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How Emotions Effect our Health

How Emotions Effect Our Health

an interview with USA Weekend

By Joy Lynn Freeman, D.C., Ph.D.(cand) 

Do emotions cause illness and disease, or worsen them?

A good way to look at emotions is to see them as E motions —energy in motion. Our bodies are made up of molecules, which are made up of atoms. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons and electrons and they all spin around each other. In other words, we may look solid but in fact our bodies are just like all matter and that is, we are energy moving at different rates resulting in densities that we see and call solid. And because we are not actually solid, the molecular substance of our bodies is actually quite susceptible to thought and emotion.

When our emotions are flowing freely, that is, allowed to be felt and expressed with out resistance, (which usually takes the form of negative judgment), then it raises the vibratory rate within the cells of our bodies—the life force is higher. Life force is actually a quantifiable thing. They have done studies on food that was cooked in various ways—electric stove, flame and microwave. The food was hooked up to a meter that measured the vibratory rate. Food cooked with flame had the highest rate while the food cooked in the microwave had the lowest. This concept of life force can also be clearly seen under a microscope. When they do blood cell analysis- that is put your blood under a very high powered microscope, if you are carrying the precursor of disease, even before the disease fully hits, you can see how the cells are moving very slowly, and many of them are clumped together. They have low vitality—they lack life force. The healthier the individual, the more freely they move. In fact they bounce around like happy balloons.

Going back to this concept of emotions and health, when the emotions are freely allowed expression it keeps the life force of our bodies higher, hence the term increase in vibratory rate. This increase in vibration keeps the cellular aspect of the body more fluid and freely flowing. Which again if you could see it under a microscope that would translate into the cells having the mobility they should have. Now there are a number of other factors that play into keeping the cells healthy, strong and freely moving such as diet and biochemical factors-such as toxins in the air we breath or the water, the vibratory rate of the food (how alive or chemicalized and processed it is), etc. But if all those other conditions were ideal, the emotions would still play in as a large contributor to this vibratory rate.

With all that background in mind, I will continue. You have asked if emotions cause or worsen illness. In some cases yes but I believe it is much more generally a case not so much of the emotion itself but what we do with the emotion. In our culture we have a lot of judgment and resistance to emotions that we classify as “bad”. That is, anger-sadness-fear etc. In and of them selves, these emotions are natural and normal. A child will have a fear reaction to parents fighting or loud voices, or they might feel angry that the parents don’t have available time, energy or focus for them, or they may feel sad at the disappearance of a parent from their daily life. But our culture generally has not taught us how to be with these with our children or with our selves. We are taught to avoid them at all costs, deny they are there, or cover them over with material things or things to do—all distractions. Or we discount them, that is, tell ourselves or others why we shouldn’t feel the way we do. Children often do not have a safe place to go and express their feelings when bad things happen, either because parents are too busy, or because they do not know how to be with their own feelings. Hence they are uncomfortable with their child’s and will resort the tactics I just described.

The end result of all this is usually one of two main responses. In one, the child (and ultimately the adult because it continues on through life unless consciously worked with) will mainly act out and express their repressed feelings in very visible ways—anti-social behaviors or strong displays of anger. These strong displays are attempts at expressing and having that expression received, but the more that expression gets overlooked for what it is truly trying to say, the worse it gets, or the longer it continues. I call this type of person an “expresser.” As they go through life they are usually highly reactive and will display one or two emotions freely (often anger.) That free expression of anger might take on either the loud explosive approach or be more passive aggressive with regular expressions of criticism or caustic style of communicating. Anger in itself is a fine emotion, it is just one of our repetoir of human experiences but when anger is used as a weapon or line of defense, (such is usually the case with expressors) it is very different than when some one is tapping into the original cause of their anger or they are non harmfully expressing anger that is very current.

The other general response is to internalize. This will often display in a way that is much more acceptable to others and hence gets a lot of support. This might take the form of the overly compliant or “pleaser” child. It might also happen in cases where a parent was not that functional and the child felt responsible on some level for taking care of a parent’s emotional needs or takes over responsibilities the parent was not sufficiently handling. This pleaser attitude might seem desirable to the parent or socially but this person loses the ability to know what they are feeling and the ability to express their true self. Their emotions end up getting internalized. I call this person the “repressor”—those who mainly internalize their feelings or have a hard time being in touch with what they are feeling. They usually grow up to be helper types and put others needs before their own. But because they have lost touch with their own feelings they are not all that aware of what their needs are. They often do not find out until they break down wilt illness. And even then they will resist the thought of anyone else having to take care of them.

One problem in either case is that when we are holding onto anger or any emotion that goes back to earlier events, usually from childhood, then the charge—the emotional component—of what is currently triggering the response is compounded by the energy of the withheld energy of the original, plus compounded events. In other words the charge is usually much greater than the event would otherwise call for if it were not being made worse by the individual’s history. And in the case of personal relationships, each partner’s issues correspond so that when one partner’s issue or wound is being triggered it triggers the other’s wound thereby escalating it.

In either of these cases the true emotion never gets fully expressed or received and will ultimately have long term negative effects on ones body or life. In my experience as a chiropractor and in doing therapy with people, it appears the repressors tend to show up with many more symptoms starting at an earlier age, while the expressers will often experience illness a little later in life. Though both the expresser and the repressor are prone to illness from the lack of ability to have expressed in the past or to currently express what is truly going on. Where the repressor is clearly internalizing their emotions, and illness would make more sense in that case, I believe the expressers brake down later due to the warring effect on the body of over reacting and using emotions as a defense or tactic—emotions that under healthy conditions would simply be an emotion. (Another observation I have noticed (though there are no studies on this) is that repressors will more often end up constipated while expressers will more often have hyperactive digestive disturbances, such as loose stool or a great degree of flatulence. )

So which ever tactic gets taken on, the end result is similar. Certain emotions are left unacknowledged or unexpressed. Even if there are displays of certain emotions, the deeper truth associated with the emotion is buried underneath the conscious mind. This results in what I described earlier, a slowing or sluggishness of the life force or vibratory rate. When ever there is a lack of ability to be who we are or express our truths the vibration slows down. This occurs when we, discount or repress feelings, engage in self pity, judgment, blame or resist any emotion. When emotions are not allowed expression at the time they are experienced, they become locked in the body, stored energetically in the cellular memory. The system boggs down. Then the environment for breakdown is set up. The immune system is lowered. The general defense system of the body is decreased.

What are the strongest emotions and how can they effect the body?

Answer #1

There are many emotions if you consider variations like indignant, outraged, lonely, worried, embarrassed, offended. But most schools of thought regarding emotions will tell you there are only a few basic ones: Mad, Sad, Scared, Glad. That interprets into anger, sadness, fear, and joy, though I and some others add shame or guilt to this. Those two to me are a composite of anger and sadness with a dash of fear.

Some people would add sexual feelings as an emotion, but for sake of simplicity lets stick to the basic four—mad, sad, glad, scared or anger, sadness, joy and fear. These you could say are the strongest since most all others are some version or combination of these, they just have different thoughts associated with them.

PET—Positron-Emission Tomography clearly shows the hormonal effect of emotions on the body. PET creates a color picture of the brain showing various concentrations of different hormones associated with different emotions. For example if angry a part of the brain lights up with norepinephrine, hopeless or sad will light up dopamine. These hormones also happen to suppress immune function. These hormones are released into the system with the emotions mentioned just as endorphins are released with joy and love.

There was a study done with college students a while back. They had them watch the movie Attilla the Hun. There saliva was checked for antibody levels. It went down while watching this. When they watched a movie about Mother Theresa, the levels went up. So that would suggest, emotions like fear or anger would suppress immune function and love or joy would increase it.

Answer #2
There is a less scientific answer to this question. I refer to the internal aspect of ourselves, which holds the feelings and emotions as well as knows what is good for us, as the “inner being.” This aspect of human beings, is both wise and immature. In psychological terms, one aspect of it could be referred to as the inner child, another part might be the inner critic-or judgmental aspect and still another aspect might be tapped into our higher mind, which some people might call “soul.”

It is a bit hard to speak in general terms because there are a number of differing theory’s about how it all exactly works. But suffice it to say, there is an internal aspect of ourselves that seems to know more about what is going on with us than we often pay attention to in our everyday waking state. This inner being communicates to our more conscious self in two general ways:

1)through the subtle senses, which includes the intuition and

2) through the body. Body messages can be gentle, or strong and painful, depending on our ability to listen. After years of paying very little attention, lines of communication diminish.

As a result, the inner being either gives up and shuts down, which we experience as depression and fatigue, or it is forced to scream at us so we will pay attention, which it usually does through strong body messages. For example, when the inner being wants to tell us something such as,

“I want a break; I want to play,” if we refuse to listen and the desire is strong enough, the inner being may cause us to get sick or have an accident forcing us to stop working. Or if we feel fed up and sick to our stomachs of how someone is treating us, we may contract a stomach ache or intestinal pain.

As we become adept at listening to and honoring our inner messages, the inner being can communicate in more gentle and subtle ways.

Are there specific ailments that are exacerbated by emotions?

I believe that most any ailment can or will have an emotional core to it. This is not to say that hereditary or environmental factors don’t contribute to a condition or can be the total cause in some cases. But I am saying that in many cases the emotional history and patterns of behavior over a life time, will play very strongly into a person’s condition.

So to name specific ailments, I will not do because it could be any. But understand again that I am not saying it is the emotion itself that causes it but usually the lack of expression or feeling of a certain emotion at a key time in life. The person will then repeatedly experience similar yet different events that will re trigger those unfelt or unexpressed emotions.

Or if they were expressed, there usually was a tremendous amount of judgement about the experience or the emotion associated, that then leaves a feeling of shame, without the person even realizing they are carrying around this shame. So though they may be getting repeatedly angry about little everyday things, and this will be causing negative effects on the body, equal in impact on the body is what is not getting expressed.

Conversely, can positive emotions like love and joy help heal the body?

Answer 1
Love and joy undoubtedly have positive effects on the body. Bernie Siegle writes about his miraculous healing through laughter in “Anatomy of an Illness.” And there are many other books about how people were healed with this change in attitude. Also there are the countless stories of people who have made miraculous recoveries where they would have died or stayed in a comma due to the strong love displayed by family members, friends or even less familiar church members. So love as a healing agent is a given.

But the question is how can we get ourselves into a state of love and joy. With many painful experiences under our belt or an extremely challenging current life, it is not always so quick and easy as just intending yourself into a state of love and joy so that you will be healed. Getting to that place is a process and can take some work. (Which is what the book Express Yourself is all about).

Oh sure we can have a few good laughs with friends, but to truly come to a place of love and joy is a deeper process, especially since much of how we have been raised doesn’t necessarily support true joy. I often say we are living in a soul starved culture and it is the starving of our soul that makes us ill. With this we lose our true sense of joy and connection to essence of life itself.

Answer 2
It is not just emotions like love and joy that will heal the body. Even anger can be healing, if the person has not expressed their anger, or deep sobs of sadness, over the loss of something never grieved. Whether it be the loss of a loved one that was not fully grieved, (because our culture supports quickly getting back to life as usual) or the lack of a happy childhood, these things need to be grieved, they need to be felt.

As I said before, when emotions are allowed to freely flow (and I don’t mean used as attack or defense), but the true emotion is allowed to be felt and expressed, especially when it had been held back or closed off with out the person even realizing it, this free flow of any emotion raises the vibratory level of the person, which greatly increases their health. I am referring here to any emotion that needs to be felt, that has been held back—anger, sadness even joy.

We sometimes hold back our joyfulness for fear being too much—but that is another story.

How can we come to a place where our emotional being is most healthy such that we can be our happiest, healthiest and most vital selves?

Though I take a whole book to answer this question I will try to distill it to three main points.

1 Allowing feelings
(This first one is what I have been talking about so far.) People need to learn to feel and honor their feelings, all feelings, even the “bad” ones, rather than repress, judge or discount them. After learning this, there is more internal support, that is, there is a foundation created for expressing their truths more fully to themselves or others. The expression of those truths might be about what they want or don’t want or it might simply be the expression of the emotion. This keeps people’s emotional bodies freely flowing which energizes them and leads to their lives being a truer expression of who they are. This feeds the soul, which brings joy and heals and maintains the body.

2 Letting go of blame
We live in a culture that supports blame and judgment. People need to learn to stop blaming others for their problems and look inside for how they contribute to their own problems. From this they can look for what they CAN do. (because changing someone else usually doesn’t fit into that category). This is a process of developing your internal witness rather than blaming. It is a matter of witnessing your tendencies and what doesn’t work about them, then looking for how you can balance those tendencies with different and new behaviors.

People also need to stop blaming themselves, that is, learn to stop judging themselves so much. This involves a process of letting go of the internal critic, which has very unrealistic standards for what we should do and be. Instead we must learn to start loving and accepting all aspects of ourselves with great compassion, that means even the most unacceptable aspects and attributes. (This is not condoning hurtful behaviors, it is separating the person from the behavior)

Learning to love ourselves often involves shifting from the tendency to always put everyone else first. It is far from neglecting others, it is noticing how much is done strictly out of I “should” because this is what I am supposed to do, instead of paying attention to your inner truth and inner feelings. (As I mentioned before, it is a process of listening to the inner being’s subtle voice rather than waiting for it to scream at you through pain or illness.)

3 Expressing Creatively
Once we start knowing and expressing our truths more, it is natural to desire to express creatively as well. Everyone has it in them to express creatively. Again it is about letting go of societal and personal expectations to let something creative come out without judging it. This could be, singing, dancing, an instrument, (I drum now and sing, where I thought I never could before), writing, mask making, art, the list is infinite. These creative activities teach us how to be more in the moment, how to let go of the tendency to judge and actually moves emotional energy.

This then opens us up to more vitality, enthusiasm and health. All indigenous cultures have some creative activities that the community does individually or together. It is natural, healthful and they understand that expressing in this way will transform frustrations or upsets of daily living. We are severely missing this outlet in our culture, but we can include it on our own. I can personally attest that the effects of increased energy, joyfulness and health are absolutely tremendous.

How can we best make our emotions work for us?
What is a positive way to handle negative emotions so that they don’t build up and cause health problems?

These two can be answered together.

As I said before emotions are a natural and normal part of us. They are a communication system to tell us what we like and don’t like, what works for us and what doesn’t. It doesn’t mean that life will always change according to those likes and dislikes but just because we think there is nothing we can do to change a situation doesn’t mean we shouldn’t allow our emotions to tell us what it likes and doesn’t and how it feels about what is happening.

The best way we can have our emotions support us is by opening the lines of communication with our emotional self. For example, if something upsets us, then let that upset voice inside us tell us all about it. What are we feeling, why, what other circumstances does this remind us of, etc. Really pay attention to this. This does not mean saying things to ourselves such as “well I really shouldn’t feel that angry because after all they have been good to me,” or “it is bad to feel angry,” or “I am a loving person, I shouldn’t feel angry.” Rather than words of negation, the key is to honor what you are feeling. There are a number of ways to do this.

One way to honor your feelings is to notice what and where you feel the emotion in your body. Every emotion can be felt in the body. All you have to do is sit relatively still and quiet and put your minds attention on your body. Scan it from head to toe and notice what sensations you are feeling. Then describe them to yourself in detail—i.e. “I feel a clenching feeling in my jaw, I notice a dense feeling in my stomach area and it seems round and perhaps made up of rubber like material.” If you really stick with it you can actually come up with quite a few details. Telling this to someone else is very good. The point being, giving the feeling your attention, and your words about it gives it credibility.

Another way to honor feelings is to give the feeling expression. You can write about what is upsetting you, or sing a song about it, or dance it, or draw something, find a way to express it. It is particularly potent to move it through the body. Particularly with anger. Hit pillows, make strange sounds, stomp your feet, dance to drum music or music with a driving beat, but do it with the intention of releasing the energy. When you have fully felt the emotion with out judgement, then given it a mode of expression and/or moved it through your body, that emotion actually becomes a positive thing for you. It caries a lot of energy, which if you give it healthful expression (ie not attacking someone with it), it will ultimately give you energy.

After finding a way to allow the emotion healthful expression, (I have many suggestions for this in the book), then it is usually important to express in a non attacking way the truth of your feelings to the person or people involved. You see expression is the key. Whether it be to and for yourself or to others, it is very important that emotions don’t get all bottled up inside you. The bottom line of all this is to honor it’s presence first without judgement, then to give it expression. That is why therapy is so good and should not just be considered for the those with severe emotional “problems.”

Most everyone has stored emotions from past experiences. Very few in our or recent generations in our westernized society had the skills or knowledge about how to be with emotions, or for how to parent in the most emotionally literate way. Consequently, for optimal emotional health and ultimately for optimal physical health, it is a good idea to have someone assist you with finding and releasing stored emotional material as well as to learn skills for how to work with current day to day emotions. (A good start on this is to read Express Yourself) But one on one support is always great.

The last step in honoring your feelings after you have felt them and expressed them is to take actions that you feel deeply motivated to take. After you have practiced learning honor and respect your feelings, it establishes a relationship of trust with yourself, which gives you the courage necessary to take risky or scarey steps. These action steps will ultimately lead you to a life that is much more an expression of the truth of who you are and leads to vitality, health and happiness.

What is your personal experience with this?

Well I guess this is why I am so enthused about the subject. We teach what we need to learn. I was one of those people who was very out of touch with her feelings. Oh, if they reached critical mass I would feel them, but generally speaking, I rarely felt anger or noticed much sadness specifically. What I did feel was generally low level depressed all the time. My energy was very low and I felt tired and dizzy all the time. I also hated my work, had awful relationships and a host of other challenges. Then I fell into emotional release work and came to learn more about the emotions and how our history, how ever innocuous it my have seemed, can be full of events and experiences for which we hold energy. I learned how to be with my day to day feelings also.

After doing a lot of what I have described some of here (and go into more detail in the book,) I now have incredible health, energy and vitality. I am engaged in many creative activities for fun and my work is a full expression of who I am. I amaze myself by the amount of energy I have most of the time. I am 47 years old (I almost slipped and wrote 37 and literally had to stop and think a second). In other words age feels irrelevant to me. Not that I am denying that I will age, I just feel that I don’t have to look, act or move a certain way just because I have reached a certain age. I actually feel much younger and more vital than I did 15 years ago. Thanks to learning about my emotions and how to be with them, love them, accept them, and give them healthful expression.

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