“You want me to address my Emotions?!! Aghhhh…. RUN!!!”
There is often lot of misconception about emotional healing. People often shy away from delving into their emotions. In the past dealing with distressing emotions or mental health conjured up the image of people in white coats coming to take you away. Whilst in extreme cases this may have occurred, In the modern world, things are escalating to different norms.
Anxiety is now the number one mental health condition In Australia. One in 3 women will experience periods of anxiety in their lives. A pure sign we need to start looker deeper, beneath the surface and addressing the wonderful world of emotions.
So what are emotions?
Despite the fact emotions are comprehensively studied in humans, a universal definition is still controversial.1
Emotions are an everyday part of our lives. We are hard wired to feel. If we didn’t have emotions we would fail to feel love, joy, bliss, inspiration, kindness, sadness, anger, grief. All colour would disappear and life would become mechanical & monotonous.
There is a term coined that “Emotions are energy in motion”. The definition of emotion is “A complex pattern of changes in response to a stimulus“ In other words an event (stimulus) takes place, we respond and it creates physiological changes to that event in our body.1,2 These responses show up in three tissues of the body (nervous, visceral and skeletal muscle tissue). Examples of physiological changes include sweaty palms, tightness In the chest or throat, butterflies in the stomach, even increased heart rate.
The reaction and intensity of an emotion is dependant on the stimulus (event/ situation) and our past conditioning also plays a role In this too. Emotions are either directed to an event, another person or inward. We express emotions through gestures (thumbs up, waving etc), mannerism, smiling, laughing, crying, yelling etc. Emotions run their course and then diffuse.
There are also different levels of emotional expression. Kids often completely let go and express emotion as it arises, where as adults are more guarded and try to create hold back of their emotions. (Watch someone the next they cry, they try to suppress it)
What Role do emotions play on our health?
Ancient physicians observed our physical ailments corresponded to dominant emotions that we feel. The Chinese and Indian medicine systems are particularly based on these principles.
E.g Emotions such as low self esteem, worried, distrust, obsession are often held In our stomach, spleen or pancreas, where as emotions of anger, resentment, aggression, frustration are held in our gall bladder or liver.
The ancient medical practitioners, shamans, medicine people of Polynesia, China, Japan, India etc all understood that we are made up of energy (Dr Candace Perts work showed we are 99.9% energy and only 1% physical matter and also showed that emotions biochemically activate certain areas of the brain). These ancient / eastern medical practitioners understood that the quality of this energy and its ability to flow (known as Chi / prana/ life force / Mana etc) dictates our health both physically and mentally.
Scientifically we know emotions create reactions in the circuits of the limbic system (emotional storehouse of the brain) Depending on the emotion felt, it’s intensity, and / or what meaning we give to events in our lives the body may respond positively or negatively all based on our past conditioning and perceptions.
Studies have shown feelings of love produce dopamine, oxytocin, growth hormone & vasopressin – all of which create feelings of well-being, connection, increased feelings of bonding.3 Other studies have shown feelings of fear produce chemicals.4
Numerous studies also exist on music evoking emotions (This exclusively depends on the thoughts which are aroused in our memory) and altering our physiology.5
A growing body of studies on emotions and chronic disease are beginning to address this topic and demonstrate onset of chronic medical conditions in patients with a pre-existing mental illness may lead to an aggravated and even greater lapsed state of health.6,7
Therefore our emotions are producing chemical reactions all the time and are interwoven.2 In order to reduce health risks and reverse dis-ease the management of the relationship between emotions and our overall well-being requires attention. 7
What causes our emotions?
Not all mental states associated with emotions are conscious.7
Whilst it is an old concept, the ice-berg model is a great example to help one understand that emotional well-being is not always what we see on the surface. An ice berg we see on the water. But its whats underneath that we need to look at. The unconscious patterns and conditioning drives our emotional reaction to events and produce the stimulus I have for-mentioned. This is why it is important to address the past in order to break free of old loops and patterns that continue to dictate how we give meaning to things and associated responses.
Part 2 of this series will address the 3 brains and why they play such an important role in our emotional health, reactivity and state of being.
Part 3 will address how to identity underlying emotional causes of distress and solutions.
Rowena Jayne ND is a naturopath (BHSc), Neuro Emotional Technique Practitioner, Author and Founder of the Bold, Brave & Beautiful Blueprint.
1) Paul E, Sher S, Tamietto M, Winkielman P, Mendl M. Towards a comparative science of emotion: Affect and consciousness in humans and animals. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2020;108:749–770. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2019.11.014
2) Purves D, Augustine GJ, Fitzpatrick D, et al., editors. Neuroscience. 2nd edition. Sunderland (MA): Sinauer Associates; 2001. Physiological Changes Associated with Emotion. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10829/
3) Carter C. The Oxytocin-Vasopressin Pathway in the Context of Love and Fear. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2017;8:356. Published 2017 Dec 22. doi:10.3389/fendo.2017.00356.
4) Dfarhud D, Malmir M, Khanahmadi M. Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors- Systematic Review Article. Iran J Public Health. 2014;43(11):1468–1477.
5) Schaefer H. Music-Evoked Emotions-Current Studies. Front Neurosci. 2017;11:600. Published 2017 Nov 24. doi:10.3389/fnins.2017.00600
6) Turner J, Kelly B. Emotional dimensions of chronic disease. West J Med. 2000;172(2):124–128. doi:10.1136/ewjm.172.2.124
7) Lee YS, Jung WM, Jang H, Kim S, Chung SY, Chae Y. The dynamic relationship between emotional and physical states: an observational study of personal health records. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2017;13:411–419. Published 2017 Feb 9. doi:10.2147/NDT.S120995
7) Barrett L, Mesquita B, Ochsner K, Gross JJ. The experience of emotion. Annu Rev Psychol. 2007;58:373–403. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.58.110405.085709