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The BodyMind – Neuropeptides, Emotions, and Health

The other day I saw a client who was feeling #anxious and complaining of shoulder and low back #pain. Instead of performing manual therapy to relieve her pain, I took another approach that I am going to call Emotional Body Mapping.  I asked her to write a list of all the ‘negative’ thoughts she most often has. Then, I asked her to repeat each statement aloud one-by-one and notice what emotion was connected to that statement and where she felt it in her body. She felt three of the emotions in her shoulders, and two in her low back. Together, we worked on changing the statements to more positive and meaningful ones, and again, I asked her read each statement one-by-one and notice how that corresponding body part felt. Each new, more positive statement and corresponding emotion decreased the pain and tension she had previously felt. She said she felt “like a weight lifted off of me.”

Dr. Candace Pert, a neuroscientist and author who wrote, Molecules of Emotionstated that “your body is your subconscious mind.”

Many people agree with Dr. Pert’s belief. Louise Hay famous books, Heal Your Body and You Can Heal Your Life lists numerous illnesses and their related emotional #thoughtpatterns that she believed causes them. Traditional Chinese medicine believes emotions are stored in the organs. For example, fear is stored in the kidneys, grief and sadness in the lungs, anger in the liver. Others believe that muscle tension in certain parts of the body correspond to specific emotions. For example, muscle tension in the shoulders relates to feelings of burden and responsibilities; neck is fear, trust issues, and repressed self-expression; upper back is sorrow; low back is guilt, shame and unworthiness. 

What Are Emotions?

Emotions are expressed in the body and are a part of the body. Chemical substances called #neuropeptides, and their receptors (which ‘talk’ to the neuropeptides) are a network that exists throughout the body and mind, including the immune system. Even our organs were found to have neuropeptides. Dr Pert found that the esophagus down through the intestines are layered with neuropeptides, which may explain why we often feel sick to our stomach when we feel anxiety or have have a 'gut feeling' about something or someone. 

After years of research, Dr. Pert concluded that the neuropeptides are the #biochemicals of emotions. “I can no longer find a strong distinction between the brain and body,” she said and began referring to our mind and body as one whole system, an integrated 'BodyMind'. 

How Does This Relate to Pain and Illness?

Our body is the manifestation of our emotions. Our emotions can be stored many places within our body, not just our brain, and turn into emotional memory. When these emotions are not expressed, they become stored, or locked within the body and play a role in illness, pain, indigestion, and muscle tension. More and more therapists are guiding their clients in using their body as the means to connect to stuck, unhealed emotions.

Perhaps we have an innate awareness that our emotions are stored within our body, because so many of us who experience chronic pain try to ‘separate’ from our body. We often fear and avoid feeling the sensation of pain and our feelings related to this sensation. But if emotions are feelings, which are sensations, then we need to consider how closely connected pain and emotions are. We can’t heal what we avoid feeling. Our body has a unique language of sensation. We need to learn how to feel and understand our feelings. We heal what we feel.

Frequently, I hear the terms negative emotions (which I also sometimes use to for lack of better terminology) and shadow self. These terms have connotations that produce fear and avoidance in people. Perhaps it is time to stop labeling emotions as bad or good, negative or positive. The negative emphasis we place on emotions is detrimental to our health and well-being. If we can invite ourselves to feel the sensations of our emotions with #non-judgment and curiosity, or perhaps, with #love and #compassion, we can begin to decrease our fear and avoidance of what our #Bodymind is trying to tell us, so we can process and integrate our emotions and experiences for healing to take place.

We focus so much on eating healthfully and exercising, but what underlies these two activities? The body. To feel and "listen to" the sensations in our body is to connect to the wisdom within us and the wholeness of who we are.


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