Anger, anxiety and emotions
I am at a crossroad.
Not exactly standing there, as I changed the paths a while ago, but still very conscious of the old path. It is challenging to walk in a new direction, which apart from passion and love, generates lots of anxiety. Every step is an effort in the presence of adversity, unfavorable circumstances and family commitments.
This transition time has made me search deep inside to find out how much divided I feel. I have again become conscious about the Body and Mind separation I have created in my life.
Unity relies on co-operation between various organs and their channels on a high level as the Chinese medicine says, or on the co-operation of cells deep inside. It is never fixed or frozen, but always balancing, changing to find its own harmony at the very moment.
In the Chinese medicine, you appreciate the individual components, but you emphasize their relations. You always reflect on the context as well as the individual. Unity also relies on letting us recognize emotions, including unpleasant ones such as anger, which are then expressed in safe ways.
According to the Chinese medicine specific emotions influence particular organs, while the condition of the organs influence us to experience particular emotions. For instance anger and frustration will influence the condition of liver. There is always a feedback loop, a subtle dance between our Thoughts, Emotions and the Physical. They all co-create who we are.
The emphasis on emotions made me more conscious about my own. I usually have the come-and-go relation with my emotions. At times I become more conscious of them, to only neglect them later.
I have had a busy and stressful life for many years now. It was partly generated by unpredictable consequences of earlier choices, partly by the events, and partly by my response to them.
Nothing in life had prepared me for what was supposed to be a blissful motherhood. Despite my own efforts to create it so, it was not. The kids, truly a blessing in my life, have also come with challenges I had no idea how to deal with. Their being poorly and my constant search to help them get well, fear for their survival, sleep deprivation, physical exhaustion, resign from job, sacrifice of own passion and sanity at times, inability to catch up my breath made me strong on the surface but vulnerable inside.
I had to push hard to make it through and I did.
My kids have made a tremendous progress since then. They have just began to leave their handicaps behind and slowly open their wings to fly. I really appreciate that.
Nevertheless, all this has left a mark. For years I have unconsciously repressed my anger for the way things did happen. Life has come with a wild and scary ride, far different than the ideal I envisioned.
This year I have some time for introspection. Yes, I am angry for how things did happen. Logically, it doesn’t make sense, of course, as life just happens. There were things beyond my control, and even if I could have had an influence, I had lacked skills or knowledge. I could have only done my best which I did. I know it. My mind knows it. I understand it is useless to feel angry. But I cannot deny that I am.
I allow this anger to surface and be expressed. I talk to my brain and mind of how angry I am. I breathe some anger out, talk to myself or vent it through pillow hitting. I know it all sounds super silly, but it’s a child in me who got angry for the unbearable difficulties she had to face and did not know how.
Sure, it’s a call to grow and I recognize it. I have been consciously letting my anger surface. Knowledge is power and in this case, knowing my anger have existed and revolted my physical body, helps me to facilitate my growth now.
It takes time but I’m glad I have been doing it. As a result, my low back pain (a friend since the last pregnancy), fatigue and other physical pains began to wander in the body. It is very interesting to observe as it only provides a hint the ideas of Dr Sarno are correct.
Dr Sarno’s and Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS)
If you have any chronic pain, fatigue or health problem, be it IBS, stomach ulcers, allergy, MI, chronic fatigue, or any auto-immune disorder, I challenge you to read his books. These are an easy read, in contrary to The Great Pain Deception: Faulty Medical Advice Is Making Us Worse by Steve Ray Ozanich, which although much more informational, is also harder to read.
Sarno’s points are very clear. We all become frustrated, unhappy or angry at some point. Sometimes we face loss or go through a traumatic event. The emotions are strong and powerful, yet we freeze in the moment in order to
sensibly deal with what will have to follow.
Also the pace of life and the stress of handling jobs, kids, family and finances is way too much for many. Yet, we have to be strong and manage. So, we do. Behind our conscious attention we repress anger or any other emotion related to stress, disappointment, embarrassment, shame and so on.
We don’t feel it. We don’t know it is there. We don’t even suspect it is there.
On the surface we are lovely, kind and gentle individuals.
Yeah … With hidden rage.
The understanding is that the mind doesn’t want to deal with the unpleasant feeling consciously so it moves unresolved conflict (say strong emotions but inappropriate to the situation) to the Subconscious or cast them as Shadow as Jung would have said. To prevent us from suspecting that Shadow exists, or the exploration of Shadow, the brain/mind focuses our attention on what is physical and can be felt instead: PAIN. Sarno calls is TMS – Tension Myositis Syndrome.
In his own words, from Healing Back Pain: The Mind- Body Connection:
“The word tension is used here to refer to emotions that are generated in the unconscious mind and that, to a large extent, remain there. These feelings are the result of a complicated interaction between different parts of our minds and between the mind and the outside world. Many of them are either unpleasant, painful or embarrassing, in some way unacceptable to us and/or society, and so we repress them. The kinds of feelings referred to are anxiety, anger and low self-esteem (feelings of inferiority). They are repressed because the mind doesn’t want us to experience them, nor does it want them to be seen by the outside world. It is likely that, if given a conscious choice, most of us would decide to deal with the bad feelings; but as the human mind is presently constituted, they are immediately and automatically repressed one has no choice. To sum up, the word tension will be used here to refer to repressed, unacceptable emotions.”
Note that Sarno is not the usual guy, but a Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University School of Medicine. Until his retirement in 2012 he was attending physician at the New York University Medical Center. So, he was certainly knowledgeable about the physical body and pain. Yet, in his medical carrier he discovered that in majority of cases, the cause of pain is psychomatic (emotional).
His ideas are controversial in the main stream medicine, of course, so don’t be surprised his approaches are not promoted. You may also neglect them as silly, too, but before that, read on.
How TMS occurs
When emotions (think energy) are repressed they create blockage. The energy is stuck and this stuckness may be reflected in muscles, tendons, or nerves. Even more, strong emotions influence the way we breathe: often fast and shallow, or the way we keep our posture, often looking down, head in the shoulders, slouching and constricting the lungs.
We are often hyperventilating. This is usually caused by insufficient carbon dioxide dissolved in the body tissues (yes, it’s correct, these are the principles of Bohr effect, which calls for another post), which leads to oxygen waste, meaning our tissues are deprived from oxygen. As a result, instead of effective cellular respiration, our body drives metabolism toward ATP-inefficient process of glycolisis. We have little ATP (energy currency) and we begin to feel tired.
Therefore, the biochemical process (behind the repressed emotions) is oxygen deprivation. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) will also diminish blood flow to muscle and nerve tissue. Blood flow is regulated by peptides (usually with hormonal activities) which tell blood vessels walls to constrict or dilate. This, in turn, influences the amount and speed of blood (and oxygen) in particular tissues.
From this point of view, when emotional energy is repressed it causes an inner tension throughout the working of ANS. Muscle and nerve tissues receive insufficient oxygen, and, in addition, the lymph experiences stasis because blood flow is diminished and the lymph nodes cannot release their waste products.
The result is physical pain, numbness, fatigue or weakness.
In summary, Mind (brain) will repress emotions into Subconscious because it chooses to prevent us from experiencing unpleasant feelings. This causes an inner tension in our nervous system, beyond our awareness, which leads to biochemical changes in muscles, tendons and nerves. This will create pain and we are deceived that the pain is the real problem, while in meantime Mind has only avoided the processing of uncomfortable feelings.
Conflict is spared and we focus on the physical.
And … We are stuck. The pain is there, we feel horrid and nothing seems to help us.
How to help yourself
You may consider the Sarno’s ideas plain and silly, especially if you experienced a physical trauma, say a herniated disc (but … according to Sarno herniated discs don’t cause pain), lifting a heavy load, or you have a medical cause, say gluten intolerance for your IBS.
I encourage you to adopt a tester’s mind. You simply consider the Sarno’s ideas as true and you diligently test the hypothesis.
The mindset of a tester is a mindset of a person who likes to have fun and see what happens without any specific attachment to the results. Why? Because a test is meant to provide you with feedback. When you accept that you have been just testing, it is easy to modify the approach accordingly or truly abandon it if necessary.
Recognize any traumatic or difficult situation before the emergence of your pain or weakness. Is there any anger, sadness, grief, frustration, shame deep inside? If so, become conscious of it. Face the dark feelings.
Let the emotions surface in safe ways. Choose to write down of what was bothering you, find a friend to pour out your heart, cry at home, make a collage to express your frustration, hit the pillow till you feel empty, or go and play tennis or football.
Find a way to channel your dark feelings, but above that – become conscious that they are there.
Face what is hidden in you. The treasure of unpleasant feelings waits there to be appreciated and transformed into a New you, without pain.
The only way forward in personal growth is to consciously participate in the positive and the negative, including the darkest nights.