our minds and are stored there. In fact, while regular memories are stored in the hippocampus, emotional memories are stored in the amygdala, in a deep section of the brain closely connected to the hypothalamus, the center of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls our breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and most of the normal functions of the body, including temperature control, motility of the bowels, and hundreds of other functions. The autonomic system is what gets activated during times of stress and produces the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, which turn on the fight or flight reaction. When we get embarrassed, our faces turn red. That is a physical reaction to an emotion which is triggered by the autonomic nervous system. Everyone accepts this as a "normal" and expected reaction. This occurs because the blood vessels in the face become dilated and more blood is distributed to the cheeks. When we are stressed, blood flow is shifted to the big muscles of the arms and legs (by a process called vaso-dilation) and away from the gut, the hands and the feet (by vaso-constriction). Therefore, this system can control blood flow to every small area of the body. In the Mind Body Syndrome, stress and our emotional reaction to stress (even if our reactions are unconscious, i.e. we are not aware of these emotions or reactions to emotions) causes blood flow to be shunted away from certain muscles, tendons, and nerves by vaso-constriction. Therefore, these tissues receive less oxygen and develop spasm and pain. It is important to emphasize that this pain is real!! The tissues are being affected and produce pain in the pain fibers that travel up to the brain, where of course we are able to feel the pain. This cascade of events is what causes pain and is responsible for the much of the neck aches, back aches, muscles pains and fibromyalgia-type pains that are so common in our society. Tension or stress headaches are also the result of this alteration in blood flow to the muscles around the head, neck and scalp. Migraine headaches are due to a process triggered by the brain that first produces vaso-dilation and then vaso-constriction to the head and scalp.
Another action of the autonomic nervous system is to cause spasm and relaxation of the muscles that line the walls of our foodpipe (esophagus), stomachs, intestines and our urinary bladder. These organs must have a very finely coordinated pattern of spasm and relaxation to swallow food, move it through the intestines, and start and stop urination and defecation. Therefore, when we have stress and emotional reactions to stress, it is quite easy to develop physical symptoms that occur in these areas. Almost all of the adult patients that I see for the Mind Body Syndrome have had some episodes of heartburn or abdominal pains in their lives. Gastric-esophageal reflux disorder (or GERD) is extremely common these days. Irritable bowel syndrome is also a very common syndrome that consists of diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pains. Both of these disorders can be cured most of the time by using the approach outlined in this book. A patient of mine developed stomach pains upon taking his first dose of a blood pressure medicine. The pains worsened over several days and the medication had to be stopped, but still the pain persisted throughout the day despite the addition of strong acid blocking medications. Finally, he saw a specialist who looked into his esophagus and stomach via an endoscope and he found that there was nothing seriously wrong. The pains immediately went away and he started back on the same blood pressure medication without any problems. What was going on? A review of his family story revealed that he currently was the same age that his father was when he died of cancer of stomach. Even though he was unaware of any emotional reactions at the time, taking a blood pressure pill triggered thoughts and fears in his unconscious mind of death and reminded him of his father's death. His mind produced activation of the autonomic nervous system which produced abdominal pain or esophageal reflux due to alteration in blood flow and/or alterations in spasm and relaxation of the esophagus and stomach.