Your Body, Emotions, and Unconscious Beliefs

“How do emotions show up in the body?” 

I hear this question all the time. There is no generalized answer as you and your associated stories are complex. Often it is not just emotions but unconscious belief systems, patterning, and sometimes trauma all wound together affecting the shape of your body, how you feel, and how you show up. There are classic responses to your emotions from the endocrine, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and nervous systems that can cause obvious reactions such as tension, flushed skin, or butterflies in the stomach. For many, however, the process is not so cut and dry. Emotional repression is all too common in our society and those emotions can and often do manifest in other physical ways to get our attention. 

Be curious
To begin it is important to sit with your dis-ease and notice. Be curious. Tune in; what does your body feel like in any given situation, environment, or around certain people?

Photo by Collette Wright

Photo by Collette Wright

Do you ever feel a sinking feeling of dread when thinking about something or someone? Do you feel pain somewhere in your body when that thing that isn’t working for you happens again? Do you feel nausea or have digestive issues as another big meeting approaches? Do you feel light or expansive when you know you get to spend time doing things that fill your cup? Do you have a constant pain or sensation in your body no matter what you do to find relief? On a more basic level, are even you able to access feelings or sensations in your body, or do you feel numb and disconnected? 

Just giving yourself the space to notice how your body feels without trying to change it begins the important practice of being ok with discomfort. Often people try to change their situation, feelings, and pain without trying to understand how they got their in the first place. Without getting to the root of the dis-ease it is difficult to begin integrating your experience. You can’t get to the root without the curiosity. You can’t be curious without feeling in to the discomfort. The process is uncomfortable because it’s new and exploring your dis-ease as well as the emotional components around it can leave you feeling incredibly vulnerable. Remember that you’re creating new pathways in your brain and new patterning in your body and behavior. The mind and body like old familiar patterns; they’re predictable and safe. Integrating new ways of being that counteract the ways your body has learned to stay safe up to this point takes awareness and a concious choosing to step in to the new discomfort. 

Working with emotions, beliefs, and patterns
In my work, there are a few ways I will work with you to uncover what it is your body is trying to tell you. Working in this way has given clients a new awareness of how their mind and body interact with one another, giving you the power to connect to your deeper knowing or intuition.

Pain/Tension
People often have language around their pain that offers insight in to other area(s) of their life that may not be working for them anymore. Not always right off the bat, but as we venture in to their associate story, it’s amazing to see how their pain is linked to ways they’ve disconnected from their true self. I’ve had clients whose chronic pain went away after we worked together to identify limiting beliefs, stepped in to a dynamic with a family member that better served them, created boundaries, connected to the emotion(s) within the pain and allowed it to be felt fully, or identified a core belief/truth that allowed them to live their life in an intentional way that fulfilled their needs.

Restrictions
Pain often exists in the body due to fascial restrictions caused by trauma, emotional wounds, physical wounds, surgery, and scar tissue. These restrictions pull on your structure, creating an imbalance in the musculoskeletal system. Assessing the body and its current structural shape can give clues as to where imbalances and restrictions are in the body. Using myofacial release to encourage these restriction to dissipate allows energy and emotions to freely flow once more. 

Other sensations
very so often I experience a tightness in my chest and ribs, difficulty breathing, and a burning sensation in my stomach/solar plexus area. I have learned that this is my body signaling to me that there is emotion or something meaningful that is ready to be felt and that there is some part of my story that is ready and needing to be processed. I’ve work with others who often experience digestive issues, menstrual pain/endometriosis, tightness in the throat, the feeling of an elephant sitting on the chest, and other sensations that once explored reveal a deeper conflict, burden, or belief that is no longer working for them. 

Reactions
One other way you can gauge what emotions, beliefs, or patterns are creating blocks for you are your reactions. For example, with many clients when we begin to get in to vulnerable subject matter there is often a physical response. Many people want to curl up, cross their arms or legs as if to protect their most vulnerable parts, and some just want to run. Some get angry or irritated, some cry, and some completely disassociate or almost leave their body so as to not have to deal with the situation and associated feelings. I often ask them “What would it be like for you to remain open in moments where you want to fold over, cross your arms, hide, and protect yourself? What is underneath your anger? What does it feel like in your body? How is it working for you to remain closed? Do you want to change?”

Ways to explore your bodily sensations
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to your relationship to your body. Here are some ways you can being exploring that relationship.

Practitioner
I believe that in order to fully process and integrate your associated story and physical, mental, or emotional dis-ease it is extremely beneficial to work with a practitioner. They can mirror back to you aspects of yourself you maybe weren’t aware of and offer insight in to the way in which you tend to show up. Some examples would be a myofascial release practitioner, a therapist who works with the mind/body connection, trauma sensitive yoga instructor, craniosacral therapist, traditional naturopath, acupuncturist, and more. 

Movement
One of the best ways to bring your awareness in to your body is to move your body. I love doing intuitive, free-flowing movement to not only bring my awareness in to my body but to also connect to the ways in which my body WANTS to move. It’s almost an unwinding of some of the old patterning my body had adopted due to the ways I learned to exist to stay safe and feel loved. It can also be a really beautiful representation of the things you feel in your internal state but maybe aren’t able to put words to. You can also explore yoga, exercise, martial arts, qi gong, or dance. 

Meditation
Whether you’re sitting, laying down, walking, spending time in nature, painting, creating, or writing, having a practice where you continue to bring your awareness inward will allow you to more easily come back to a place of connectedness to yourself. The more you can connect to yourself, the more you can identify when there are feelings, emotions, pains, or sensations that are preventing you from connecting and vice versa. There is no one right way to meditate. You may have thoughts and you may not. You don’t have to have a special pillow, incense, candles, crystals, or sage. As long as you are going inward you’re meditating. 

Remember that you are an ever-evolving creature whose life, beliefs, situations, relationships, and and experiences are evolving as well. When you thought you had worked through or processed emotional or physical pain, it can show up again and again. How you react and what you do based off of that is where growth happens. The next time you feel an interesting sensation, nagging pain, or tension along your path, ask yourself a few of the questions below. Maybe even journal about your expiration. You may uncover something about yourself that you didn’t know before, finding your freedom along the way.

What are you feeling in your body?
Where are you feeling it?
When did this feeling start? What was going on in your life?
What are some descriptive words of the sensation? Is there a color, texture, temperature, smell, memory, or emotion that comes with it?
What does that descriptive word make you think of? Does it relate or resonate anywhere else in your life?
What is common between your pain/sensation and that situation?
Do you believe that any of that is your truth?