Have you ever wondered why we use terms like “gut-wrenching,” “heartache,” or “hurting my feelings” to describe our emotional state?
The brain and the body are inseparable.
Pain is the body’s way of saying “something is not right – please fix it!” Expressions such as those above are more than clichés. When we experience emotional stress, our bodies react automatically and instinctively, in ways we are powerless to control. Emotional pain or stress can cause symptoms such as muscle tightness, increased heart rate, headaches, rapid heart beat, clenched jaw, upset stomach, shallow breathing, shortness of breath and more. Studies have shown that emotional pain involves the same brain regions as physical pain, which suggests the two are connected. Emotional pain actually triggers these physical reactions. So although you might not yet have consciously acknowledged that you are upset, the body will definitely point it out! The physical symptoms don’t go away until the emotional issue is resolved.
So why is it important to treat the body and mind together?
I have two primary reasons. First, it’s not always easy to acknowledge or name the things that cause us emotional pain. We have a marvelous built-in set of defense mechanisms to deny or minimize that pain. But the body can’t hide the symptoms of pain. Our bodies are like a cockpit dashboard that displays information about what is going on inside the mind. A holistic approach allows me to “read” the body, looking for subtle physical signs of emotions that are being suppressed. This is important, because emotion denied does not go away. It simply finds a place in the body to curl up and wait. While it lurks, it waves physical red flags such as headaches or back aches or a clenched jaw. The way to conquer unacknowledged pain is to confront and work through it. I use the clues of the body to help me work back to the emotional cause of the pain and thus resolve it.
What kind of results does this integrated approach provide?