Feeling Emotions – A Requirement for Health and Happiness
No one wants to suppress happiness, joy and love. And yet, many hold in anger, sadness, tears and other, so called “negative emotions.”
Children are born knowing how to feel emotions; it is standard equipment at birth. But we are often taught early in childhood to break this natural mindbody release with dysfunctional beliefs such as “little girls shouldn’t be angry,” and “boys shouldn’t cry.”
We go about our days numb to the pain in ourselves, our family, our society and our world. The pain moves into the body and we develop disease.
However, emotions are the rich, vibrant part of life and they make life worth living. Indeed, the purpose of our work, relationships and life in general is to feel happy, excited, passionate, joyous and loved.
Emotion is e-motion, or, energy in motion. Like water, emotions need to flow. If they are damned up, then just like a stream flowing out of the mountains, they will disturb the terrain. You cannot suppress anger and tears and expect love and joy to flow naturally. All emotions are part of life. Releasing the painful ones is part of healing and enjoying the good ones is the purpose of life.
Indeed, your emotions are your personal, built-in, navigational system in life. Just as an automobile navigation system will take you to your destination, your emotions will guide you in finding happiness and fulfillment in your life.
Not only will they guide you to fulfillment in your life, they will help you heal your diseases. According to Candace Pert, in her book Molecules of Emotion:
Mind doesn’t dominate body, it becomes body – body and mind are one. I see the process of communication . . . the flow of information throughout the whole organism, as evidence that the body is the actual outward manifestation, in physical space, of the mind. Bodymind, . . ., reflects the understanding, derived from Chinese medicine, that the body is inseparable from the mind. And when we explore the role that emotions play in the body, as expressed through the neuropeptide molecules, it will become clear how emotions can be seen as a key to the understanding of disease.
Emotional Wounds and How They Heal
We all have emotional wounds from childhood stored in the unconscious mind. The following is a quote from the second chapter of my book Edgework, Exploring the Psychology of Disease, page 22:
In a nutshell, the explanation goes like this: As you know, the human mind is partly conscious and partly unconscious. The conscious part offers us the familiar mix of thoughts, plans, worries, emotions, expectations, contemplations, and the like, that we experience day to day. The unconscious part, on the other hand, is unknown to us consciously but contains a tremendous amount of personal experiences that has been stored there since birth (possibly since prenatal life, but more on this later).
Most of the material stored in the unconscious mind is emotions that were not fully felt and released at the time of the original experience. For example, the child that is abused in some way but not permitted to express the natural anger and pain of the experience, unknowingly seeds the “unfelt” emotions into his/her unconscious mind, where they become emotional wounds. And, just as physical wounds heal automatically without you having to think about it, emotional wounds also have a natural healing mechanism.
The stored emotions will unconsciously influence your choices in life in order to set up circumstances, which will permit the unowned emotions to come up, be felt and released. Basically the past will return to us again and again until we allow the emotions to surface into consciousness. Carl Jung addresses this issue when he said: “Emotion is the chief source of all becoming conscious. There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion.” Carl Jung referred to the unconscious mind as the shadow, and its relentless efforts to discharge its contents as shadow projection.
The human ego tries to protect us from the pain by keeping it deeply hidden within the shadow of the unconscious mind. Most of us cede control of our lives to our egos. Consequently, we live our lives controlled by the ego and present to the world, and ourselves, a limited facade rather than our full selves.
The essence of self-realization is to accept all that we are with self-love. Love is the energy of healing, not only for those around us but also for ourselves. The rejected parts of our psyche are also a part of us, and they are a powerful part. We can accept and release the contents of the shadow by allowing ourselves to fully experience emotions as they arise in the course of our lives, as they will in particular when we are faced with intimidating challenges such as relationship difficulties, career hurdles, and physical illness. Thus, this healing process depends on accepting challenges, and the emotional pain they entail, as our own creation instead of blaming them on others around us. In this manner, the shadow within becomes a little lighter, and we know, and own, more of who we really are.
Conversely, if we follow the lead of the ego and keep the “unacceptable” parts of consciousness locked in the shadow, then we are thwarting the natural self-healing mechanisms of the human mind. This self-denial can intensify and become neurosis, which Carl Jung called “a substitute for legitimate suffering.” If the feelings that arise from shadow projection are denied again and again, the repressed energy can affect the body, creating physical illness, which in turn presents yet another opportunity for healing the unconscious burden of past denial.
I contemplated this expanded concept of self-love for many years and then began to use it in my medical practice by inquiring more deeply into the patterns of suppressed pain in my patients. When I did that, I saw that just as the model suggests, my patients’ painful emotions that they had suppressed since childhood would keep reappearing later in life, attached to new circumstances.
For example, as psychologists have long recognized, abused children find themselves in abusive relationships as adults with surprising frequency. Similarly, abandoned children often recreate abandonment in adult relationships and children of alcoholics tend to develop relationships with alcoholics later in life. Logically, you would think that the grown-up child of an alcoholic would have learned long before that alcoholics can be abusive and unpredictable and thus they would avoid relationships with them whenever possible.
But the power of the shadow to influence conscious decisions in life is formidable, and the need for shadow healing is relentless, so all of us recreate painful incidents in life until we take the risks to own the emotions and grow from the experience.
Basically, if you do not express your emotions then your body will, as symptoms and disease.