Adventures In Energy
The Emotional Physiology of Energy Injury
Vitality, flow, and coordinated action are key elements for your body-mind-spirit to operate as a synergistic whole. Discord disrupts this balanced synergy. The causes of discord are many; lack of basic bodily needs being meet, suppressed emotions, trauma, repetitive self-judgment, generational miasmas, injury, hopelessness, social conditioning, thought projections, implants, and more. Frankly, the list is endless. Healing, then, is the resolution of discord; the re-balancing of mind, body, emotion or spirit that is out of harmony with the whole.
Since energy is interwoven throughout the body, energy discord with its emotional content is woven into the body as well. Emotions are at the core of energy injuries and central to the healing process. (See Emotions: Translations of Subtle Energy.) When uncomfortable emotions are locked in the body, they inhibit the healing process. This can happen after an accident and also as a result of life events that are too difficult to fully feel. To avoid overwhelm, the body damps the feeling. Three different models explain how emotions and energy are woven into the body.
After an injury or other harm, the natural healing processes of the body automatically begin. However, sometimes, for no apparent reason, healing stalls. When the body has all the physical elements needed to heal, but reaches a plateau in recovery that can’t be overcome, the reason is almost always due to the presence of an energy cyst, a concept identified by osteopath John Upledger, creator of CranioSacral Therapy.
An energy cyst is energy filled with unprocessed emotion. Here’s how it’s made: Consider being in a car accident and suffering whiplash. You receive treatment and your pain is significantly reduced. Then, the process seems to stall and you reach a level beyond which your pain and limitation does not improve. Imaging studies indicate that the structural part of your injury is resolved. The problem is determined to reside in your soft tissue; the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Massage and physical therapy help for short periods, but nothing creates full resolution.
Upledger declares that emotions experienced at the time of an accident–perhaps fear and anger–are trapped in the tissue along with the energy of the impact of the accident. The size and intensity of the energy cyst is related to the degree of the emotions and the force of the impact. Until processed, the emotions haven’t completed their function and cannot resolve. (See the article Emotions: Translations of Subtle Energy.) Physically, in an attempt to protect the injury, muscles tighten around the area, isolating the tissue from the healing circulation needed to resolve the problem.
Energy healing, in this instance, focuses on dissolving the energy cyst and processing the released emotions.
In the 1950s, Wilhelm Reich, the father of body-centered psychotherapy, discovered that specific emotions seem to be generated and processed in specific places in the body. This comes as no surprise to most people. We know where we feel sadness. We know where shame resides. We know where we feel love.
Reich identified seven distinct segments related to specific emotions. Each segment generates both comfortable and uncomfortable emotions. Segments are comprised of circular bands of muscles working together to regulate the vertical flow of energy in the body. To stop the flow of energy and therefore inhibit feelings, muscles within a segment tighten. While Reich’s theories came before the awareness of the important functions of fascia, his identification of specific segments are validated by the discovery of transverse planes of fascia. These strong sheets of connective tissue help regulate the vertical movement of fluids. In all of Reich’s segments, transverse fascial planes can be identified.
Feelings are body events and common body metaphors describe pretty accurately where different emotions locate. Consider the following:
My gut feeling told me to stay away.
My heart exploded with love.
She has butterflies in her stomach when she’s nervousness.
My jaw dropped in astonishment.
We all shoulder the responsibility for the government’s mistakes.
I nearly wet my pants with fear.
My heart broke when my dog was ill.
She had the backbone to get the job done.
Reich’s segments not only identify where emotions are generated, they also describe how emotional pain is controlled. Overwhelming emotions, such as grief, anxiety, and shock signal muscles in the segment in which they are felt to tighten. This limits what is felt in the area. Reich called this muscle armoring. The problem is, muscle armoring also limits the experience of uplifting feelings in the segment, as well.
The muscle tension controlling an uncomfortable emotion can become chronic, causing stiffness, physical pain and discomfort in the segment. As with the emotions generated during an accident, healing cannot complete until the uncomfortable emotion is processed. Identifying and releasing muscle armor helps to shift emotions at their source, freeing energy and attention to engage creative living. (See Body Sounding Method.)
Reich’s segments are: ocular, oral, cervical, thorax (shoulders and chest), diaphragm, abdomen and pelvis.
Neuroscience: Until quite recently, science considered emotions to be brain-created chemical reactions with no discernible function. Reich’s ideas of body generated emotions were considered fanciful. Now, however, neuroscientist Candace Pert discovered the molecular basis of emotions. She found that emotions are generated in cells and transmitted on chemical neuropeptides. Further, neuropeptides are not created solely in the brain as previously thought. She reveals that the neuropeptides that carry emotions are created, as well as received, in every cell in the body. Emotions truly are body events and central to the transmission of information. Emotions are the communication link between body and mind. They create the context of experience, link people together, and inform spiritual direction. They also are translations of energy. (See Emotions: Translations of Subtle Energy.)
While every cell can generate and receive emotions, nerve cells are most specialized for this function. This means emotional information is focused around nerve ganglia, or plexuses. According to Pert, the large nerve plexuses in the torso of the body are primary emotional centers in the communication link between mind and body. These are the sacral plexus, solar plexus, cardiac plexus, star ganglion, ocular plexus, and the brain.(See The Path of Emotions.)
Not surprisingly, Reich’s seven emotional segments correlate well to the neural plexuses that Candace Pert identifies as emotional centers. Both systems show a relationship to the chakra system. (See Chakra Clarity.) The chakras are centers that translate energy information into awareness. They govern the development of the psyche and each provides unique resources for growth. Carl Jung called the chakras gateways to consciousness. As with Reich’s segments, each chakra processes and transmits a specific group of emotions.