I’m telling you that an emotional exercise can cure a physical symptom. I’m telling you that a pain or affliction which has owned you for years can be completely resolved by following a simple program of self-discovery. I’m suggesting a profound shift in the way you think about your physical pain and symptoms… or am I?
Here’s what I think is more true: What I suggest is what you already believe.
“Stress” causes headaches. “Panic” can signal hives to erupt all over your body. “Fear” can send you running for a bathroom. I sit here confident that every person reading this can relate to at least one of these scenarios.
There is nothing more gratifying than the moments when popular culture gives me a platform on which to lay out my argument with perfect precision. In the wake of the stunningly poignant HBO hit The Night Of, I have just that.
For those of you who’ve seen it, I need only say one word: Eczema.
(For those who haven’t, please stop whatever you’re doing and binge the whole thing because it’s breathtaking.)
Turturro’s portrayal of a lawyer steeped in fear and panic living in the jail of himself is at once captivating and horrifying. As you walk with him through the corridors of our complicated justice and penal systems, with your heart swinging wildly from hope to hatred for a young man who may or may not have brutally slain a young woman, your attention is oddly yet equally rapt by something altogether different: a brutal case of eczema on Turturro’s feet.
Turturro’s dedication to doing what’s right makes you love him; his feet make you shudder with revulsion as do the people seated next to him on the subway. He is the ideal vehicle for me to introduce a theory which I believe will revolutionize the culture of chronic pain. That theory is called Emotion Substitution (ES.)
When you have an issue, your diagnosis is your diagnosis. For example, if you have a bad back, you have a bad back. If you have IBS, you have IBS. If you have migraines you have migraines. There are myriad ways in which our bodies metabolize pain, and you probably have a least a few of them - we all do.
There is simply more than one way to reach the same conclusion. You can believe you have a bad back because something is structurally wrong with your back, however more and more people are coming to understand that although our MRIs and X-Rays reveal that our spines are not the same as the skeleton in health class, cutting them apart or shooting them with drugs does not seem to resolve the pain in any meaningful way.
You have a choice, and if you make it, I have a cure.
You can believe that you have pain in your back because of a process I describe as Emotion Substitution (ES).
ES a process by which our pain is derived from having too much emotional suppression in our mind/body system. When the amount of emotion we need to deal with in our lives and from our histories reaches a critical mass, and we don't understand how to manage it without continuing to push it down, we experience ES. Our emotional overload is channeled into bodily pain, tricking us into believing that we can control the situation by dealing with the physical aspect of our pain.
As we busy ourselves with doctor's appointments, researching new treatments, and obsessing about our limited lives, we have an illusion of control which oddly makes us feel empowered. But the reality of our lives is that they are miserable when we are preoccupied with pain. Fear begins to dominate, as we define our existence as a function of navigating around our pain.
“I’m not going to be able to go on that trip, or attend that little league game, or host that party.” Subtext: I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.
ES is a condition which can be treated without medication or surgery or treatments of any kind. When the patient works my program and thereby gives a voice to the suppressed emotions, it's like taking a ladle into the emotional reservoir of rage, fear, anger, sadness, resentment, and shame which lives within us, which has been necessitating the pain. As the body adjusts to this change, the symptoms associated with your given diagnosis will secede, allowing for a pain free life.
Turturro’s character was complex - his love life in shambles, his relationships with his ex-wife and son strained, his legal practice marked by cheesy subway ads and tactics no better than ambulance chasing. Oddly and beautifully, his most significant relationship in the series was with a cat. An abandoned animal collected at the crime scene, with Turturro the only barrier between it and euthanasia. Yet, he couldn’t keep the cat as his eczema and asthma were so extreme that his hands (and feet, and throat) were tied.
I can’t tell you the end, just in case you haven’t seen it. It’s just too good for me to ruin. Just take this one nugget of wisdom away with you: his emotions were making him sick. Not the cat.
Turturro’s character had eczema. YES, he had it. He also had asthma. But, why? Why? Why is the question you to need to ask yourself, if you’d like to be well. I know you want to ask, “How can I make it go away?” and that is a fabulous question.
But if you want to get the answer that will change your life, first you must ask: