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The Physical Toll of Negative Emotions

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by North Star, Nov 29, 2013.

  1. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is from Mark's Daily Apple. I think he does a brilliant job of spelling out TMS for a broader audience.
    Living Primally is first and foremost about taking responsibility for your own health. Though we might not be able to control each and every facet of our lives and genetics, we have considerably more power than we think. Diet, exercise, sleep, sun,social connection, and play all figure centrally into our health. (If you’ve been with us at MDA for even a week, you’ve probably figured that out.) That said, there are also more nuanced facets to wellbeing – subtler influences and interactions that we might not consider each day. True, when we rein in the bad habits and rewire unhealthy patterns, we open the door for an unprecedented level of thriving. Some of us, however, carry other kinds of baggage burdensome enough to keep us from ultimately passing over the threshold. I’m talking about the emotional cargo we live with – the anger, resentment, repression, sadness, guilt, or inertia (to name a few) – and its inevitable toll on our physiological health.
    A few months ago, Dr. Albert Fuchs wrote a post highlighting the role of guilt played in some of his patients’ symptoms. Many physicians, Fuchs explains, see people whose physical suffering has no apparent medical source – somatization in medical jargon. Their conditions, which range from insomnia to chest pain, are rooted in guilt. What these folks need, Fuchs argues, is emotional and spiritual “absolution,” not medical treatment.
    Fuch’s observation is just the tip of the iceberg, I’d suggest. In recent years, studies have highlighted the role stress, emotions, and personality traits play in serious health risks. For example, research shows sadness increases our perception of pain. Anxiety increases our chance of heart attack. Stress heightens our risk for stroke. Depression raises levels of inflammation-promoting proteins and increases the accumulation of abdominal fat. Suppressing our feelings even suppresses our immune function!
    Our emotions aren’t just intellectual configurations. They’re wholly visceral processes. Imagine the emotionally charged times when you’ve had sweaty palms, a tightened chest, muscle tension, a knotted stomach, constricted throat, or light-headedness. It’s all part of the inherent mind-body connection. Our emotions elicit biochemical signals that set in motion a chain of positive or negative physiological events that include or influence everything fromblood pressure to blood viscosity, gastrointestinal function to pain perception.
    We’re designed, of course, to experience (and recover quickly from) a wide range of emotions, but when we get stuck in a negative rut for too long, it exacts a physiological as well as psychological toll. Over time, our physical condition reflects our emotional state. The persistent physiological impact of our feelings becomes imbedded in our body itself – in skewed neurochemical patterns, inefficient systemic functioning, even epigenetic profiles.
    Eastern medicine more readily acknowledges the nuances of our mind-body connection.Yoga, for one, attends to the physical tension we carry as manifestations of emotional strain. Within the strategic focus of poses and the centering of breath work, we can cultivate a physical and emotional sense of release. It’s a discipline that mirrors many other Eastern and alternative practices which appreciate either literally or metaphorically how our bodies and minds are inherently imbricated.
    From an evolutionary standpoint, it also makes sense. The more we discover, the more we understand about the body’s and brain’s complementary operations in animals and in our own species. Emotions and emotional perception were part of the larger picture of survival. They spurred us to action or inaction that could save our hides when we were up against a predator or a hostile or helpful stranger. They fostered our successful interactions with kin and even our childhood caretakers.
    Today, in a world much safer and more mentally detached from the imperative of the present, I think it’s easier to lose ourselves in emotional narratives (that destructive penchant for self-talk) that can extend and expand our pain beyond the actual situations that prompted them to begin with. How much of our emotional anguish is caused by an unfair or unfortunate scenario, and how much is caused by our unrelenting grip on it. Our negative emotion (e.g. anger, sadness, guilt) likely had at least some legitimate value when the circumstances occurred, but at what point does it spring not from the original event anymore but from our own self-destructive clinging?
    From a personal standpoint, how many of us have lived for weeks if not months with our stomachs in knots over stress? How many have ever gone months or even years stressed by a negative relationship (be it partnership, friendship, family, or work) that caused chronic headaches, muscle tension, or other symptoms? (A literal as well as figurative pain in the neck?) How many have felt perpetually fatigued by the weight of resentment?
    Hanging onto emotion after the fact, in its lesser forms, can hold us back from experiencing full thriving. In it’s worst manifestations, we let it cannibalize us. When we take responsibility for our health, we also take responsibility for our mental health and the self-talk that fuels (or constrains) our lives. It helps to cultivate a “let it go” approach to life and to let go of negative self-talk that sends us down a useless emotional path. Counselors commonly suggest patients who tend to fall into negative thought patterns nip the process in the bud by learning to identify the physical sensations that begin the downward spiral. Maybe it’s a flushed face, a head rush, or a queasy stomach. Staying attuned to our physical cues can be more effective for many people than trying to mentally police runaway thoughts.
    However, taking responsibility also means being honest with ourselves about what we resist addressing in our lives. It calls us to make hard choices sometimes – to let go of friendships that aren’t serving us anymore, to take a risk moving on from a soul-sucking job, to either leave a relationship or commit to the hard (and mutual) work of reshaping it. It calls us to get real about the negative thoughts and patterns that lead us to self-sabotage our lives, actions that result in continual mental and physiological consequences. Responsibility for our wellbeing is undoubtedly life’s grandest opportunity, but it’s also our most profound accountability.
    Lily Rose and G.R. like this.
  2. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

  3. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    North Star, this is profound. I'm going to cut and paste it and print it out so I can read it later and
    fully understand it all. Thanks so much for sharing it.
  4. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    I'm so glad you found it beneficial, Walt. I too printed it out to reread. And reread.
  5. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Obsessive "emotional narratives" that run on and on after the situation that spawned them characterizes so much about the operation of the TMS personality that you could write reams about it. I think the Buddhists call it counterproductive "mental gossip" and recommend all kinds of meditation strategies to eliminate the habit. This phrase seems to summarize it in a nutshell:

    "Hanging onto emotion after the fact, in its lesser forms, can hold us back from experiencing full thriving".

    It can also generate and sustain programmed pain symptoms long after the physical reason for the pain has disappeared entirely, hence, the term "chronic pain".

    Your quote is the single best summary of the TMS process I've seen in one breath. Thanks for posting, North Star.

    PS- I finally remembered that the North Star is named Polaris. Better late than never!

  6. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Boy, no kidding, Bruce! I used to joke that it takes me about a week to recover from interactions from my mother-in-law. But I wasn't really joking. The woman utterly drains me. Yesterday was no exception. And today that tired, angry narrative just wants to keep replaying. I can't give her the power to linger in my head for even a minute away form her presence. But dang, it's hard work to rewire those patterns.

    I use "Polaris" on another site. I had actually thought of using Polaris in the name of a business I'm starting but when my friend said it reminded her of snowmobiles, I figured most of the public wouldn't make the connection to finding one's North Star. ;) The book "Finding Your North Star" is what turned me to this stuff.

    Thanks for that link, Bruce. Pretty cool information!
  7. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    "And today that tired, angry narrative just wants to keep replaying. I can't give her the power to linger in my head for even a minute away form her presence. But dang, it's hard work to rewire those patterns".

    I've sure done exactly that same thing too many times. I think Mark's Daily Apple post gives a good indication of how such internal dialogs are really left over survival strategies that used to work out in the natural world when we were trying to escape being prey. However, now they play over and over again in the mind cut off from their original purpose, like disembodied ghosts. I think they can become independent self-sustaining voices that fall under the what Alan Gordon classifies as an "inner bully" or "inner critic". I'm sure they develop under stressful conditions that occur during life's transitions: death in the family, divorce, loss of income, retirement . . . etc. etc. etc. I remember, for example, back in 1969 when I graduated from college, quit my job cleaning up a working-class bar, and took off for the Tetons for the summer. There was a broken loop of an argument I had with my old boss that played on and on, over and over like an audio-video replay on YouTube. Of course, after a couple of days in a natural environment I forgot all about it. I think you just have a tendency to become obsessive-compulsive during life's transition phases, which is probably left over from our old mammalian survival responses, but are now out-of-sync with modern socio-psychological environments. I noticed that my tendency to have obsessive dialogs with imaginary enemies coincided with the death of my mother in January 2001 when the pressure of facing what Dr Zafirides calls ultimate existential concerns like death, isolation, freedom, and ultimate meaning became overwhelming. I don't think it's any accident that I began developing such TMS symptoms as lower back pain and sciatica at the same time. However, it's the amount of stress, I think I've learned, that dictates how long it takes to defuse those sort of counterproductive inner dialog. My fight with my boss lasted in my head for two weeks, the sort of OCD dialog I experienced after my mother's death is still winding down, but winding down it is.

    Time is a healer if you give it a chance.
    North Star likes this.
  8. nancy

    nancy Well known member

    Hi North Star, I am replying to the book "The Power Of Now", I have ordered the book and am so
    looking forward to a wonderful read, one with encouragement and destination. Walt also
    has a book, "A Midnight Clear" which I cannot wait to read, he is so inspirational. I ordered it off
    Amazon. It should be here by Tues. I have talked to him several times by phone, he's fascinating!!
    Fondly, Nancy
    North Star likes this.
  9. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    "...like disembodied ghosts..." What a great word picture, Bruce. My TMS kicked into high gear when I was pregnant with my firstborn. Just a wee bit of transition there. ;)
    I would like to find myself so preoccupied with living passionately and intentionally that there is no room in my head for negativity. But alas and alack...the mailman keeps delivering the bills. ;)

    Nancy, thanks for the great book recommendations. I will throw those on my Amazon list. I'm a bit backed up right now. "Conversations With God" are my next read. And yes, Walt is an amazing person. So glad you've connected with him on a deeper level.

  10. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Nancy, Which A Midnight Clear? There's a handful of books/DVD by that title.
  11. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Hi, North Star. My novel, A Midnight Clear, is subtitled "A Dog's Christmas."
    It's a brand new paperback. It's about my dog and his dog pals and how they find shelter for
    a homeless Hispanic couple as the wife is about to give birth in a snowstorm on Christmas Eve.
    Sound familiar? It's an animal allegory of the Nativity.
  12. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Nancy, thanks for mentioning my book.
    I'm almost finished editing "Christmas with the Famous"
    so that will be available from amazon.com next week.
    I just added a page about the founding of the Salvation Army red kettle in the 1890s
    in San Francisco.
  13. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Ah! Never mind my comment on the other thread, Walt. I found it with the subtitle and your pen name. I just ordered it! Yay!
  14. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    What a great line! And Bruce you are right, this is very much in line with Alan Gordon's Inner Bully ideas. This is why calming our inner thought process and living more tension free is such a good idea. When we replay past arguments and events over and over again we are keeping all of that tension inside our bodies and maintaining the hyperactive state. This is something that Peter Levine discusses in depth in Waking the Tiger.
  15. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I's nice to know I'm "fascinating." I thought only dog loved me.
  16. BruceMC

    BruceMC Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes, Forest, but these lines that follow your quote from Mark's DA seem just as perspicacious. I wonder if our "self-destructive clinging" to "emotional anguish" occurs at those crisis points where we feel most abandoned and that's why they live on and on and seem to have acquired an independent life of their own? I guess an existentialist would say that it's at those moments when we face ultimate concerns like isolation, meaning, freedom and death that we re-experience the pure emotional pain of the narcissistic scarring left over from childhood. Those seem to be the points of contact too between the unconscious and conscious mind where the superego and the id, the "shoulds" and the "don't give a damns" (as Dr. Sarno would have it), collide and come into conflict and, again as Dr Sarno says, become "self-generating". Those points of contact also seem to be where all kinds of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) behavior patterns come into existence where we try to get control over that "emotional anguish" and encapsulate it in all kinds of repetitive, neurotic rituals. Yes, learning that we're not the center of the universe and that there are limits must really throw the infant's pure narcissistic rage into a tizzy. That first day in kindergarten must be a lot rougher on kids that we can possibly imagine as adults.

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