" Emotion is far more verb than noun, being not some entity or thing that we can get out of our system, but a vital process that is always in some degree of flux"
Robert Augustus Masters - Emotional Intimacy
Over the last 12 months, I have been studying a modality called Breathwork.
In using the breath, I discovered that not only was I distinctly NOT in touch with my emotions, but I really had not fully made the leap into really understanding how deeply ingrained my emotional patterns were, and how this was affecting my health.
It has been through this study (and subsequent process) that I have come to really appreciate how we all get so distracted by life so as to not experience some emotions- particularly the emotions that we would like to pretend don't exist in us.
So what are our emotions?
We all know about emotions. We feel them every day in response to many things- we observe, we judge, we feel our response, and we move on.
However, we prefer to hold on to those feelings that are acceptable and palatable, and run away from feeling the full extent of those really uncomfortable emotions. Like Fear and Shame...
The problem with this is that we then keep running away all the time, and we never really get to understand what the prime motivator in our life is. Every time we feel anxious, it is because some of these unpleasant emotions have been triggered in us by an external stimulus.
Psychotherapy is very useful in naming and quantifying these emotional states. However, intellectualising about emotions does nothing. This is a mind game that can be soul destroying, as we end up judging and pathologising perfectly natural responses to certain situations that may be distressing for us. Men are very adept at this in our western patriarchal culture.
What we need to do is to feel all of it...and not be afraid to experience the backlog of emotions that we have stuffed into the recesses of our soul..
To do this, we need to feel safe and unjudged as we navigate this inner territory.
The physiology of emotions
Emotions have been reduced scientifically to biochemical reactions, influencing hormones and neurological states. The body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, oxytocins, cortisol and GABA. Chemistry in the body which can of course be manipulated with drugs.
Recent understandings in neuroscience have identified key areas of emotional processing and the mapping of the Limbic system. Theories abound, and a Google search will bring you into the mine-field of the emotional realm.
No wonder we can't be bothered! Resistance to understanding your own emotional territory is easy under these conditions..
The best bet then is to keep pragmatic, working and avoid all that nasty stuff!
The Necessity to explore....To actually FEEL....
The reality is that the physiology of our emotions really does affect our physical health- and whilst we may not see how our emotions affect our health when we are young and resilient to setbacks, the truth is that long term suppressed emotion and disassociation with unpleasant emotions will cause us long term health issues – if you don't see it physically because we are a great manager of our outer life, it will show up in some area of our life that will look unhealthy.
The most obvious being our relationships with others, and usually in the most intimate relationship - with one with our partner. You will see both areas affected in varying degrees.
This the origin of what I call "The Gender Rift"..
The influence on our physical body...
If we ignore our inner emotional life long enough, eventually we will see a physical/emotional or mental breakdown.
This idea is not new. But for some reason modern medical science chooses to overlook these obvious links. There is a lot of research on what is known as Somatic theories in Psychology. Pioneers in a new paradigm of Health are now beginning to recognise the obvious link to physical disorders that are made worse by an emotional cause. Indeed, may even be from an emotional cause.
One link that is very clear is between weight gain and stress, particularly in women. Catecholamines (stress hormones by the adrenal glands) are well known to cause inflammatory process in the system, and will show up by weight gain around the middle.
Because the adrenal glands are situated on top of the kidneys, the flight/fight response could also affect kidney function. (In Chinese medicine the kidneys are understood to be related to our collective fear). This in turn can also increase blood pressure unnaturally, leading to hypertension. Long term hypertension can cause Kidney dysfunction .
Recent studies have identified a link between Kidney Function, Hypertension and Cognitive functioning.
It makes logical sense then to address the deeper fears in our life, so that we are not so triggered, thereby aiding in maintaining our overall endocrine and metabolic balance.
As a Dorothy Hall trained herbalist, I would want treat the above situation holistically using herbs like: Buchu, Rosehips, Borage, Withania, Hawthorn and Maritime Pine Bark
And for the emotional stress and endocrine system balance I may include Dr Bach's flower essence of Rescue Remedy, Walnut, and Scleranthus.
There is no doubt that working deeply with these emotions will aid your health even more, by facing the deep fear, and transforming the control that these unknown fears have over your subconscious.
Cath McDowell is a learned and highly experience herbalist with decades of experience
From Ann Harrison
I would like to thank Cath for her permission to reprint this article from one of her newsletters. It was a delight to have her as a Breathwork student and learn how her knowledge of the body and herbs complemented Breathwork, which is an emotional spiritual education. I would also welcome you to our Autumn Breath Awareness Retreat
Next Course 17- 24 March 2018
Or contact me on 0403-823-636