Unresolved Emotional Issues
In the course of following the detoxification suggestions in this book you have undoubtedly come up against some old, perhaps painful or intractable emotions. You may have been surprised by their existence, or by the energy with which they reminded you of their existence. It is highly common for people cleansing the colon to re-experience charged emotional material from many years back, as if they had unknowingly walked into some unsuspected personalized museum of hurts and trauma.
In many respects, physical detoxification makes it possible to get to the emotions, buried, as it were, under layers of physical toxins and dysfunctional physiological states. Internal organ cleansing often helps you identify this next level of toxicity.
Like the intestines, the body is a remarkable
storage device for unprocessed thoughts and feelings. Most people
spend a lifetime depositing unresolved emotional issues throughout
the body; in fact, it is not only painful experiences that are
stored; all sorts of memories get lodged in the body's tissues.
In her book, Being-in-Dreaming, Florinda Donner, an anthropologist
and compatriot of Carlos Castaneda in the mysteries of Toltec
shamanism, explains how she uses a little wooden mallet to tap
her body for memories. She systematically taps every inch of
her body, noting that everyday events tend to get stored in the
chest, back, and abdomen, while dream content tends to go into
the legs and hips.
While the body is almost endlessly accommodating in this coping strategy, eventually it runs out of space, or the load in one place is too big a burden. Then the price comes due for your long-term emotional storage: your unresolved, stored emotions become toxic to the body and will start to make you sick. In this chapter, then, we will explore the contribution of unresolved emotional issues to body-wide toxicity, and suggest a strategy for clarifying and dissolving this subtler level of toxicity. But first let's consider some more examples of the consequences of using the body as an emotional storage depot.
How Unresolved Emotions
Emotional issues carry a powerful charge capable of affecting your biology in profound and often undesirable ways. For example, unresolved emotional issues are often associated with gynecological problems, such as uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, and excessive menstrual bleeding, because the body must express itself, explains John Diamond, M.D., a homeopathic physician who practices in Reno, Nevada.
Dr. Diamond, who was educated in South Africa, cites a saying in that country that "If you don't cry above, you'll cry below." The crying below refers to the uterus, whose "tears" are menstrual blood. Dr. Diamond explains that he frequently sees strong emotions, if left unaddressed, manifesting as body symptoms, such as excessive menstrual bleeding.
The body is always metaphorical, he says. "It always listens to the psyche of the individual and responds accordingly, in its own way, translating withheld tears into copious menstrual flow." The emotional issue is an energy that has to go somewhere, has to be expressed physiologically, says Dr. Diamond.
A uterine fibroid (a noncancerous fibrous mass
that grows on the inside wall of the uterus) often is about emotional
suppression relating to either sexuality or relationships with
men; the heavy bleeding it occasions is often associated with
prolonged internalized sadness and withheld emotions; and an
ovarian cyst (a noncancerous fluid-filled sac on an ovary) can
be correlated with a history of sexual abuse, according to Dr.
Here we see the role of individual constitutional weakness and genetic predisposition. Her mother at her age had had the identical uterine problem, and both had started menstruating at a late age (fifteen), which can be indicative of later reproductive system problems, says Dr. Diamond. Flora's uterus was the designated weak point in her body, so if she had strong emotional content to store (suppress) somewhere, it would go there, and when the body could no longer cope with the continuous toxic presence of these emotions, it would discharge them through this same weak point: the uterus. Metaphorically, the fibroid was saying to Flora that her "ugly secret" was out: she could no longer hide her emotional pain and the way she tried to bury it in a hard shell.
After a comprehensive treatment program involving
homeopathic remedies and herbs, Flora regained her health and
did not need a hysterectomy (surgical removal of the uterus).
The homeopathic remedies helped bring her emotions to the surface
for clarification and expression. Then she resolved her emotional
problems with her husband and started having normal periods again.
Unexpressed, stuffed emotions can also contribute to the emergence of rheumatoid arthritis, according to board-certified rheumatologist Norman Levin, M.D., who practices in Aldie, Virginia. He cites the case of Tara, thirty-six, who came to him suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to addressing the physiological and biochemical aspects of her medical problem, Dr. Levin encouraged Tara to ask herself why she was having arthritis now. Nobody gets a serious illness out of the blue, as if you accidentally walk through an illness ray and emerge sick, he says. There are always emotional and psychological factors involved in the development of an illness, he says.
"Patients need to be encouraged to find the meaning in their health crisis," Dr. Levin notes. Echoing Dr. Diamond's observation, he adds: "The body speaks its own language, and often illnesses affecting different parts of the body are associated with certain emotional states." For example, Dr. Levin often finds that unexpressed anger or resentment underlie the emergence of arthritis; the arthritis is a physical manifestation or expression of those emotions, he says.
In Tara's case, she had been a successful realtor who was suddenly relocated to an unfamiliar territory, having to abandon the market area she knew very well. It felt to her like she was being fired. At the same time she was uprooted from the safe and familiar routines of her job and environment, a romantic relationship was breaking up. So the job change and termination of a relationship gave Tara a double hit of emotional trauma, acting as precipitating factors for her arthritis, which began soon afterwards, says Dr. Levin.
In the case of Michelle, thirty-nine, her fibromyalgia
was emotionally linked to a feeling of carrying the weight of
the world on her shoulders. Fibromyalgia is a highly painful
and debilitating illness in which numerous muscles throughout
the body are chronically inflamed and painful, severely limiting
movement. Ironically, Michelle had been an aerobics instructor
before her muscles refused to let her move without extreme pain,
spasm, and fatigue. "She was the kind of person who tried
to do and be everything for everybody," comments Dr. Levin. "As
we discovered, this attitude was at the core of her muscle aches."
The words say it all: the burden she was carrying for others was too much for her muscles. She was like not the mythic Atlas, capable of carrying the entire world on his Titan shoulders; she was a human woman with limits. Following its own innate intelligence, her body manifested fibromyalgiamuscle gridlock, so to speakto force her to realize her approach to life was toxic. Michelle realized she could say no, turn down another plea for help, and ask for help herself. This understanding was the final turn of the key in the lock of her recovery.
Not everyone with fibromyalgia has this exact state of mind, says Dr. Levin, but it is fairly representative of the broad strokes. "A person feels burdened and overwhelmed, as if everybody is leaning on their body, as if they are carrying the world's weight on their shoulders."3 Eventually, the body translates this metaphorical self-assessment into biological reality, and the psychological weight gets shifted to the actual muscles, and they ache, spasm, and refuse to carry it.
The longer a condition like this persists without the person understandingand undoingthe emotional etiology, the more entrenched the translation into biology becomes. In other words, the emotional state may be a prime precipitating factor, but because of its charge and power, it starts to rearrange the body's structure, physiology, and biochemistryonly the tip of the illness iceberg, the part that conventional medicine tends to focus onin accordance with its view of reality. If I feel like I'm carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, my shoulders will start to believe it, and hurt accordingly.
Think of it this way: the unexpressed or unresolved anger, fear, resentment, or whatever the emotionally charged issue might be, act as free radicals in the body, as toxic agents capable of destabilizing physiological structures and processes just as powerfully and effectively as mercury, an organochlorine, or any other toxic substance described in this book. This is no judgment on emotions; it is not saying some are good and some bad. Rather, the point here is that when they get stuck, emotions become a physiological problem for the body. When stuck, their powerful energy charge starts to work negatively on the body.
All emotions are healthy because they are what tie the mind and body together, explains Candace Pert, Ph.D., in Molecules of Emotion. But they need to be expressed and let go of so they don't fester, build, or escalate uncontrollably. When they are not expressed, and instead are repressed, this sets up a "dis-integrity" within the body, causing it to act at cross-purposes with being a unified whole organism. This repression generates stress that leads to blockages and an insufficient flow of "peptide signals to maintain function at the cellular level." This blocked flow creates the conditions of weakened function and immunity that can precipitate disease, says Dr. Pert.
The peptide signals are modes of communication between the biochemicals of emotion, Dr. Pert explains. Emotional biochemistry consists of neuropeptides (key brain chemicals that translate thoughts and feelings into biochemical and physiological responses) and their receptors. Dr. Pert's research has established that emotions are equal players in the health or illness of the body, as considerable in their influence as chemicals, toxic substances, or other material biological substances. The neuropeptides are the "substrates of emotion," in continuous communication with the immune system and its cells. Emotions have a "cellular signal" that is involved in translating emotional and mental information into physical reality, "literally transforming mind into matter."
In fact, Dr. Pert says our brains are not really just in our skulls; they are mobile brains, with communication networks throughout the body. Intelligent information travels throughout the network, which includes the hormonal, gastrointestinal, immune, and central nervous systems. According to this model, as we think and feel, so do our molecules act. Emotions are part of our cellular consciousness, because every cell has receptors that are conduits for emotional energy. First the emotions happen, then the neuropeptides are released. The fact that information flows throughout the mobile brain network demonstrates that "the body is the actual outward manifestation, in physical space, of the mind." 4
End of Part 1
"Guidelines for Emotional Detoxification"
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