Emotional suppression, defined as a tendency to inhibit the expression of emotion, has long been suspected to influence health. The ancient Romans, Egyptians and Greeks knew that emotional distress could resurface as disease and therefore the healing arts were practiced much differently than today’s medicine. As more and more studies are revealing, the mind, body and spirit seem to all play an intimate role in our happiness and longevity. Have you ever been super stressed and come down with a cold? I bet the majority of us would say yes. I can’t tell you how many of my autoimmune patients notice that their “break’ in immunity occurs after an emotional trauma! If doctors would take more care to promote emotional well being and healing, then we might see an improvement in many hard-to-treat cases.
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE OF MIND-BODY CONNECTION
Cancer has been documented in observational studies to have an element of repressed pain and anger. Emotion suppression involves intentionally avoiding distressing feelings by thinking of other things or holding things in and not honoring our own truth. For example, at Kings College in London, 160 breast cancer patients were given a detailed psychological interview and self administered questionnaire about suppression of anger. The results were astonishing and published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research. They compared 69 patients with breast cancer to a control group of 91 patients with benign breast disease. “There was a significant association between the diagnosis of breast cancer and a behavior pattern, persisting throughout adult life, of abnormal release of emotions. The abnormality was, in most cases, extreme suppression of anger and, in patients over 40, extreme suppression of other feelings.”
Wow right? But the underlying theme for cancer seems to be disregard of self when it comes to emotions, more so anger. Suppression of these emotions seems to resurface in physical disease over time for some people.
In a remarkable study performed by the Department of Psychology at the University of Miami, researchers found men with prostate cancer had greater suppression of anger and also few Natural Killer cells! Natural Killer cells are the white blood cells primarily responsible for taking care of our immune systems and warding off cancer! Another study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research showed there was a connection between higher level of emotion suppression and all cause as well as cancer mortality amongst patients followed for 12 years!
WHAT DO REPRESSED EMOTIONS LOOK LIKE?
Decades ago, Freud postulated that important feelings could be stifled before they entered consciousness. These are often childhood traumas and defense mechanisms we learned as children that uncover themselves as adults. Often the “repressor” personality is overly concerned with others needs rather than their own. They are “YES” people to everyone else, but say “NO” to their own needs or ignore their truth. They are often very dependable and successful people who are driven by approval. They are prone to internal anxiety, but appear cool and calm on the outside. Basically, repressed emotions emerge in the form of “I’m fine.”
But we are not fine. We are wearing a mask to appear ok but drowning in pain. Recent reports have linked a repressing personality to higher risk for asthma, blood pressure and overall ill health.
Does this sound like anyone? I know I can relate. This behavior pattern is dangerous long term not only for disease risk and shorter longevity, but also because it is the road to adrenal fatigue and stress burnout. That alone can throw our hormones completely out of whack!
When I worked as a hospitalist, I saw a case that will never leave me. One was a young woman who had lost her young son to cancer. She was understandably emotional distraught and a week later presented to the hospital with Takosubo Cardiomyopathy, which is a big doctor phrase for Broken Heart Syndrome. This actually exists and is named for the Japanese pot that the heart resembles when ballooning, due to dysfunction. It causes heart failure and often, a heart attack. The young mother recovered, but it cost her part of her heart function-all due to a very significant loss and a broken heart.
In one study done by Kroenke and Mangelsdorff in 1989, 84% of 567 common complaints such as chest pain and dizziness, yielded no medical diagnoses. All of us docs would agree that dizziness and chest pain can be some of the hardest diagnoses because often there is no concrete answer. I can’t tell you how many patients would tell me during an interview for these complaints–“its been a terrible month,” or “my dog just died,” or “my family is getting a divorce.”
Medicine doesn’t have to be so sterile, scientific and daunting. It can be HEALING, as it should be, but only if we are able to acknowledge that our studies cannot always capture the full human element or the connection to our very powerful emotions.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Core emotions, like joy, love, pain, anger, grief and fear, are not here to punish us. They have been selected in evolution because they serve a vital function. They are information that talk to our DNA, and if we listen, can provide an internal guidance system for us. What is this anger here for? What purpose does fear serve in my life? What is this pain trying to get me to change? Emotions are messengers, guys! It is how we choose to react or deal with them that shapes our reality.
Because repressors wear the “I’m fine” mask and tend to not face reality, they are typically reluctant to attend psychotherapy or indulge in activities where emotionality is present. If new coping techniques can be established, or the patient feels safe enough to discuss childhood feelings, then reprogramming can start.
- Surprising Studies on Plant Medicines-Studies have even shown psychedelics like MDMA, CBD/THC in medical marijuana, psilocybin in mushrooms and even Ayahuasca may help PTSD, anxiety and repressed emotions by purging them so that the consciousness can face them and reprogram itself. Ayahuasca ceremonies have been held for thousands of years by our ancestors. There are many reports of patients with chronic diseases visiting the amazon for a ceremony and coming home healed. One of the first steps they face is themselves and their buried fears during this ceremony. Cannabinoids or CBD, is also showing immense promise in brain inflammation, which is a heralding cause of many mood disorders like anxiety and ADHD, that may represent repressed emotions.
- EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique, involves tapping on certain energy meridians of the body to release repressed emotions. The continuous tapping has the ability to release the tight muscles and let go of the repressed emotion or pain that is caught with it.
- Chiropractors and body workers are also very successful at clearing stored emotions. The spine is the center of our core and carries much of our energy and emotions. There have been reports of outpouring of emotions or changes in mood after adjustments.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy as well as biofeedback also help to treat any traumatic events, but it seems the key for most repressors is to discuss the stuck emotions.
- Journaling and Talking to someone we trust is a big step to understanding ourselves and these emotions that are often hidden from conscious thought. Writing has been shown to improve outcomes for autoimmune patents who often suffer from an emotional trauma. Don’t judge your spelling or grammar and put the pen to paper! You may notice tears starting to flow by the end and that is OK! These are repressed emotions being purged from the body.
Our emotions are stored in chakras, organs, meridians and muscle tissues (something Chinese medicine and Ayurveda have known for years). We have been separated from this side of ourselves for so long that we don’t even realize that our emotions influence the development of disease.
Be prepared though guys-when we release old, stored emotions, we might have emotional outbursts or releases. When I trained in NET, or neuroemotional technique and applied muscle testing, we saw outbursts regularly. Yes, you can actually test the body’s strength against a question to see if the conscious mind is lying. The body always knows. I was asked, “do you love others?” and could hold my arm up against pressure from the instructor because I REALLY DO love others. However when he said to me “You love yourself,” my arm could not be held up against pressure. I felt a lump in my throat and begin to cry. You know why? My body already knew the truth and it was the whole reason my spleen, which makes self-loving antibodies, was suffering.
This was an emotional release when hearing the subconscious truth. It is a bit like Herxheimer reactions, or physical die off from pathogens during a cleanse. Both the body and the mind must feel the pain-whether physical or emotional, to release it. It must pass through our subconscious to the conscious mind, realized, acknowledged and then properly released. THIS is the reason most of us do not want to heal. We are afraid of FEELING and RELIVING those painful emotions again in order to release them.
Our bodies are amazing! The mind can heal but it first must wade through our fearful ego, which sometimes can hinder any emotional outpourings and slow down the healing phase.
Here is a chart as well as some areas that repressed emotions have been stored. Much of this information is from observational studies, chiropractors, body workers like massage therapists, and research from eastern medicine practices. As above so below. Our body movement is reflective of our inner worlds:
- Neck Pain-linked to stubbornness and inflexibility and lack of forgiveness of others or self.
- Slipped or herniated disc-sign of instability or feeling unsupported in life
- Rotated Hips or Hip pain-afraid to move forward in life with challenges; nothing to move forward to
- Arthritis-nutritional deficiencies or the inability to feel loved
- Shoulder Pain-shoulders represent our ability to find joy in experiences. Pain here is linked to the fact that our attitude makes life a burden to carry. Often store present life trauma.
- Spine or Back Pain: Upper back pain-lack of emotional support or feeling unloved; often they hold back love. Mid back pain-guilt is predominant and may be stuck in past (get off my back). Low back pain is associated with fear of money and lack of financial support.
- Elbows-difficult to change direction and accept new experiences.
- Bone breaks or fractures-rebelling against the system or authority
- Bursitis-Inflammation and linked to repressed anger
- Loss of Balance-not centered or grounded; often shows scattered thinking.
- Sciatica-being hypocritical; fear of money or the future
- Sprains-not wanting to move in a certain direction in life; resistance
- Weakness-the brain needs a break; requesting mental rest.
- Wrist Pain-represent movement and ease. Has something become difficult lately?
- Knee Pain-stubborn pride and ego, inability to bend; fear; won’t give in. Big ego
- Ankle Pain or Issues-guilt; inflexibility; ankles often represent the ability to receive pleasure.
- Bunions-lack of joy in meeting experiences in life. Something is rubbing you raw.
- Chest pain-grief, sorrow, sadness, loss, helplessness, despair.
- Stomach/digestion Issues-deep shame, fear of loss of control and giving your power away to another.
- Liver Issues-anger, resentment, anger at yourself or others; lack of forgiveness; jealousy
- Infertility, reproductive issues, monthly cycle pain-childhood conditioning, violations, basic creativity, frigidity
- Migraines-tied to overabundance of stress; adrenal fatigue; not saying no enough
- Obesity/Weight gain-emotional eating is tied to anger at the family (especially in lower abdomen and hips/thighs), especially the father; lack of validation from family; overly sensitive; lack of self esteem; over sexualization
- Acne-not liking or accepting self. Blockage of toxins from bowels
- Anxiety-not trusting the flow of life and the process of the universe
- High blood pressure-linked to longstanding emotional issue that is unresolved; defeatism
- Cancer-deep hurt and anger; longstanding resentment; grief and hatred.
- Cellulite-stored anger and self punishment (I had emotional releases concerning this when I used the fascia blaster on my thighs!) http://www.fasciablaster.com
- High cholesterol-clogging the channels of joy; fear of accepting joy
- Constipation-incompelete releasing; holding onto garbage of past; guilt
- Depression-anger you feel you do not have a right to have; hopelessness.
- Heartburn-Deep fear
- Hepatitis-resistance to change; fear, anger, hatred. Liver is the seat of anger and resentment in Ayurveda.
- Herpes Genitalis-mass belief in sexual guilt and the need for punishment. Public shame. Belief in a punishing God.
- Inflammation-fear, inflamed thinking.
- Left sided body pain-this is the feminine side of the body; the mother; represents receptivity and creativity
- Right sided body pain-this is the masculine side of the body; the father; giving out and letting go; represents logic and grounding
- Menopause-fear of no longer being wanted; fear of aging
- Parasites/candida-giving power to others; letting them take over your life.
- Sinus problems-irritation of another person, often someone close.
- Teeth problems-longstanding indecisiveness; Root canals signify root beliefs being destroyed while impacted teeth represent not giving yourself mental space to create a firm foundation.
- Throat Issues-avenue of expression and creativity; inability to speak for yourself or YOUR truth; swallowed anger and stifled creativity
- Thyroid Issues-humiliation; not doing what you want to do
- Urinary Tract Infections-anger at the opposite sex or a lover; blame
Take care of yourselves! Learn how to become your own best doctor!
- The Link between Cancer and Unexpressed Anger-www.alternative-cancer-care.com