Episode 158: Unraveling The Mystery of Chronic Pain with Alan Weisser

The choice is living with pain or being able to do more with pain? Pain is an individualized expression that no two people are alike. Dr. Alan shows us how to get to the root cause of pain and how to manage the pain to expand your life.

Do not miss these highlights:

11:28 You don’t treat the disease, you treat the person, the injury is in their life

12:21 Appreciating the person’s life and what they really need is a big part of the treatment

16:06 We have an existential immune system, an infinite potential – There is no such thing as being helpless or being without options

16:48 Every human experience is translated into thoughts and feelings – Feelings are much more important than thoughts in terms of being able to survive

19:33 It’s about mastering chronic pain, not managing

22:30 It’s hard to be a doctor dealing with chronic conditions because they are trained to cure

25:13 Patients are partners in treatment

34:00 How people with chronic illness who are being left hopeless could survive emotionally and physically

37:07 Thriving is living in possibility, Surviving is living in helplessness, But there are always possibilities

Resources Mentioned

Whether you are recovering from an illness or just looking to maintain your current overall health, schedule a consult with us at Serenity Health Care  by calling  (262)522-8640 or visit https://www.serenityhealthcarecenter.com 

About our Guest:

Dr. Alan Weisser, JD, PhD, and his group at New Options, Inc., a pain management practice, has an extensive background in working with the psychological problems people face when they are living with complex and chronic pain problems. Working at New Options, Inc., he has participated in multi-disciplinary teams that has forged successful collaborations between patients, claim managers, medical practices and agencies including The University of Washington Rehabilitation Department, Puget Sound Sports and Spine Physicians, Labor and Industries, other physicians, rehabilitation specialists and community resources. He has presented on New Options approach to care to physicians at the University of Washington, Labor and Industries, the National Society of Spine Surgeons, the Trial Lawyers Association, and numerous medical and rehabilitation practices. By focusing on collaborative and realistic goals, and practices, within a coherent clinical model, his practice has provided support that empowered chronic pain patients to transition from dysfunction and disability to empowerment and recovery. He looks forward to sharing concepts and techniques for working with people suffering from chronic pain and medical conditions.

Dr. Weisser is uniquely qualified to lead others in experiences of self-discovery. When he was 12 years old, he broke his neck in a diving accident at a local swimming pool. Though he nearly died, he developed an unshakable belief that he could and would recover. During this two-year recovery, he came to understand that it was not just physical pain that affected him. The injury had caused a high level of emotional suffering and self-confidence was severely shaken. His former approach to life, based on taking risk and challenging himself, seemed entirely out of reach. In reaction to this, he engaged in many growth-related activities including becoming a trial lawyer and taking up martial arts, which eventually led to an emerging need for a more profound change in his life. 

Back in New York City with his life reimagined, he began his pursuit of a degree in clinical psychology. His studies led to working with the chronically mentally ill in a state mental hospital for many years. This work deepened his understanding that treating any kind of human pain required understanding and treating a person’s whole life. To do that you need to learn what is meaningful and inspiring to them. 

A move to Seattle in the late 1990’s led Dr. Weisser to applying his evolved awareness, skills and knowledge in dealing with chronic mental, emotional, and physical suffering. In 2002 he founded New Options in Seattle where he has become a highly respected clinician working with patients who suffer with chronic physical and emotional pain. He has developed a systematic way to help them discover their potential and their abilities, and master chronic conditions. 

Website: newoptionsinc.com 

Book: “New Possibilities: Unraveling the Mystery and Mastering Chronic Pain”: https://tinyurl.com/2v6eskzy 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/alan-weisser-434541122 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/newoptionsinc 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/newoptionsinc/

Transcript of Episode #158:

Debra Muth 0:02
Welcome to Let’s Talk Wellness Now. I’m your host, Dr. Deb. This is where we talk about everything wellness, and learn to defy aging, and live our lives on our own terms.

Hello, hello, you are listening to Let’s Talk Wellness Now Podcast. Welcome if this is your first time finding us, welcome back if you’ve been with us before, today we’re talking about chronic pain. More than 50 million adults in the US suffer from chronic pain, costing the nation roughly $635 billion annually to treat chronic pain. Chronic Pain is a crazy thing for people to live with. And everyone’s threshold in dealing with pain is very different. For some people, a little bit of pain, puts them out, leads them to looking for medication, or alcohol or marijuana, all kinds of different things to help alleviate that pain. And for other people, we can see them suffer with such severe pain, and never take an Advil for it. So the question is, why do some people need medication? Why can some people get away without medicating? And how do we deal with this extreme chronic pain syndrome that we’re dealing with in our country today? Because it is one of the biggest reasons why we have addiction. Because people are looking for a way to medicate themselves. So they can continue their daily activities. And this has been a major problem in our country, both from an addiction standpoint and a financial standpoint. And from a standpoint of people just losing their livelihood, losing their ability to do the things that they love, and the things that are so important to them. Their families miss out their children miss out there’s just so many complications that are resulting from chronic pain. So my guest today, Alan Weiser is a pain specialist, a chronic pain specialist, where he works in Seattle to help people overcome and master the pain management situation, master the psychology around it, master the pain itself. And he’s going to share a story with us about him being 12 years old and diving off a swimming pool. You can imagine what comes next after this if if he went down the road of dealing with chronic pain. So Dr. Alan Weisser is joining us today from new options Inc, a pain management practice. He has an extensive background in working with the psychology psychological problems people face when they’re living with complex and chronic pain problems. So we’re gonna bring on Dr. Weisser in just a second. First we’re going to go to our sponsor, and hear a quick note from them.

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Well, welcome back to the show. I have Dr. Alan Weisser with me. Did I say that? Right?

Alan Weisser 4:38
You got it.

Debra Muth 4:39
Perfect. So Dr. Allen, tell us your story. How did you get involved in treating chronic pain?

Alan Weisser 4:45
Okay, really quickly. I’m a clinical psychologist, and I’ve specialized in chronic pain for the last 20 years. And before that spent almost that amount of time working with a chronically ill And Leo 10 of those in the state mental hospital in New York. But the story actually begins in my own childhood. So what the work that I do is is not just clinically it’s also it’s also personal to me. And anybody who’s suffered with any persistent or chronic condition can probably relate to this story. So I’m 12 and a half. And as a child, I was what would have been called headstrong. I kind of wanted to figure things out for myself, but I was pretty good at risk taking. So I had this idea that I wanted to learn how to do trick diving on the board, and the swimming pool. Did you know when you do a backflip on a board, you’re supposed to dive out? Not straight up? Oh, I must have missed that lesson. Mm hmm. So I did it incorrectly. I hit the board. I broke my neck. Right. Now, here’s where that story relates to where I do. So I’m taken to the hospital so long time ago. So it’ll sound fairly primitive in some ways. The attending physician comes in. Remember, I’m 12 and a half. I’m in a hospital. My neck is broken. I don’t know what’s going on. Right? Right says to me, if you don’t die, and you’re not paralyzed, you’ll be crippled for the rest of your life.

Debra Muth 6:17
Oh my gosh, right.

Alan Weisser 6:19
I actually started calling friends and saying goodbye. I figured I always done it, right. So I was in the hospital for almost two months, I didn’t die. I wasn’t paralyzed. But they had me in a cast. And they wanted to keep you there. I don’t know how long they would have kept me there. But I couldn’t stand being there. Being in that hospital was more frightening to me and disturbing. So I made a fuss, I throw my food over the place and they sent me home. But I did spend the next year on my back in a bed with a brace not allowed to leave the vet, or even sit up.

Debra Muth 6:51

Alan Weisser 6:53
So while the injury didn’t actually cause me a loss of the use of my legs, the atrophy did. It took me over a year to be able to walk properly again. So my recovery extended for almost three years, it interrupted everything you can imagine just transitioning junior high school. So I recovered eventually. But the damage that was done to me it was much more than physical. I was no longer the headstrong competent guy. I was told I was fragile. So no sports, no athletics. I was very careful, I was even careful about just turning my head. Right. So and it also undermined my competence. So that academically I almost flunked out of high school, which is fascinating. When you consider I’ve got two PhDs, so but just to understand that this is the kind of damage that can be done emotionally. And part of the problem was that nobody knew how I was feeling. I was that kid who was always smiling, making jokes, acting like it was fine. No big deal. did not share any of my fears, or any of my emotional suffering with anyone that haunted me for quite a while after the injury.

Debra Muth 8:09
I can imagine.

Alan Weisser 8:10
By the time I got to college, right? I go like, you know, if I’m going to be crippled, I’d rather have it on my own terms. So I signed up for Judo and trampoline. I figured if I’m gonna try it out, I might as well. So long story short, it turned out that my neck was okay. I’ve actually been in the martial arts over 50 years. Wow. You asked me if I ever had a problem with my neck.

Debra Muth 8:37

Alan Weisser 8:39

Debra Muth 8:41
Has anybody bothered to look like imaging of your neck to see where it is now?

Alan Weisser 8:46
I’m really glad you asked that question. Because nobody had looked for years. I mean, I was okay. I was able to do everything I wanted to do, right. But about a couple years ago, I had a lower back problem, I went to see a chiropractor. And for the first time since the original injury, he took x rays. And I told him the story. And he says I’ve never seen this before. I’m looking at your X rays. I can see you had some serious breaks. But you appear to have a perfect natural fusion.

Debra Muth 9:14

Alan Weisser 9:15
Now why that happens? I have no idea. Maybe it was a year and my back in a brace. Maybe it was I don’t know. But the lessons that eventually I came to understand from that are not the doctors are wrong and that you shouldn’t pay attention. But they’re not always right. And when any doctor says to one of my patients learn to live with it, you got it for the rest of your life. I go why in the world. Are you saying that? Maybe? Right. So I learned about that. But more importantly, I learned about collateral damage. So that was kind of a backdrop and then along the way I met people who reminded me of who I really was, helped me to understand that there were things emotional never shared and began to give me the opportunity to do that. I started out career wise after college as an attorney, but as a trial attorney. So even at that point, I wanted to advocate for people that felt helpless. I certainly understood what that felt like.

Debra Muth 10:16
Yeah, I imagine.

Alan Weisser 10:18
So in that, that was a good occupation, and I enjoyed it. But eventually, with a lot of other experiences along the way, I came to understand that what I wanted to do was something other than that. And that led to me becoming a clinical psychologist. And that journey, just coincidentally, in New York City, New York State to get your PhD to practice, right, as a therapist, you have to have your PhD, the only place you can actually be a therapist without that is working on the state hospital, in supervision. So that’s how I got to be at Bronx Psychiatric Center, which is part of Einstein Medical Center, wonderful place teaching facility, right, which was a perfect opportunity, really good psychology department. I was there as an intern for a year and I kind of got hooked, which trust me, I would never have thought that those were the that was the population because working with people are chronically mentally ill, yeah, institutionalize incredibly difficult. But that was kind of where my own perseverance comes in. I go like, Okay, if I overcame something that seemed impossible to overcome maybe this way. Yeah. And I, I began to understand at that point, that you don’t treat the disease, you treat the person that the injury is in their life, it’s not just in their psyche or their body. And so a lot of the structural work that I did that’s led to the model, I use now began working with those patients and finding that it could be successful if you treated life. One of my favorite quick stories to kind of illustrate this that relates to chronic pain. So these patients were institutionalized. And the staff on the unit would say, don’t bother trying to do treatment, they’re not going to go to treatment, they’re not going to leave. Right? So I go, maybe, but I thought about it, New York City in the Bronx, you’re psychotic. There’s no outpatient services. So if you’re not in the hospital, you’re on the streets, and you’re psychotic, right? So they had a vested interest in being in the hospital. So the first thing I did with the patients was I said, You know what, I’m not going to try and get you out. But I do want to know, is what you enjoy about being here. And I made a list 24/7 care, one place to be steady food, all the things you’d expect, right? And then I made a list of the things they didn’t have individual room, their own TV, whatever, right? Instead of I can give you what you have in the hospital, and what you don’t have, would you be willing to leave the hospital? They said, sure. It took me five years and a redesign of a lot of the operations in the hospital, which I was able to do to provide them exactly that. And lo and behold, we got them out, they stayed out.

Debra Muth 13:01

Alan Weisser 13:02
You have to appreciate the person’s life and what they really need. That’s a big part of the treatment. So I worked in that field for a long time in New York, and then out here, but that that population, that being a mental health, there’s some major major problems. The irony being that I, I had learned what to do to really help but the system systems issues, you can see it today, right with the homeless population. Yeah. I took it as far as becoming clinical director and King County for United Healthcare, trying to manage all their community mental health centers, but too much politics, too much power plays. At some point, I go, like, you know, I’m spitting on the wind, doesn’t matter that I know what would help. And then I wasn’t sure. And because I was very determined and dedicated to that population. And I noticed it was part time job available in a chronic pain management program, which I knew nothing about. Like, who knows, maybe that’ll be interesting. So I started that program, really good program, multidisciplinary, right, which is something I love. I love a multidisciplinary approach. I’d learned that in the hospital. But I came to understand very quickly that their psychology, their clinical psychology approach, this was very top down, very superficial. And that’s what got me thinking about what I’d already known. Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen over 2000 patients and that thinking has evolved into an approach to this, which is existential and holistic, and very impactful. And it combines two elements. One is really understanding what happens to a person with a persistent condition. And for example, chronic pain patient typical chronic pain, chronic injury, chronic illness, can be anywhere is up to 200 collateral damages things that happen because of Yeah, yep for example, sleep disruption Right, whilst physical conditioning can’t work, right marriage might be crashed, it could be up to 200 collateral damages. But as you and I both know, the the traditional Western medicine system doesn’t trade any of those things. But all of those things can increase the pain and interfere with recovery.

So, initially, I was assessing, being effective, as you understand, like, what’s happened to this person? You know, thanks to my patients, I went from a five page intake packet to a 65 patients a packet. Right? Yes, I just kept seeing that could happen, that could happen. And then I go, Okay, it’s not enough to see what’s going on. Right. I’m a good martial artist, it’s good to know what another person can do, which I have to counter right. And then began to develop in approaches. And I have a very good foundation in terms of my training as a psychologist, psychoanalytic background, psychodynamic, really good supervision for many years. I started thinking about it. And what evolved from this was what I would now refer to as an understanding that we have an existential immune system, a human beings actually, or by definition, infinite potential, there is no such thing as being helpless or being without options. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t understand that. I think a lot of people try to understand that or encapsulate that in different ways. But I go, Okay, if you have potential, if evolution has provided you with the ability to meet any challenge, right, to not only survive, but thrive. What are the tools? Right? What’s the toolkit? Turns out there is a toolkit. And part of how it came to understand that was every human experience ultimately is translated into thoughts and feelings, right? And then those thoughts and feelings determine action, right? So I go, Okay, let’s look at thoughts and feelings and see where they align. Turns out that feelings are much more important than thoughts in terms of being able to survive, trust your gut. Now I understand why that’s what people say, yeah, the intellect is good. But it has limitations. There are some kinds of thinking that are non evolutionary. So the approach evolved into this existential immune system, you have not just a physical immune system, but one for your emotional, psychological, existential well being, and found a way to turn that into actual techniques, which I would describe as sort of cognitive existential. One of my favorite examples, and I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts about this. Most people don’t know that emotions actually have a functional purpose. They’re not just an experience. You start thinking about that, and you go, okay, and I thought about it, because my patients have so much anxiety and anger, I go, is that just about suffering? Maybe. But when I looked into it, I discovered that is it in anger, the two most important human emotions, that they have incredibly important functions. Most people don’t know that anxiety is a fire alarm. Right? We need a system that warns us when our needs are being threatened, right?

Debra Muth 18:12

Alan Weisser 18:14
Turns out that it’s anxiety. You’ll never feel any anxiety unless your needs are being threatened. So you don’t want to say why am I anxious you want to go? What needs are being threatened? It’s a simple idea, but it’s actually profound. And then, of course, you need an action system, because you have to deal with the threat. For that you need the most important human emotion and my favorite, anger, anger. But anger is not yelling and screaming and hitting that is a mismanagement of it. I think you’ll appreciate this, these emotions are forces, you can see them on an MRI. Are you familiar with the concept of CHI energy? Ch I,

Debra Muth 18:49
I am.

Alan Weisser 18:50
Yeah, we are an energy system, right? Any martial artists knows it’s not physical power, it’s being able to focus that key energy. That’s what gives you the power. Right? These emotions are another form of energy that we have available to us. But we don’t even know that, let alone how to use that. How do you channel it? So it’s not lightning? And it’s electricity, right? So bottom line is that I’ve been inspired because working on this, working through it, learning from my patients and trying to apply everything I’ve ever learned. I see people being able to overcome these things. And it’s not about your done with your pain, you may not be you may have intractable conditions, at least for the moment. But the first thing I’ll usually hear from a patient is I don’t know if I have less pain, but I don’t feel the same way about it. I’ve been affected by it the same way, which is why you’ll see in the title of my book, it’s about mastering chronic pain, not managing. I will never use that word again. Yeah, that mastery means the pain is not running your life. You’re running it. So the whole approach is meant to be empowering.

Debra Muth 19:59
I think that’s it I’m so glad that you’re talking about this in not managing it and mastering it. Because in the population that we work with, too, there’s a lot of chronic illness, a lot of chronic pain. And sometimes, unfortunately, things that you heard from the doctor are the same things we hear today, you know, 20, plus years later, still, people being told things that you’re going to always be like this, you just learn to live with it, get on with your life, blah, blah, blah, and more things than that sometimes are being said, and it’s so important. When we place those words in someone’s mind, they grab ahold of that, and you either have one of two things, you either have the rebel inside that says, screw you, I’m going to show you that you’re wrong. Or you have the person that says, well, this person that’s so much more powerful than me and knows more than me told me, I was always going to be like this, how can I get over this? How can I stop this? And so it really becomes part of them. And it is really hard to break through some of that.

Alan Weisser 20:58
Yeah, it is. And when I work with patients, I don’t ignore the physical side of the equation. There’s several chapters in the book about this. There’s many potential pitfalls in the medical environment, especially because of managed care, as you know, yeah. But there’s also ways to not have that happen. And the first thing I’ll say to a patient, it’s just logic, right? We live in an age of medical miracles. Right? Not science fiction anymore. I mean, 20 years from now, I might be able to download my consciousness into an android body. And doctors tell telling me I have to live with this for the rest of my life. When I started this work, there were no artificial discs. Now there are. So telling the person that they’re faded for the rest of their life makes absolutely no sense on a logical level. Yeah. I tell patients were part of your treatment plan is to track research on your condition. Stay up to date on what’s happening. I’m sure you know, this is tremendous work on on just about managing the pain itself. Yeah, just like there’s ways to bypass blindness or a hearing loss. Any doctor that’s telling the patient, this is your fate. I don’t know why they’re saying that. I don’t know what they’re thinking. Yeah, so that makes a big difference. I’ll just if I just say that, right. And if I tell the patient, so your doctor can tell you based on his experience, working with people that have these problems, so far, that’s what they’ve seen. But that’s all they know. Right? And doctors, I love my doctors, they’re great. But you know, it’s hard to be a doctor dealing with chronic conditions because they are trained to cure. Right? Right. So it’s a tough job. So I am not insensitive to the medical end of this equation. I want this information to support both and the doctors that I work with the ones that endorse this book, the people that support the work I do that put me together in presentations, appreciate it. But the part that that I’m sure you could appreciate that really makes me crazy. So they understand the model, right? They love sending me patients, they always send me the most difficult and interactive course. Which is fine, because that’s kind of what I thrive on. So one of the doctors I work with for years has been very supportive. I said, so if you understand what I’m doing, right? Why aren’t you incorporating this into your practice? For example, you sit with the patient and you ask that zero 10 scale question. How much is your pain right? Now, that is a completely meaningless question. Right? I’m a martial artist. If I tell you my pains at 10, it’s most people’s 20. It’s completely subjective. It’s based on context history. Now, if I tell you that because I have pain, I can get out of bed. And I say it’s a nine that would make sense if you don’t attach it to functioning. Right, right. So I said, So you’re seeing patients, asking them for a pain rating? And they’ll tell you it’s an eight you go, Well, based on the studies, it should be a three or four. So then the patient’s thinking they don’t know what’s wrong with me. The doctor is thinking patients exaggerating. Yeah, I’d like $1 for every time a doctor told me that the patient was catastrophizing, exaggerating, hysterical, never true. No. So I said, Okay, you understand this, you understand that you’re creating problems for your patient by letting them think that there’s some disconnect here. So why don’t you incorporate all of this as part of your analysis part of your intake packet? And it’s a really good doctor, okay. He says, Well, you’re the specialist, so we send them to you. Yes. This is where specialization has become incredibly dangerous.

Debra Muth 24:43
And i.e. translation. I don’t have time to do this. And I want somebody else to do it for me.

Alan Weisser 24:51
What’s even worse because they send them to a specialist without the patient understanding why they’re doing why they’re going exactly. Yeah. So there’s so it said a long time ago, I’m not going to try and reform the medical system. I presented to residents, I’ll talk to them in their educational programs, maybe. But to empower patients, they’re the people in every meeting. And if they are empowered, if they are knowledgeable, even the fact that patients are partners in treatment, you’re collaborating. So doctors don’t understand that. Patients don’t know there’s a job description. And if you knew what your job was, because you know this, you can hope to know what’s going on with this patient at the level they know it. No, not at all. Nobody. Nobody tells patients to track the data, as if they’re running a business. Nobody tells them to use longitudinal data, nobody tells them to use modern analytics. If I have 15 minutes with my doctor, I’m coming through the door charts and graphs. Right, I’m going to send them in advance, I have my patient send questions to doctors in advance, good for you with an agenda. Not only that, but I have been requested they be placed in the chart. This goes down to my days working on the hospital, you want a doctor to pay attention, but they don’t. But if you really want them to pay attention, they have to attend to what’s in the chart. Yeah. You know, what happens if you have questions in the chart from a patient that you didn’t answer in your notes. So it’s not meant to be critical or adversarial. But we’re always empowering people.

Debra Muth 26:24
I think it’s a great way to have the patient lead the conversation with the appointment to mean so many times, like I’ll come in and see a client and my first question is, what can I do for you today? It’s not my agenda for that appointment. It’s the patient’s agenda for that appointment. But if unfortunately, the patient isn’t prepared enough, they’re caught off guard by that. So if they can come in with all of their thoughts in line, because let’s face it, if somebody is dealing with chronic pain or chronic illness, their minds not always thinking the way they want it to either it’s it’s not sharp when they want it to be it’s sharp after they walk out the door. And they’re like, Oh, I wish I would have asked this question or I wish I would have done that. So if you have that list, and you have that agenda, you have something to go back to to keep you on track to so you don’t get distracted and forget your most important question you want to have answered at that appointment.

Alan Weisser 27:13
Right. And importantly, the doctor sees that in advance. Mm hmm. They have a much better idea what the patient is looking to find out. Don’t waste your time or the doctors asking things you can look up that up. It does not have to explain to me what a herniated disc is. I can look that up. Yeah. What you want is their knowledge and their experience beyond the ordinary in order to play doctor, but basic definitions, why waste your time talking about that?

Debra Muth 27:36
Yeah. You want to know how it affects you directly, specifically?

Alan Weisser 27:40
Well, and also how their experience relates to this? Because you can only learn so much going on Google. But I’ll give you another quick example. How many patients I don’t think it’s true working with a person like yourself, but with typical western medical doctors typical appointment, 15 minutes, right?

Debra Muth 27:56
Yeah. 15 minutes.

Alan Weisser 27:58
If you’re lucky, or the actual doctor, the patients go, not enough time. Right? I go well, maybe. But then I started thinking about what’s good measure of time. And content. How do those two fit what do you think I came up with?

Debra Muth 28:14
Hmm, control.

Alan Weisser 28:17
Commercials? Ah, right. How long is a typical TV commercial? Yeah, like a minute and a half? 10 To 20 seconds. Really? That’s it? Yeah. Yeah. Count them down. Check it? Oh, maybe 30? At most. Okay. How long do they feel? They feel minutes longer? Longer, right. Yeah. Do you know why that is? If you’re a company spending $500,000 for a commercial, you’re going to find out ways to use words and imagery, music, whatever. That condenses a tremendous amount of information. Right? One of my favorite examples, it was a Superbowl commercial. You may have seen this one. It starts out with the music from Star Wars. Yes. There’s a little kid with a Darth Vader helmet. Remember that commercial? I remember that. Yeah, Volkswagen, right. It’s going around the house trying to get things to happen. Nothing’s happening. Dad drives into the driveway with his new beside. Right? goes into the house. The kid sees the car. He thinks he’s gonna go out there and started dad and mom are watching from the window. And that’s when they show the feature. They’re advertising the remote control. That starts the car the kid jumps and it’s charming. Right? Yeah. Think about what’s contained in that. Your association to everything about Star Wars, your association to little kids your own childhood, right? The idea of magic, right? The parents the perfect setting. Tremendous amount of information in a very short amount of time. When patients do the research when they provide the questions in advance, when they provide the agenda. They are taking that 15 minutes and making much better use of the time. Yeah. But most patients don’t know that. They also don’t know that. After an analysis how important As they tell me, I don’t know why I’m having a flare up. Go. You don’t know why? Because you haven’t looked at the data. Right? There’s always a pattern. Right? I don’t know why I’m getting upset. I don’t know when I’m stressed. So if they understood that they haven’t critically important longitudinal data that can reveal patterns for prevention. Right? And intervention. The it’s very empowering was people grab a hold of this, and they go like, Okay, I’m not a passive recipient anymore.

Debra Muth 30:28
Yeah, they have more power and control than they believe my understand,

Alan Weisser 30:32
I’m running the show that’s part of the master is, as you said, I’m visiting with providers, I’m making their job a lot easier, empowering them to do more for me, and being empowered in the process. So there’s a lot involved in ways to do that. But yeah, with reassuring to me is it actually works.

Debra Muth 30:52
That’s great. I mean, I think it’s so important for us to be able to communicate exactly what we’re feeling. My husband underwent something similar to your experience, he broke his back lifting a piece of equipment at his work, just pulled it the wrong way and broke L-4, L-5, S-1, and went on for, you know, six months being told it’s all in your head, the images don’t show the pain level. And he kept thinking, what’s wrong with me, I should be able to go back to work, I shouldn’t have this pain. What’s happening? Only to find out from another test that no, it was a lot worse than what it looks like on the MRI. And, you know, undergoing surgery after surgery after surgery. And each time coming out and having them say, Well, this is really bad. I don’t know if you’re ever gonna get past this. Oh, well, this isn’t so bad. You should be better with this. And the confusion in his head was like, how come I don’t feel what they see. And there was a lot of healing around that. And a lot of conversations going back and forth, to help him understand that just because we see something on an image doesn’t mean that’s whatyou feel.

Alan Weisser 31:58
Yeah. And that’s the point. There’s so many things that affect this. Yeah. And it’s being looked at holistically. One of the problems that’s happening recently, that’s really troubling. I am a firm proponent of neuroplasticity, I get it, I actually make good use of it. But here’s the interesting part, right? So the brain changes in response to experience. And you’ll often see in a diagnosis central sensitization, right, well, okay, but here’s the interesting question. Human beings brain is reformed by experience. The real question is what experience? If you think going to physical therapy is going to reverse your brain changes? You’re wrong? Yeah. It’ll help. But if you don’t, I can’t attend to all of the collateral damages the work I do, changes people, and probably changes their brains, because we’re hitting it from every possible angle. Yeah. Right. And I think that’s why no matter where they are, because I have a lot of respect for these approaches and these developments. But it doesn’t change the fact that the mind body problem is never been a problem. What is the problem is that people don’t understand how that works is a system. Yeah. So your husband, that’s such a typical story for people that I work with. It’s part of the damage. So yeah, it’s the needless suffering. It’s I’ve seen people made into chronic pain patients for no good reason, other than people aren’t using the right approach.

Debra Muth 33:34
Here’s a question. Because I’m seeing this a lot lately. And I’m curious what your thoughts are going forward, we, you know, we have a pandemic, of course. And we have all these people that are suffering from long hauler syndrome, COVID-19, long haulers, whatever we want to call it. But many of the people that I’m seeing, they’re being told, you know, we know you’ve got something going on there, but we don’t know enough about it. We don’t know how to treat you. We don’t know what to do anything about this. How do you see these people down the road dealing with this chronic illness and the trauma of just kind of being left in the winds and saying, Hey, we know this diseases here, but we’ve got nothing for you. How do you see them surviving, emotionally and physically down the road?

Alan Weisser 34:18
Remember, I started with the premise that you were designed to not just survive, but to thrive.

Debra Muth 34:22

Alan Weisser 34:24
The challenge is to be willing to be open to meeting whatever is required, which often requires that you change. I refer to it as a sort of an operating system change. You go from Windows 10, to Windows 11. You go from yourself to to yourself 2.0 You may need to completely transform the way you cope. I but but I start with the concept that what determines thoughts and feelings which are part of the problem with that syndrome? You know, and behaviors that happen as a result? Well, the interesting question is what determines thoughts and feelings? That’s perception. That perception is being created by the metal system. Yeah, which may be quite honest and saying we don’t know. But what determines perception is based on awareness, if your only awareness is coming from the medical community speaking to a specific physical problem, and not getting nearly enough information to help you, right, and even if you’re dealing with something that I’m sure you have that is intractable, and powerful and the way it impacts people, it’s really more about what you can do to reclaim as much of your life as possible to marginalize, minimize the impact, the focus needs to be on functioning, not on pain, it’s great pain goes away. That’s great. But if I ask the patient, if you could choose the attitudes between higher functioning or less pain, which would you choose? What do people say?

Debra Muth 35:45
Higher functioning. Absolutely. Yeah.

Alan Weisser 35:48
Right. So I’d say, look, there’s a reality to those symptoms. There’s a reality to us not having enough information about it. This reality you have you’re affecting your functioning, what can we do to marginalize and minimize that? What can we do to keep you on a path towards finding some way through it, Stephen Hawking? How in the world did he do what he did? I don’t know, the guy never talked to him. Obviously, he maintained a sense of humor became a great physicist. How do you do that? When you can’t even move? You can’t even talk at some point. Yeah, yet? He did. So anytime I see any example of people overcoming the impossible. Maybe I’m on that list? I don’t know. The point is, I say, it’s possible to find a way to not have, you may have physical suffering. But your emotional suffering, that’s optional.

Debra Muth 36:39
Yeah. It’s so true. We talk about this a lot with our chronically ill people to like, how you choose to perceive what you’re going through, you can either look at it as a gift, or you can look at it as a detriment. If you look at it as a gift, you find all the good things and the positive things that come out of it. And you learn to do things differently. If you look at it always as a problem. That’s all you’re going to see as a problem. You’re never going to see the gifts that come from it.

Alan Weisser 37:07
Yeah, I’m smiling. because recently I in my book, there’s a lot of the use of the word thriving. But I realized that never define that for people. So I started thinking about and I’m always looking for a definition that kind of captures a lot of information in a short statement. So I go like, what is thriving? Right? I asked myself that question. I don’t know if you would agree. But I came up with a definition, I think thriving is living in possibility.

Debra Muth 37:32
Yeah, I love that definition.

Right? And surviving, is living in helplessness. I say to my patients, I may not know you may not know what could be done. But there’s always possibilities. And the key is if you’re getting caught up in feeling helpless and victimized, then you have no access. But you are designed to be able to deal with this. So a lot of the work is actually and I can say one of the I think this central feature that I discovered, that defeats people, and I work with a large span of patients. I work with movers and shakers, and people with ordinary jobs and whatever. What I found out is that we’re really defeats people with chronic conditions, ultimately, is they find that they don’t love themselves. Yeah, they didn’t know. They had some level of love. It was all conditional. I would be willing to bet you it would be my next book about get to it, that if I interviewed people like Hawking, who seemed to have found a way, these would be people that did experience unconditional love. Yeah. And so they have full access to their potential. So when I started talking to people about you have obstructions and your potential and we analyze where those are, you break those obstructions. It’s what I think all spiritual practices do. Same thing in martial arts, you get into practicing with key energy, things become possible. But you know, like, it’s not possible at all right? So the idea is to say to people, you may you may say, I’m done. You may say that’s too much, and that’s okay. So shaman getting off the mat, but just know, if you’re committed, you may find a way through it. But to sell yourself, you have no way out because you have this chronic problem. Where you’re going with that.

Yeah, what will that do for you?

Alan Weisser 39:25
Yeah, and I think as you know, it’s not enough to say that you have to show a person how to sew the How to is fun because it continues to evolve. And because I see I see 40-45 patients a week. It’s a great opportunity to work on things with people and see if they actually work.

Debra Muth 39:41
Right, exactly. So Dr. Weisser, how can people get in touch with you if what you’re talking about is resonating with them, which I think is going to resonate with a ton of people where do they find you and how do they work with you?

The easiest ways to go through our website newoptionsinc.com, Okay, that’ll give you access to this book I keep referring to the title of the book is new possibilities, unraveling the mystery and mastering chronic pain. Because those are the two parts of the process, you get to that through the website, we have a number of classes that our introductory that are pre recorded, to have a person who’s my partner actually asking me about this and going through the model. It’s helpful, and those will be put out there probably in the next month or two. And that’ll be also publicized on the website.


Alan Weisser 40:34
I’m starting to do more podcasts, I will eventually be doing either internet radio show or YouTube or something to that effect. But the challenge is, you know, is actually getting this book published was so important to me seven years in making, right. And it was kind of like helping people without the textbook for the course, yes, then I really wasn’t overly concerned about marketing. So the launch of the book was less than auspicious. There weren’t very many people even know it exists. Yeah. But this time around, I want to make sure that there’s at least people are aware that maybe this is something worth looking at. So all of those things you can find will be finding on the website. And there’s a second book already on the work, that’s a companion piece to this, that that takes the existential immune system into a much deeper level, why there’s so much more to be understood about how well that works. So and I think this is there, there are many other techniques in psychology. This is not better than the rest, kind of like a martial art system. Right? There’s no best school best form. But I can tell you that this particular approach compared to all the training I’ve ever had, is more efficient. takes less time, less energy more effective.

Debra Muth 41:54
Love that. Can’t wait to dive in and see some of those courses you have offering.

Alan Weisser 41:59
Claims we’ll see if other Yeah.

Debra Muth 42:03
Understandable. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. We’re happy to have you here.

Alan Weisser 42:08
It’s a pleasure.

Debra Muth 42:09
Hey, it has been really great sharing this time with you guys on the let’s talk wellness now podcast. If this episode has helped you or you feel as though this episode would help someone else we’d love for you to leave us a review, share this podcast. And if you don’t want to miss the most exciting episodes we have coming. We’d love for you to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or Google Play. Until next time, live everyday to the fullest.

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