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Adventures In Energy
The Emotional Physiology of Energy Injury
A balanced energy ecosystem promotes vitality, synchronization, and function to all aspects of our being. Discord disrupts this balanced synergy. The causes of discord are many. They can include the lack of basic bodily needs being meet such as food, water and clean air, suppressed emotions, trauma, repetitive self-judgment, generational miasmas, physical injury, hopelessness, social conditioning, thought projections, implants, and more. Frankly, the list is endless. Healing is the re-alignment of the different parts of our self with spirit to re-balance the parts that are out of harmony with the whole.
Emotions are core elements of energetic injury and processing them are central for true healing. (See the article Emotions: Translations of Subtle Energy.) Unprocessed emotions create discomfort and inhibit healing. This can happen after an accident, but also due to everyday life-events that are too difficult to fully feel. The pain of a parent’s continual criticism, or guilt over causing someone else misfortune, for example, are often managed by damping down what the body feels. While this can allow time for healing, it can also turn into denial and avoidance.
Here are three different aspects of the way emotions and energy are interwoven into our physiology.
After an injury or other harmful event, the natural healing process of the body automatically begins. However, as healing proceeds sometimes, for no apparent reason, progress stalls. If the body has all the physical elements needed to heal, but reaches a plateau in recovery, the reason is almost always due to the presence of unprocessed emotions. They are held within the tissue in an ‘energy cyst,’ a concept identified by osteopath John Upledger, creator of CranioSacral Therapy.
An energy cyst is an energetic bundle of unprocessed emotions combined with the physical force of the trauma. Consider being in a car accident and suffering whiplash. You receive treatment and your pain is significantly reduced. Then, healing seems to stall and your pain and limitation doesn’t improve. For years you suffer with headaches and neck pain. Imaging studies indicate that the structural part of your injury is resolved. The problem is determined to reside in your soft tissue; muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Massage and physical therapy help for short periods, but nothing creates full resolution.
In his seminal work, Upledger declared that emotions experienced at the time of an accident–fear and anger, for example–are trapped in the tissue along with the force of the impact. The size and intensity of the energy cyst is related to the degree of the emotions and the force of 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 decrease the emotional and physical discomfort, muscles tighten around the area to numb it. Fascia restricts movement and the tissue is isolated from blood, energy, and nerve flow needed for resolution. Energy healing, in this instance, focuses on moving the fascia and dissolving the energy cyst. Emotions stored inside can be processed and muscle tension releases. Flow is restored so physical healing can resume.
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 body-workers. Most people know where they feel sadness. They know where shame resides, and they know where they feel love. Only scientists relegated emotions to the brain.
Reich identified seven distinct segments related to the generation and expression of specific emotions. Segments are comprised of circular bands of muscles working together to regulate the vertical flow of energy in the body. Energy flowing into an area increases awareness of the emotions generated and held there, As with an energy cyst, to stop the flow of energy and therefore inhibit feeling the uncomfortable emotions in a particular segment, muscles within that 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 that help regulate the vertical movement of fluids in the body. In all of Reich’s segments, these strong sheets of connective tissue demarcate the segments he has identified..
There are multiple emotions associated with each segment, some comfortable, some not. 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 filled with love.
She has butterflies in her stomach when she’s nervousness.
My jaw dropped in astonishment.
We all shoulder the responsibility for the family’s mistakes.
I 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 and anxiety signal muscles in the chest segment where they are felt to tighten. This limits the emotional sensation. Overtime this becomes rigid. Reich called this muscle armoring. The problem is that muscle armoring also limits the experience of uplifting emotions that occur in the same segment, in this case love, happiness, and joy.
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 of the area cannot occur until the hidden emotion is processed. Identifying and releasing muscle armor helps to shift emotions at their source, freeing energy and attention to engage creative living.
Reich’s segments are: ocular, oral, cervical, thorax (shoulders and chest), diaphragm (upper abdomen), lower abdomen, and pelvis.
Neuroscience: Until quite recently, science considered emotions to be brain-created chemical reactions. Reich’s ideas of body-generated emotions were considered fanciful. IN the 1990s, however, neuroscientist Candace Pert discovered the molecular basis of emotions. She found that emotions are generated not only in the brain, but in all cells as chemical neuropeptides that are transmitted through the body. Not only are they created in every cell, they are received, in every cell. Consequently, they form a cellular communication system that is central to the transmission of very specific information. Emotions form the link between body and mind. They create the context in which we understand our of experiences, link us together, and inform our spiritual direction. At their very essence, they 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. Consequently, 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. Paying attention to how the chakra’s align and how well they are transmitting emotional information is a key function of healing.