All About Pain – Part 6: Mixed Feelings

© Dane Roubos, D.C.

Persistent emotional pain is apt to cause or contribute to persistent physical pain. Both are simply different forms of suffering. Our suffering can be seen to have a purpose, and often shows us where we need to learn something. Our part is to look where the arrow is pointing.

Emotions, like our thoughts, have a huge impact oh our physical health. The emotional category includes our ability to feel and express our emotions; to live from our heart, if you will. Blocked emotions lead to a buildup of internal stress, which will affect our health sooner or later.

Emotions have been referred to as “energy in motion.” Allowing ourselves to feel our feelings as they arise keeps our energy moving, and helps to avoid stagnation. A fundamental premise in Chinese Medicine is that energy stagnation causes pain

When we allow ourselves to fully experience an emotion as “energy,” and let it move through our body, it usually dissipates quickly on its own. Sometimes another feeling arises as the first one fades away, and you allow it to move on through the same way. There might be several layers.

The key is to simply view the emotion as an energy, without any “story” attached to it. An example of a story would be, “Oh, I miss my husband SO MUCH! What am I going to do without him? What’s going to become of me?”

This is likely to make the grief stick like glue. It’s important to feel it, and important to let it go when it’s done. If it comes back two minutes later, you feel it again, and let it go. This is how you can move through deep grief – one wave at a time.

It’s helpful to maintain a curiosity about exploring each new layer as it arises. For powerful emotions, it can be very helpful to work with an experienced counselor as your guide.

If we don’t allow ourselves to experience our emotions as they come up, they go into storage, to be dealt with later. There’s nothing wrong with this, as it’s all a learning process. You can revisit old feelings and do your housecleaning when you feel more ready – but it is important to do it at some point.

Old Baggage
If we haven’t allowed ourselves to experience or express our feelings over the course of our life, they are still tucked away somewhere in our body or subconscious mind, where they can weaken our vitality, cause stress & tension, and even unwanted behavior. This is often referred to as ”unfinished business,” or “old baggage.”

This old emotional baggage is heavy stuff. It weighs us down and prevents us from rising to new heights. You may have heard the term “heavy” applied to emotions, and aptly so. You can probably recall times when circumstances prompted you to reopen your dusty old suitcase, giving you a taste of what was in there. It probably wasn’t exactly uplifting.

It’s not uncommon to find old emotions we’ve denied being physically “stored” in our areas of chronic pain. The unwanted energy literally gets stored in the tissues.

Sometimes all that’s needed is a suggestion to “allow yourself to feel what’s underneath the pain,” to bring these feelings to awareness. Doing some regular emotional house cleaning benefits both mind and body. A sensitive counselor can be very helpful in exploring this territory.

Survival Patterns
The so-called negative emotions of fear, anger and grief are completely appropriate in certain circumstances. But if we habitually use one of these feelings as a defense, we tend to get “stuck” in it.

We each have our own unique survival patterns. These are mostly defenses we adopted to protect ourselves when we were growing up. Often we learn to shut down our emotions as children because some circumstances are too painful to deal with.

Survival patterns take different forms. One person might get angry and inflict it on someone they care about, while another might be afraid to stand up to someone who’s intimidating them.

Our survival patterns are like computer programs running in the background – and activated automatically in certain situations. Having our “buttons pushed” can cause a lot of stress and tension, and trigger responses that we later regret – causing even more stress.

The main keys to dealing with these old emotions and behavior patterns are awareness and acceptance. Allowing the feelings to come forth helps a lot, too.

Lifelong Emotional Habits May Determine How We Die
“Neurosurgeon Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D., in his book Life Beyond 100, summarizes four personality types – based on many studies – and links them to longevity:

1. Hopelessness
2. Blame or Anger
3. Bounce between Hopelessness and Anger
4. Believe that happiness is an inside job

These people tend to die from:
1. Die 35 years younger than group 4: 75% cancer and 15% heart disease.
2. 75% heart disease and 15% cancer.
3. 9% either heart disease or cancer.
4. Most die of old age: 1% either heart disease or cancer.

Dawson Church, The Genie in your Genes, Pg 69-70

Questions to Explore

  • Are you generally aware of your feelings?
  • Do you express your emotions appropriately for the situation at hand?
  • When you are confronted or stressed, which emotions usually come up for you, and how do you respond to the situation?
  • If you re-visit your past, do you notice any regrets, resentments or feelings of loss that still feel unresolved?
  • If you were in a soap opera, which role could you play the best without acting?