12 Apr Minding the Miracles
“All The Rage” focuses on Dr. Sarno, but it’s also about much broader themes related to how ideas move through the world. We think through the lens and language of our culture; there’s no escaping it. Often times we are completely unaware of how deeply our culture shapes our sense of right and wrong, as well as accepted/acceptable behaviors and ideas. These frames act like invisible cages that even the boldest of us have trouble getting beyond. These frames tether us to each other through the language that shapes our reality.
Over the past 50 years, the medical industrial complex has constructed a language and reality that have defined all health issues in terms of a bio/physical framework. This framing has become so powerful that many people have great difficulty accepting that there are emotional factors connected to their physical health. Doctors who take emotional factors into consideration are often accused of trafficking in “woo“, of being “science deniers”. This is especially true for Dr. Sarno, as he did not write many scientific papers or engage in randomized control trials to prove his theories. In the end, though, his basic theory has less to do with proving exactly what is going on physically when pain has an emotional basis – than simply that it does have an emotional basis. If that root cause – emotional factors – is ignored completely by the medical system, then it simply can’t be addressed medically, and certainly can’t be solved medically. In fact, ignoring it as a society – repressing it even further – seems to have a powerfully negative effect. On the flip side, by simply recognizing the emotions, and the emotional aspects of our illness, we can lift a massive weight off of the problem. The last line of our film comes as Dr. Sarno looks through the “Thank You Dr Sarno” book which consists of thank you letters people submitted to the Thank You Dr. Sarno project, “All of this because of one simple idea: the fact that the mind and the body are intimately connected. That’s it. That’s the whole story.”
Like Dr. Sarno, we’ve faced a good deal of resistance to “All The Rage” because many film programmers see it as being “advocacy” and not presenting a “balanced”/he-said, she-said view of the ideas. We know that the film won’t resonate with everyone. People who are resistant to accepting or dealing with their own emotions are particularly resistant to the film. However, it has the most powerful effect on people who are unconsciously resistant to the ideas. They accept the basic idea that the mind and body are connected, but are blind to how that affects them personally. Here are a couple of stories that illuminate how powerfully the ideas can work when people are ready to deal with the message on a personal level.
1. Early in our process of getting the film back on track, we had a high school intern working in our office. One day, she spent several hours transcribing footage that we had shot for the film. I can’t remember exactly what the footage was, but it had something to do with the mind, the body, and back pain. The following morning she called me and calmly explained that she wouldn’t be in that day because she was in bed and she couldn’t move. If she turned even a little bit she had excruciating pain. As she explained this to me, she was calm and there wasn’t a sense of panic in her voice which struck me as odd. I asked her a few more questions about the pain. Then I asked her what she had been transcribing the day before because I had a sense it was connected. I asked her if she thought that her back pain might have anything to do with what she had been working on. “That seems possible,” she replied. Then I asked her if there was anything stressful going on in her life. It turned out that in addition to working for us (she was part of a high school internship program in which she worked 3 full days a week with us), she was taking care of her mother who was dying of cancer. mic drop….. “So, you’ve been working with us for several months now, and you never mentioned that you mother has only a few weeks to live….that indicates to me that perhaps you aren’t very emotionally present with what’s going on. I think you should think about that for a bit and I bet it will help.” She called back a few minutes later to say that the pain was gone and that she’d be in shortly. I told her to stay home for the day and just write about what was going on. The next day she came in, and we gave her a camera, telling her that she should make something with her mother. She made a short film, and it was moving and important. I got a call from her a couple of years ago. She’s a school counsellor now, working with kids to help them get more in touch with what they are dealing with.
Here are a couple from the last two weeks.
2. Recently I stayed with my friend Chris. Chris is a mensch- If you didn’t have shoes, he’d give you his, etc. In other words, he’s a perfect candidate for needing Sarno’s ideas. While I was there, he cooked me meals, found me parking, let me use his computer, etc. When I got home, I sent him a link to “All The Rage”. At the time he told me he really liked it, gave me some great feedback. What he didn’t tell me was that after watching it, he realized his chronic headaches might be related. This morning I got the following note from him, “Btw, I forgot to tell you, ‘All the Rage’ basically fixed my chronic headache problem. I’ve been struggling with constant headaches for years and after watching your movie I began to approach the whole thing in a different way and it seems to be working.”
3. A couple of weeks ago, my friend was really struggling to get a kickstarter campaign off the ground. I gave her some advice and donated a copy of my photo book in malls to help her get it moving. Over the next few days, I saw her really work hard at it. Then on Sunday night, she posted on facebook that her back had gone completely out. Naturally, I sent her a link to our film. Sending a link to a person in pain is a bit fraught. Those who are resistant to the ideas tend to get somewhat angry. A lot of people say they’re going to watch it and don’t. I don’t push it but instead simply provide it. The next day, I got a message from her. The pain had gotten so bad she’d gone to the emergency room for x-rays. They hadn’t found anything of note. So she went home and watched the movie. Like me, she had a father who was often stuck on the floor in pain. So when her pain hit, she said she started to fear that this would be her life now. When she saw the movie, she completely got it and by the time it was over she was better. She simply got out of bed. I got that note around noon and we happened to be leaving for NY by car that evening. Her house was on the way, so we stopped by. It was hard to believe that she’d been stuck on the floor that morning because she was totally fine.
In the course of working on the film, we’ve seen a massive increase in awareness that our emotions affect our health. In fact, it’s becoming somewhat common knowledge. Still, much of the time, even while people accept the idea, they have a hard time connecting it to their own lives. It pleases us a great deal that the film has been helping people to access their own emotional connections.