The medical establishment often takes a grudging view of the mind-body connection. In cases of persistent, debilitating pain not resulting from bodily trauma or chronic condition, standard treatments tend toward physical manipulation or surgery, often after endless rounds of expensive diagnostic tests.
John Sarno, who died this year, was a physician and researcher at NYU Medical Center who spent his career, both as an author and a clinician, in defiance of this model's assumptions. While many Americans misunderstand psychosomatic illness, a pain that originates in the mind is as real as one derived from physical injury. In Sarno's unorthodox diagnosis, much chronic pain comes from repressed anger. A Freudian, he used talk therapy to help people zero in on their own repressed anger and stressors, and many of them said their pain subsided.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Testimonials often do, but All the Rage (Saved by Sarno) makes its case in multiple ways. Most viscerally, Chapel Hill-based director Michael Galinsky (who directed the film with his wife, Suki Hawley, and David Beilinson) documents his own bout of crippling, incapacitating back pain and seeks his own treatment with Sarno.
The film, which screens at Durham's Carolina Theatre at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11 and 12, is rich and multilayered. High-profile patients, including Howard Stern and Larry David, earnestly sing Sarno's praises and appear more human than you might think. The doctor himself is a warm, engaging presence; there's pathos in his being shunned by the medical establishment in which he doggedly operated. Galinsky employs his skills as a storyteller and a photographer as well as an almost unnerving willingness to put his pain and life issues on full display when he suddenly becomes the central character in his own film.