‘All the Rage’
Directed by Michael Galinsky,
Suki Hawley and David Beilinson
Wednesday, Sept. 13, 7:30 p.m.
Bow Tie Clairidge Cinema,
486 Bloomfield Ave.
By GWEN OREL
A pain in the neck.
Imagery of illness infects description of things we don’t like.
But it’s not only in language that the world of health and outlook intersect.
Jonathan Sibley, a Montclair licensed social worker, says that “stress and emotion can amplify pain. Sometimes they can cause the pain as a way of telling us there’s something we need to be paying attention to.”
The new documentary “All the Rage: Saved by Sarno” explores that idea as it chronicles the work of Dr. John Ernest Sarno Jr., who died in June at age 93.
A professor of rehabilitation medicine at NYU, Sarno testified in 2012 before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on the topic of chronic pain and the mind-body connection. Sen. Tom Harkin, who chaired the committee, was a supporter of Sarno’s work.
“The biggest chronic illness in the U.S. is chronic pain,” Sibley said. “It’s close to four times as many people as the number who suffer from the next disease, diabetes.”
After seeing a screening of the documentary, which includes footage from that hearing and interviews with chronic pain sufferers Larry David and Howard Stern, Sibley and fellow psychotherapist Wendy Newman organized a screening of “All the Rage” in Montclair.
“It’s not out in wide distribution, and I wanted to make sure people had a chance to see it,” Sibley said.
Sarno’s work was controversial. In several books and papers, Sarno explored a theory that symptoms that don’t respond to treatment are the result of repressed emotions and vanish when the underlying issue resolves. Other researchers have done statistical studies that bear out Sarno’s theories, or some such statistical studies that seem to bear out his theories.
Sibley stressed that Sarno was not saying an injury or underlying condition was not also physical.
For example, many people have herniated discs that show up on an MRI, but not all of them have pain, he said. And others
have a perfect back but feel pain.
“Unfortunate things happen when people look for purely physical causes. They often end up bouncing from doctor to doctor, or end up with expensive, painful back surgery that often doesn’t work, because the problem wasn’t purely physical.”
Some people who work on mind-body symptoms are skeptical of physical causes, Sibley said, because people can spend so much time looking for physical causes without getting relief.
But it’s important to rule out whether something physical is going on.
For some people, merely wondering if stress is involved causes their symptoms to resolve.
Another thing that the movie and Dr. Sarno talk about is that certain personality profiles tend to be more susceptible to symptoms of chronic pain exacerbated by emotion and stress,. Perfectionists and people-pleasers are particularly vulnerable.
In 2017, medicine is still on the frontier of psycho-immunology and looking at how different systems interact, Sibley said. But mind-body connection is something that even big pharma acknowledges, with its warnings on some drugs that they can cause suicidal thoughts.
“If you take a medicine it affects your brain. If you talk to a therapist or a close friend it affects your brain,” Sibley said.
Not only is it difficult to make a pure distinction, the concept of the pure distinction between mind and body is what Dr. Sarno questioned.