How Unresolved Emotions
But what about the stuck emotions you are unaware of, the ones you have buried deep and cannot retrieve or even remember that they exist? Sometimes clinical hypnotherapy can be helpful in aiding your dive into the subconscious to retrieve them, according to Joseph Riccioli, M.D., N.D., a physician and naturopath practicing in Clifton, New Jersey, who uses clinical hypnosis to help patients get over depression, cancer, and other serious health problems.
Medical science has established that our thoughts and emotions "talk" to our cells. Ever since the 1970s, scientists (including Dr. Pert) have been building a case for this and calling it psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI. PNI says the mind and emotions (psyche) communicate with the nervous (neuro) and immune (immunology) systems, both to their detriment or advantage, depending on whether it is consciously or unconsciously directed, and depending on the content of that communication.
Unfortunately, most of the time this dialogue is unconscious, says Dr. Riccioli. We get the results (the health problem) without understanding the causes (the emotional content), or we may be aware of a part of the picture, but missing the other pieces to make it comprehensible. Below are a few vivid examples from Dr. Riccioli's clinical casebook that make the point.
Grace, thirty-six, had an embarrassing problem: she chronically pulled her hair out the way other people bite their fingernails. Her scalp was a mess of patchy, straggly hair and great gaps where she had ripped the hair out. In the course of working with Grace, Dr. Riccioli learned that she was using the hair-pulling as a way to discharge stress and tension associated with two traumatic events earlier in her life, in the thrall of which emotions she was still gripped. As a child, she had been publicly humiliated in school, and in early adulthood, her husband became an active alcoholic and deserted their marriage.
Grace thought these two events happened because of her and therefore she deserved to be punished for them, even though she couldn't figure out why. Her pent-up, conflicted anger was expressed through her hair-pulling; because she couldn't find rest or resolution with respect to these two intense experiences, she was transiting back and forth continuously from her present age and those earlier times. Once she understood the connection and remembered the earlier experiences clearly and in full, she was able to discharge the old emotions and stop pulling her hair, says Dr. Riccioli.
Vera, forty-two, was a woman with angry ovaries.
She had a serious case of ovarian cancer and was about to undergo
surgery. Dr. Riccioli learned Vera had endured a highly abusive
marital relationship, such that she at times had to lock herself
in a room to protect herself from her husband. She knew she had
a lot of anger towards him, but had stuffed it away inside herself
and never dealt with it. "Vera never dealt with her anger
and it eventually turned into guilt," and she assumed she
must have done something wrong to provoke her husband, notes
The preceding examples illustrate the meaning of a useful term coined by noted women's doctor and health educator, Christiane Northrup, M.D. She calls them "toxic emotions." Toxic emotions are powerful, strongly held, and typically unconscious beliefs and emotions that act as precipitators, catalysts, or seeds for a variety of illnesses, from mild to mortal. Belief becomes biology when it remains unaddressed, undischarged, or even unidentified, says Dr. Northrup. When emotions are unexpressed, they stay in the body "like small ticking time bombsthey are illnesses in incubation." She relates a vivid case to make her point.
A forty-one-year-old business executive was suffering from hot flashes. This is early to have the first signs of menopause, but because she had had a hysterectomy with removal of both ovaries a few years earlier, the surgery probably speeded up the hormonal timetable a bit, edging her, if prematurely, into perimenopause. She was under stress at work, taking four times the normal dose of estrogen for women with hot flashes, and not getting any relief. Two years into her treatment with Dr. Northrup, the woman finally revealed she had been sexually molested at age six by an adult male. She had felt frozen, numb, unable to speak at the time. Later she felt ashamed and told nobody about the incident, thinking that somehow she must have done something wrong to warrant this kind of punishment.
The hysterectomy, which was done as a result of years of unremitting uterine pain, says Dr. Northrup, was actually a step in the right direction, not so much medically, as emotionally. It was her body's way of focusing the woman's attention on the "scene of the crime," in this case, literally. Even deeper, the woman felt oppressed by "the original sin of being female," and tried to compensate for this felt inferiority by overworking. She overworked to prove herself in the workplace and to avoid contact with the deep emotional pain she bore in her uterus and the shame that made her feel unworthy and bad, explains Dr. Northrup.
She adds that the "seeds" for the woman's physical problems were planted by the emotional trauma of sexual abuse. It did not necessarily create it in a linear chain of causality, but this early abuse "set a pattern of discomfort in her body-mind," and her body-mind expressed the pain continually at the place of the original trauma. Undoing the lifelong effects of this toxic seed meant going back in herself to experience and "expiate it, exorcise it" from her cellular memory bank.
Dr. Northrup calls this process of feeling, expressing, and releasing old repressed emotions "emotional incision and drainage." Buried emotions, festering and toxic, are like abscesses that a doctor needs to lance and drain. Similarly, emotions, walled off and generating pain, must be "lanced" and "drained" so healthy new tissues (metaphorically, self-attitudes and behaviors) can form.6
As Carolyn Myss, Ph.D., the highly popular advocate of the seamless mind-body model, remarks, the first principle of illness is that biography becomes biology. All our thoughts and feelings first enter our biological system as energy. "Every thought you have had has traveled through your biological system and activated a physiological response," she says. Some have dropped depth charges, causing physiological reactions throughout the body. "In this way our biographies are woven into our biological systems, gradually, slowly, every day."7
Most of us carry destructive beliefs and feelings around with us, and these steadily undermine our health, gradually converting our biology to be in accordance with our definition of reality. For example, if you are continuously "pissed off" at somebody or a situation, your body may translate this into chronic urinary tract infections in which your "piss" acidifies under the influence of this strongly held, undischarged emotion. Until you discharge the emotion, you may be subject to recurrent bouts of urinary tract infection.
Various emotions, such as low self-esteem or self-worth, have been associated with the development of cancer, and these toxic emotions can have a powerful influence on the course of the disease and the inability of well-indicated therapies to stop it. "Many cancer patients cannot recover from their cancer until these memories are discovered and treated."8
It sounds counter to common sense, but what you don't know can hurt you, "because the repressed memory of trauma is traumatic," explains Arthur Janov, M.D., in Why You Get Sick and How You Get Well. Dr. Janov is the well-known founder of the primal scream technique, which he introduced in the 1970s. It is our repressed memory of a painful or deprived or abusive childhood that is itself traumatic, exerting a continuous debilitating effect on our body, says Dr. Janov.
Neurosis, the state of carrying unresolved, conflicted emotion and states of mind, is the foundation of illness, he says. There is nothing more healing than to actually feel and fully experience the memories and emotionsour "internal reality"from earlier in life that have been repressed or shunted out of our awareness. Childhood pain is like a psychological big bang that can set the course for the rest of our life, until we deal with it. We may spend a lifetime trying to repress the painful memory, but "all that energy and activation has to find its way into some kind of disease," says Dr. Janov.
Dr. Janov relates the case of a woman, twenty-nine,
who had been bulimic for eleven years. After working with Dr.
Janov and his primal therapy approach, she realized her bulimia
was a coping mechanism traceable to her difficult birth. During
her birthing, she got stuck in the birth canal and went into
a frenzyangry, afraid, and fighting for her life. She couldn't
breathe and her body went into convulsions. In her adult life,
during a crisis, she would stuff herself with food and then vomit.
She realized her bulimia was mimicking the trauma of her birth.
Throwing up was her way of disgorging the stress of not being
able to breathe, and therefore of discharging the tension of
End of Part 2
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