About 'The Hidden Psychology of Pain'

What inspired me to write this book?


I became a psychologist after the harrowing experience of being nearly killed by a drunk driver in a head-on car accident as an 18 year old. This included being trapped in the car wreck, severely injured and bleeding profusely for 2 1/2 hours before being freed. The ensuing psychological trauma saw me sink into the pits of despair before discovering self-help psychology books in my father’s bookshelf. From reading these, I managed to halt my psychological ‘free-fall’, and within the year decided to become a psychologist so that I could help other similarly traumatized people. I undertook the required years of study and training, and for the last two and a half decades, have been providing counseling/clinical services to those in need.

For many of these years, I also suffered from chronic pain which physical therapists believed was caused by the physical trauma which my body underwent in the car accident. None of them viewed the emotional trauma as being relevant to my physical pain. In my late 30’s, I stumbled across the notion that emotional trauma is often highly related to subsequent chronic pain. Such pain has been referred to as The MInd/Body Syndrome (TMS), and PsychoPhysiological Distorders (PPD). This approach is credited to Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University hospital, Dr John Sarno, however it can be traced back to Hungarian psychoanalyst, Professor Franz Alexander; and even to the originator of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. But of course, these ideas have been a part of our culture for millenia- it is only in the modern era that some health professionals, both in psychology and medicine, have attempted to use these ideas in a scientific manner.

It strikes me as ironic that the contemporary psychology in which I was trained, cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT), had dismissed such possibilities decades ago. Surely, psychology would have trained its students in such a basic psychological notion that the mind can affect the body? But, no, the modern approach to psychology, for the most part does not, as this requires a focus deeper than just the surface level- much of the relevant psychology is operating at a less than conscious level, and approaches like CBT are both unaware and uninterested in these possibilities. As such, in addition to being a self-help book, The Hidden Psychology of Pain is also the journey of a contemporary psychologist discovering the historical legacy of his discipline- that which had been largely dismissed during the second half of the 20th century.

I believe that it is time for psychologists to reclaim our discipline’s legacy, and to get about the business of helping people in both psychological and physical distress by reclaiming the depth-psychology baby that was thrown out with the Freudian bath-water. This book is a step in that direction.

Overcoming my chronic pain after nearly 20 years, utilizing only the psychological approach described in the book, encouraged me to introduce these ideas to other sufferers of chronic pain. Having seen many people also overcome chronic problems, such as back, neck and shoulder pain, inspired me to write a book about it so as to bring help to many more people. I also want to introduce the healing capacity of this psychological approach to other treating professionals, such as psychologists and physicians, physiotherapists, chiropractors and massage therapists. All health professionals, with access to the right information, can become healers of chronic pain.


The overall theme of the book.     

Chronic pain is a huge problem in contemporary Western culture. As long as we leave it to the health professionals who want to only approach it from a bio-mechanic point of view, it remains largely untreatable, and the best people can hope for is to learn to get used to it. The psychological approach promoted in this book suggests that repressed emotional material (eg. dilemmas, conflicts, traumatic memories, distressed emotions) can trigger biological pathways to generate very real physical pain. It is only by addressing the largely unconscious distressed emotions that we can actually overcome chronic pain, rather than simply adjust to it. Psychological trauma often plays a large role in the causation of chronic pain. As such, a treatment of the whole person (psychology and physiology) is required, and the prospect of using chronic pain as a vehicle for the healing of the whole person arises.

Cultural theorist and Professor of both Medicine and English, David B. Morris, states that chronic pain is “the invisible crisis at the centre of contemporary life”. This statement refers to the fact that our culture, and our models of science in particular, have settled on a view of the human being as though we are cleverly built machines. The health professions have also come to view the human form, and the spine in particular, as weak and fragile. Despite these ‘truisms’, we humans are neither fragile, nor are we a clever collection of nuts and bolts. Rather, we are living, growing organisms which, in our current physical form have, for countless thousands of years, undertaken heavy burdens with nothing like the epidemic of chronic pain which we currently witness. Something has gone wrong, but it is not likely to be our bodies. The way in which our culture makes sense of the human organism in general, and of chronic pain in particular, is a very large part of the problem. We are laboring under demonstrably false beliefs about the mind/body connection, and these misconceptions are a large part of the problem. In addition, our own personal forms of emotional distress, the depths of which are largely at an unconscious level, combine with chronic pain myths to produce the current epidemic.

People can overcome chronic pain, as it is not the untreatable blight on modern life which the ‘pain industry’ has led us to believe. In order to overcome chronic pain, sufferers need to delve into its causes in the form of psychological dilemmas, emotional distress and other repressed unconscious material. Chronic pain is not all in the head as it is a genuine physical experience, however by approaching it from a psychological angle, we are able to retrain our mind/brain towards healing the whole person.


The way forward, and out of chronic pain, is to become aware of the falsities which the pain industry usually promotes, and to see the connection between these, our unconscious forms of distress, and the experience of our own bodies. Much of this can achieved for many people by reading The Hidden Psychology of Pain- a self-help book which takes the reader through the psychological factors which can result in chronic pain, as well as a guided journey of self-exploration which can shed light onto the true causes. Knowledge is power, and The Hidden Psychology of Pain aims to empower sufferers through scientifically based knowledge. 


The message is that chronic pain is highly treatable. Most people can have a positive impact on it if they are willing to look at the psychological factors behind it. This need not be daunting or overwhelming, and the reader can be walked through the process via this self-help book. If your psychological issues are more substantial, eg arising from significant trauma, then advice is given in the book as to what type of psychological help is likely to be the most beneficial.

The book is also available in e-book form (at a much lower price than the hard copy) from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, and the Balboa Press website.


Readers are well advised to take a look at the TMS Wiki and the TMS Help websites (links at the bottom of the page). You will find an abundance of information there, as well as discussion forums which can play an important role in your recovery from chronic psychophysiological  pain.

Readers are advised to always be medically cleared of more serious health conditions before considering the possibilities described on this web sight or in 'The Hidden Psychology of Pain'.