Is Your Body Storing Emotions?

Article by Marina Raye, LICSW Integrative Coach and Psychotherapist

Our bodies are deigned to process the emotions that are created by our thoughts. When emotions are felt without interference, they quickly dissipate leaving the body relaxed, strong and healthy.

However, some emotions are often identified as negative. Fear, frustration, anger, and so on, are not welcomed by most of us and, therefore, resisted and unprocessed.
When we do not allow our bodies to feel and process our emotions, we become experts on not feeling.

Does any of the following sound familiar?

“I’ll get busy so I don’t have to think” (translate—feel);
“Boy, am I hungry! That ice cream has been occupying too much space in the freezer” “Hey, let’s watch that episode again, know it by heart but it’s still funny!”
“Who says I am angry? I am just straight forward and assertive!”
“I let it go” (yet still thinking about it).

And on and on we go: denying, suppressing, ignoring, stuffing. Or perhaps we fixate on talking about how justified we are in feeling how we feel (and by the way, we are! Feelings are always right!). But talking in a circular way about our feelings will only bring on more of them and eventually will lead to some form of resistance.

So how do we actually, physically, resist emotions? Our muscles do it for us, by becoming tense. It happens so quickly, and often on such a deep, subconscious level, that we don’t even know that it’s happening. But while we are oblivious, our bodies learn and invisibly adapt. They will remember how to stop and store our “favorite” emotion, and the next time a situation arises, will tense up in the right place and on we go with our day not knowing that the stress level is now a bit higher.

At this point, almost everyone has been well educated on the effects of stress on our body and consequent health issues. Resisting our own emotions is a form of stress, with negative consequences. While we may be uncomfortable with certain emotions, it is healthier to practice accepting them —the good, the bad and the ugly — and give our bodies the freedom to be emotion processors they are meant to be rather than relegating them to be emotional storage.

Some hints—when the “favorite” emotion begins to come out of its hiding place, try to relax the mind and focus on lengthening your breath, inhale slowly and fill the belly, exhale fully. On a daily basis practice yoga, tai chi, chi gong, whichever resonates with you. Hug a tree, seriously! Being with nature is calming to the mind and body. If possible, get bodywork done. Find a therapist who understands mind/body connection. And above all, be nice to yourself!

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