Since writing my last post about my “white coat syndrome,” which has to do with hidden anxiety as manifested by high blood pressure, I’ve thought a lot more about the mind-body connection. And I have a theory: our authentic emotions, whether we’re aware of them or not, have as much to do with our health as any other factor.
We can eat healthy, low-calorie foods at every meal; yet, if while we eat we’re feeling anxious about something we’ve said or worried about something outside our control, or if we’re feeling sad, hurt, or angry, our emotional pain will have as much to do with our blood pressure, and therefore our physical health, as what we’re eating, our genetic inheritance, or how much exercise we get.
I know. This is not a scientific study. I’m my only subject, and my blood pressure is the only objective measure. But I’m telling you this: when I feel emotionally uncomfortable my blood pressure goes up. When I’m in an emotionally good place, doing something I love and am good at, it goes down. This is simply the way it is with me.
For social reasons my parents taught me to repress emotions they considered negative: self-pity, anger, frustration, impatience, criticism, judgment of others, pride in my accomplishments (“Don’t get a big head!”), enjoyment of my body’s skills (“Don’t show off!”), and so on. My mother’s favorite saying was, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Apparently her thinking was that if I didn’t express or act on a negative emotion, it wasn’t real and couldn’t hurt me or anybody else.
My education taught me to trust left-brained objective and logical thinking, things like my knowledge and test scores, not what felt important and meaningful to me. To believe accepted theories, not inner realities. To conform with social norms and ignore the gut feeling when something felt wrong. I was convinced my parents and teachers knew better than me, so I duly de-valued and ignored my emotional self, believing that at worst it was evidence of a terrible flaw, and at the least, unimportant.
I was wrong. My blood pressure confirms it. Emotions are the body’s natural expressions of our instinctual, archetypal selves. If we’re hungry we feel anxious or irritable. If we see blood we feel fear. If someone says something mean to us we feel hurt or angry. If an object of our affection rejects us for another we feel jealousy and pain. If someone thwarts our desire we resent them. When someone dies we feel sad. These are powerful physical realities that every human experiences and there’s nothing wrong with them.
The ugliest emotion we can feel is as worthy of our attention as the noblest. This doesn’t mean we need to express or act on it, but it does mean that knowing what we feel and where the feeling comes from is good for us. And it means that engaging in practices that reduce the strength of unhealthy emotions and replace them with healthy ones—like acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion for ourselves and others—is essential to the healthy functioning of our bodies and souls and has everything to do with the quality of our lives. As Deepak Chopra says: “It is up to you to keep the messages that course through your body positive instead of negative. No other duty in life is as important or vital to your health and well-being.”
The latest data: When I returned home today after the funeral of a friend, my pressure was 130/83. After finishing this post two hours later it was 115/78.
First image credit: Feeling sad and lonely by ppawelczak of deviantART
My new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.
Ego and God-Image: Part VII
Intellectually the Self is no more than a psychological concept, a construct that serves to express an unknowable essence which we cannot grasp as such,
Nice post – beautifully written 🙂
Thanks so much, Sharon.
I really enjoyed this post, Jeanie. Krishnamurti says, “It is a discovery to suddenly see yourself as you actually are: greedy, quarrelsome, angry, envious, stupid…” without trying to alter it. “Through self-knowledge you begin to find out what is God, what is truth…” I like that.
Thanks, Trish. I love that quote. It’s so true. Just seeing the truth about yourself frees up all that energy you’ve been using to cover it, which automatically becomes channeled into healthier ways: like feeling forgiveness and compassion for yourself and others, letting go of expectations for yourself and others, etc. It’s a little-known secret that everyone should be taught from birth!!
Curious how synchronous our experiences are.
My body is reacting right now to the accumulation of stresses and strains and is making me feel very ill. There’s probably NOTHING physically wrong at the root of it but it sure feels as though there is.
I hope you’re getting plenty of rest now. No one knows better than you that moving an entire household and launching a new book at the same time are major stressors. Wishing you slow mornings, long walks in beautiful weather, and lots of happy visits from new animal friends before the pace picks up again! Jeanie
Oh, Jeanie, how I would love to sit down with you and your “listeners” and talk about Emotions. You know how important I believe they are in each of our lives — for personal growth and transformation. What a different world this would be if each person individually understood, claimed, and expressed honestly and thoughtfully personal emotions. I do believe most of the decisions we make individually and collectively (communitites, countries, etc.) are based on how we actually feel — no matter the intellectual pursuit taken to get to the “right” answer.
I am a great example of how the body reacts to unexpressed emotions and in turn how it heals when those emotions are expressed and released. Our bodies can only hold on to so much energy of unexpressed emotions. It is poison to our physical and psychological state.
So much to share! You know I will always encourage you to feel fully! I would love for you and your followers to check out an interview on the web that I did last week. “Unblocking Emotional Barriers through Dreamwork” http://www.dreamsynergy.org/radio.htm Let’s all claim our emotions and become healthier and happier — individually and collectively!
Hi Justina, Thanks for the link to your interview. It’s wonderful and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this topic.
Jean, thank you very much for sharing this amazing post with us. I love the experience of receiving such a precious gift with perfect timing. I also love reading your honest and creative expressions. You are beautiful inside and out, and a blessing to humanity.
Many thanks for your many kind and affirming words yesterday and today. I too love the experience of receiving “such a precious gift with perfect timing.” You’ve given me a boost exactly when I needed it! Blessings, Jeanie
Reblogged this on bobbieslife and commented:
I came across this amazing post at a perfect moment. Jean is truly a beautiful, honest and wise soul.
And you have a very generous spirit! 🙂 Jeanie