Here’s an excerpt from our interview with John:
What in Sarno’s work convinced you that his ideas applied to you, even in the face of very convincing physical symptoms?
So I had read [Sarno’s] book before, and I liked it. It made sense, and I sort of think in that way anyway - I had been a social worker, and so the concept made sense to me. But for whatever reason, it had never clicked in that it could explain what I was dealing with. And so it wasn’t until I heard somebody tell [their recovery story] that I even had that thought - “Oh, this could pertain to me.” And so, I think, probably like a lot of people - I open the book, I read the first 30 pages, and there I am: somewhat perfectionistic, very high standards for myself, hard on myself, etc.
But when I look back on it, it was the stressful situations that I was in. I was in the process of applying to medical school; and I was really serious with my now wife, who was then my girlfriend, and we were talking about getting married […] and then I was having a spiritual crisis on top of that. So I probably could have handled any one of those things all on my own without getting these symptoms, but I think the three of them all together was just too much for what I could deal with at the time. So it just came out in my body.
Being able to focus on all of the bodily symptoms meant that I didn’t have to focus on the other things. So I didn’t have to make a decision about whether to get married - because who can get married when their body is betraying them? It took some of the pressure off the med school application process, too.
As a physician, why do you think it’s hard to grow this part of your practice?
[…] It’s very easy for someone to get a new thyroid medication and be at a cocktail party and hear someone is going on thyroid medication and be like “Oh great! You should go see this guy, he has a great thyroid medication.” People love new medications.
It’s much harder to be at a cocktail party and hear somebody talk about pain and be like “Oh you know what? When I went through my divorce, I had really bad back pain.” Nobody wants to tell that story.
Can people really get better from this?
People get better. That’s why I do this work, that’s why you guys are doing this work, it’s because we know in our own bodies that people get better. We know by looking at the people around us that people can get better. Some people get better quickly, and some people get better more slowly, but I’m absolutely convinced that chronic pain and chronic symptoms can better by paying attention to our thoughts and our emotions and our psychology. Even for people who are struggling and struggling and struggling, it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to get better. Oftentimes, it’s just that they need to do a little bit more work, they need to take these tools and employ them a little bit more. But I’m absolutely convinced that a huge percentage of the population who’s struggling with chronic symptoms can get better by treating it this way.