Many people in our culture believe that there are “good” emotions and “bad” emotions. Because of this belief about the bad ones and other cultural conditioning, many people suppress and repress their emotions. Emotions are natural aspects of our humanness.
It is completely normal to be angry when someone does something you feel is unjust. It is completely normal to be sad with the loss of a loved one. It is completely normal to be afraid of something when you feel it may interfere with your safety.
Emotions come from FEELINGS that the body uses to interpret the event that just occurred. Those feelings of anger, grief, fear, shock, worry, joy, etc. are meant to be FELT. When an event occurs, there’s always a release of chemicals in the body to deal with it. If the person lets themselves feel and process the feelings evoked, our chemicals get used “properly” and the body maintains a state of balance, or health or homeostasis. When one is crying as they are grieving the loss of someone they love, those chemicals are released in the tears. When one gets angry the liver releases the chemical, glycogen, into the bloodstream to give the body energy to deal with whatever the situation IS that evoked the anger. With anger, there is commonly something one feels so strongly about the reaction is to DO something physical about it. That release of glycogen gives the body the energy needed to do so. If they take the story out of it, the burst of energy can be reinterpreted as ENTHUSIASM and PASSION and the energy can be put into a productive solution. When one is in a state of fear, the adrenal glands go into the fight or flight response, releasing what we know as stress hormones (adrenaline, nor-adrenaline, and cortisol). If they fight or run, those chemicals get put to use and subsequently released, letting the body go back into homeostasis. If the situation is not really life threatening they can harness those chemicals as EXCITEMENT and use them as an energy source to accomplish a project. Worry can be seen as an emotion when someone is obsessing over all the details of something that may or may not happen. Many people often start fussing over these details without any critical thinking or discernment. That energy can get placed into looking at the details and figuring out which ones they can actually do something about as well as which ones really matter. AND then releasing any attachment to the details that don’t matter, or that they don’t have any control over. It’s when we don’t let ourselves process the feelings that problems arise. When emotions are stuffed down, that energy gets stuck somewhere in the body and creates some sort of disease, be it emotional distress, pain, or an actual disease. Many illnesses have been tied back to suppressed and repressed emotions. Mentally and emotionally it usually leads to depression, anxiety, & insomnia. Substance abuse and suicide are also deeply tied to emotional suppression. When people have long term blocked emotions, they usually react as opposed to respond. That overreacting can occur when those blocked emotions have been building up it ends up being “the straw that broke the camel’s back” Other commons issues tied to blocked emotions: Muscle tension and pain Headaches Digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting) Lowered immune system High blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems Eating disorders A 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed people who bottled up their emotions increased their risk of being diagnosed with cancer by 70%. The study also showed increasing their chance of premature death from all causes by more than 30%. In Chinese medicine, the emotions are associated with the organs and their meridians. When one is in balance, they are able to feel the feelings and process them as they arise. If they are out of balance, they bottle up the feelings and they can have repercussions on the organs and meridians.
Worry and pensiveness is associated with the Spleen and Stomach. When people worry too much it is very common to have a “nervous stomach”, leading to all sorts of digestive issues. When one is able to assess whatever they’re feeling overly pensive about they can take control over what is bothering them. They can achieve a peaceful, calm state and take care of the issues they have control over.
Grief is associated with the Lungs and Large Intestine. When there is a major change in one’s life, their lives need to adjust to a new way of being. When one allows themself to feel the grief, they create the space to create changes within to work out how the change affects them and the world around them. When they let themselves grieve, they’re processing the change/loss, coming to terms with it, and accepting it. This leads to letting go of how they want the world to look like, which can lead to a sense of freedom. When they don’t process the grief, they end up holding on to something that has passed. This often leads to coughs, asthma, frequent colds and other respiratory illnesses. From the large intestine side, it often leads to constipation and the resulting problems from "holding onto their shit".
Fear is associated with the Kidneys and Urinary Bladder. If something is scary to deal with we can fight, run, or harness the energy into excitement. If the fear gets deflected or negated it can lead to decreasing of the kidney energy and lead to a negative feedback loop where everything starts being very scary. People with weak Kidney and Urinary Bladder energy often have issues with incontinence.
Anger, which includes resentment, irritability, frustration and jealousy, is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder. When one can harness the energy of anger and use it in a productive way, that energy can transform into enthusiasm and passion and stamina to get the job done. When it’s repressed it can lead to insomnia, high blood pressure, and muscle tension and headaches that manifest in the liver and gallbladder meridians.
The Heart and Small Intestine are associated with joy. But what can be wrong with too much joy? There may have been something lost in translation. This correlates more with pride, mania, agitation and scattered energy. Joy can be defined as an experience felt when good things are happening. But when people are out of balance and focus on themselves and all that is “right” with them, it can be seen as pride (being too self obsessed with all the “good things happening to them). People can also be closed hearted which then blocks deep connections with themselves and with others. When joy is felt by the heart, the heart stays open and they can feel connected to their souls and the world. When the heart is blocked it can lead to high blood pressure, insomnia, and irritability, and cardiac issues such as blocked arteries and aortic aneurysms.
There are many ways to help learn to feel your feelings and healthily release repressed and suppressed emotions to put your body back into homeostasis. Commonly used ones are:
In CM we customarily use acupuncture, Qigong, and chanting to move the energy of emotions through the body.
In conclusion, to be truly healthy, one needs to let themselves feel their feelings.
As we’ve seen, the repercussions of suppressing and repressing emotions have some sort of negative effect on the body, mind and spirit. There are many avenues to healing the parts that one has suppressed and repressed to take ownership of their feelings. There’s no right or wrong here. It’s trying new things and seeing if they fit. It is also being patient and persistent. The emotions didn’t get blocked overnight and there is no magic bullet. It does necessitate being forgiving of oneself and knowing that they are worthy of the investment.