Have you ever really thought about what happens to your body when you’re angry or sad or worrying about something? I’d say for most of us, our immediate thoughts are consumed with dealing with the issue at hand, and getting the unpleasant feelings to stop. If we really learn to pay attention to our bodies though, we’ll start to see that these emotions we’re feeling on a day to day basis, can get stored in the tissues in our body. Holding onto these emotions does us no good; it only causes harm for our bodies. But even negative emotions can be beneficial, if we can learn how to work with them and not against them. We give ourselves the chance to embrace those negative emotions and use them to grow, and move on from them more quickly, rather than getting stuck in them.
Chris Shelton (from Shelton Qigong) says a lot, “We have issues within our tissues”.
What he means by this is that these unprocessed emotions are stored in the tissues of our bodies, and if they are left there, they will start to cause major issues.
Western medicine doesn’t always acknowledge this fact. They instead concentrate their efforts on treating the symptoms that these emotions cause. But, if we can deal with and release our emotions from the beginning, we can often keep ourselves from getting to the point of needing a doctor to begin with.
(Disclaimer: Nothing I’m saying here should outweigh the advice of a medical professional. A doctor, acupuncturist, naturopath, etc. I’m not a licensed medical professional. I just know what has helped me, and many others, and I’m relaying those experiences here. Everyone has to make decisions about their own healthcare for themselves.)
How many times have you heard, or said, the phrase, “I’m worried sick”? Or how about, “I was so mad I couldn’t see straight”?
Have you ever been nervous about something, or scared, and found yourself having to pee more often?
If you see someone that is sad, they will often have slumped shoulders, and wrap their arms around themselves.
These are not just things that we say, or things that we do. This is our bodies reaction to the events that are happening around us. There are physical symptoms that support these statements. Whether we pay attention to these things or not, they naturally happen.
Taking it one step further, our bodies will react this way when we recall the memory of this event as well.
For example, when we have an argument, our bodies react physically in the moment. Our teeth clench together, our blood pressure goes up, our faces get red, and so on.
What most people don’t realize, is that our bodies react the same way each and every time we think about this argument again. So, if you’re someone who dwells on things, or who rehashes conversations over and over again in your head, your body is feeling those emotions over and over again. This tires our bodies out more quickly and makes us sick without us ever realizing what is happening.
Going even more deeply, we can also take on the emotions of others (in an effort to help them or because we don’t know how not to), and those emotions can affect us as well.
Different emotions that we have, get stored, or trapped, in different organs of our bodies.
The basic breakdown is this:
1) Anger, frustration, resentment, rage, and hatred, are stored in our liver.
Examples: That fight you had with your spouse, the annoying lady at the grocery store, the guy who cut you off in traffic, your feelings towards a current or past political figure or family member.
2) Sadness, grief, sorrow, guilt, and shame, are stored in your lungs.
Examples: When your day doesn’t quite go as planned, when you lose your job, when someone or something you love dies, when you get bad news, when you feel like you aren’t doing enough for people.
3) Overwhelm, feelings of abandonment, loss, or loneliness, overexcitation or mania – these are stored in your heart.
Examples: Constantly feeling like you have too much to do, someone leaving you (intentionally through a break up or unintentionally through death), a death in the family, a pet running away or dying, feeling like you’re alone in the world, feeling scattered and like you can’t focus on anything, getting so excited about something that your emotions seem to overflow in a bad way (ie. crying when you laugh too hard).
4) Worrying, overthinking things, and anxiety are stored in the stomach.
Examples: An upcoming presentation, starting a new business, what other people think of you, pleasing everyone in your life or being liked by everyone in your life, whether or not you’ll have enough money to pay your bills, what decision you should make in a given situation.
5) Fear (real or imagined), fright, shock (seeing something happen to someone, or something else, whether in person or on TV or a video), trauma (anything from surviving a car accident or serious illness, to abusive situations, to a soldier who has been in combat) is stored in the kidneys.
Examples: Fighting in a combat situation and/or being a family member of someone who has, watching violent videos or TV shows constantly, living in or surviving an abusive relationship, going through cancer treatments or treatments for a serious illness, living in a household where there is a lot of yelling and fighting.
We can’t live in this world without encountering at least some of these emotions from time to time. The good news is, we can learn to work with them and use them to better ourselves. Working with them, and not just shoving them down or pretending they don’t exist, also gives us the added benefit of being more equipped to deal with them when they come up again.
Why would we avoid dealing with our emotions if we know they can affect us so much?
The biggest reason we don’t deal with these emotions is because most of them are unpleasant. We generally don’t go towards the unpleasant willingly.
Our goal as humans is to stay as happy as possible, as often as possible. Which mind you…is a decent goal. But life isn’t always happy. Bad things happen.
A lot of people would much rather get through these bad things as quickly as possible, and move back into feeling happy again. If that means just sweeping unwanted emotions under the rug and not really dealing with them, then so be it.
The trouble with this approach is this…when you lift the rug up, those emotions are still there.
Sweeping them under the rug only serves to remove them from your immediate view. It doesn’t actually clean them up. They are in a pile under there with all of the other negative emotions that we didn’t want to acknowledge.
This seems easier at the time, but these emotions will come rolling out in some way at some point. Just like if you continuously swept dirt under a rug; eventually there’s not going to be enough room for all of the dirt, and it’s going to start coming out.
Our anger builds up and we blow up at someone that we’re not even mad at. The resentment and hatred that we feel for a person or a situation causes us to have headaches and body aches that we can’t really explain. Our stomachs hurt constantly and we have to take medicine everyday because we worry about things. The sadness, or rejection that we feel gets the best of us and we have depression or anxiety that we can’t seem to shake.
Sweeping things under the rug seems easier, but the consequences of those feelings piling up are things that are not easy to deal with.
These are a few of the ways that help me work with those emotions that are viewed as negative or unwanted:
1) Do a body scan meditation every day –
There are a few different ways to do this.
The first two are through following guided videos that Shelton Qigong has on YouTube. The Center and Balance Meditation and the Pulling Out Past Pain Meditation (which takes you through the past, present, and future). Both are good for becoming more aware of your body as a whole. Going through the Pulling Out Past Pain Meditation isn’t always easy, but it shows you where you hold specific events.
For instance, I hold stress in my shoulders and neck; a lot of people do. More specifically though, I’ve learned when I’m working through past pain it tends to reside in my chest area. Anytime I catch myself holding myself back in any way, not speaking my truth, worrying what others will think, or doubting myself, my elbow hurts.
When you do these meditations over and over again, you’ll learn these things about yourself as well. They will be small signs that your body gives you, to let you know what you need to work on and release or grow from.
The other thing you can do is to sit or lie down each evening or morning for a few minutes and do a simple body scan. I try to do this every evening.
Start at the top of your head and imagine a scanner moving slowly down, through and around your body. Imagine every part of your body, inside and out. Notice where you may be feeling pain or tension, but don’t get stuck thinking about it. Simply notice it. Notice when you scan over something and it feels good, or you feel a sense of joy. Just pay attention to the feelings, don’t dwell on them.
2) Journal a little each day or two.
At the very least, you can write the date and a word or two. Like, Wednesday October 20, 2020 Frustrated and Overwhelmed, or Good day Today. You don’t have to journal every little detail of every situation (unless you want to of course), but the very act of being aware of what you’re feeling is helpful.
3) Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, or about a situation that happened that upset you.
A therapist or a friend who will listen and not judge you, but also who won’t let you wallow. Talking about things with someone gives you the chance to gain a different perspective. Maybe we overreacted about the situation. Maybe we were completely justified in our feelings, but we are having a hard time seeing a way out of the emotional spiral.
There’s absolutely no shame in seeking a counselor or therapist to help you. Just make sure that they are giving you tools to move forward, and not just allowing you to rehash things over and over again.
4) Exercise or move in some way each day.
Again, it doesn’t have to be hard exercise for an hour each day, just some type of small movement. I’ve mentioned it before, when I get frustrated, I have a punching bag that I spend some time with. I’ve learned some basic boxing and kickboxing exercises, and how to do them without hurting myself. I throw on some heavy metal or whatever music I’m in the mood for, and I take out my frustrations. After doing so I can better process my emotions.
If I’m feeling overwhelmed, or sad, or just blah, I try to go for a walk somewhere in nature. Even if I just go out in my yard and walk around for a few minutes.
Figure out what helps you in different situations and do those things as often as necessary.
5) Find a creative outlet.
Whatever you enjoy doing, that lets you be creative. Doing something creative helps me to process emotions as well. When I’ve had a lot going on, when situations arise and I’m not even sure how I’m feeling, I let my imagination run wild.
The point is, do something to release these emotions in a healthy way. Acknowledge the emotions that you’re having and why, don’t just stuff them down or try to pretend they aren’t happening.
If we can learn to work WITH these emotions, rather than against them, we gain more benefit.
Having anger or fear isn’t a bad thing in and of itself. It’s how we choose to express those emotions, and what we do with them that causes problems.
When I’m frustrated with something, the worst thing I can do is to try to convince myself that I’m not frustrated by simply thinking positive. If something frustrates me and I say, “There’s no reason to be frustrated, things are exactly as they need to be”, it just frustrates me even more.
But, if I acknowledge that I’m feeling frustrated, and explore the reasons why, I can then work through how I’m feeling, release the frustration, and more easily move on.
Just trying to convince ourselves that we aren’t mad, sad, hurt, or whatever, is another coping mechanism that doesn’t do us any good. It’s another way of stuffing those feelings down and not having to deal with them.
We have to acknowledge them and feel them to truly move forward.