Do you find it difficult to express your emotions? If you do you’re not alone. But suppressing your emotions can cause you physical pain. Research shows that there is a very strong connection between our mind and body. This means that emotions have a direct impact on our physical health.
Studies show that physical pain can cause emotional blockages in the body. Emotions create energy that flows through the body. This energy (or Chi) flows through channels from our heads to our toes and back again. When this energy flows freely we feel healthy, peaceful and strong. If it’s blocked it can manifest fatigue, stress and health conditions.
The easiest way to think of this energy system is like a river. When the river is clear it flows freely. But if a part of the river becomes blocked with debris the water begins to back up in one place. When we don’t work through our emotions they become like debris in the river and block our energy flow. The body then sends us a message to let us know that something isn’t right or out of balance. Quite often this is in the form of pain.
Here’s a real-life scenario. A few months ago a client presented with tight and painful shoulder muscles. When asked what may have caused it she was unable to say. As we got talking she revealed that her husband was ill and only had a few weeks to live. She was caring for him full-time. And her immediate family had recently arrived to say their goodbyes. What amazed me was how indifferent she sounded as she told her story. She was void of emotion and spoke as if she was recounting a story she had read in a book. When I asked her how she was feeling she told me she was ‘fine’. This was definitely someone who didn’t know how to process how she was feeling. And so her emotional pain had manifested as physical pain in her shoulders. This was her body’s way of sending her a message that it was ok to feel heartbroken, sad or even angry.
Expressing how I’m feeling is something I have always struggled with. My default answer to everything is ‘I’m fine’. To situations good or bad. It wasn’t until I began to learn more about myself as an introvert that I realised it was part of my inner nature.
It’s not that introverts are less emotional than other people. It’s that our emotions rarely make it to the surface as we find it hard to come up with words to describe how our feelings. This can often come across as indifference to others, as everything is either ‘ok’ or ‘fine’.
Trying to find the right words to say is called word retrieval and it can be harder for introverts. This is because we process through our long-term memory.
Our long-term memory stores information outside of our conscious awareness. This information is harder to recall. When someone asks us how we are feeling we probe into this memory to retrieve the words we are looking for. This can take a while and so it’s easier (and faster) to utter ‘I’m fine’.
So if we find it difficult to express our feelings, what can we do to clear emotional blocks and prevent pain?
Here are five ways to help you process your emotions without having to talk through them:
Journaling: My natural form of expression is writing. I find it easier to process my thoughts and feelings when I put them down on paper. I know many introverts find writing flows easier for them than speaking.
Meditation: A regular meditation practice dampens the strength of your medial pre-frontal cortex. This area of your brain is associated with stress and worry. It is also the area of the brain that causes us to over-analyse situations. Meditation also decreases the strength of an area in your brain known as the Amygdala. This area is associated with the feeling of fear. A consistent practice will also increase the strength of your lateral pre-frontal cortex. If this is strong you feel more balanced. You can also rationalise your fears and it stops you taking things too personally.
Express yourself creatively: There are many ways to express your emotions through creativity. You could paint, draw, take photos, dance, garden, compose music or cook. Whatever you enjoy doing and makes you feel good.
Yoga: Yoga is a fantastic way of releasing emotional blocks in the body. Yoga is a spiritual practice. The different poses in yoga help break down unresolved emotions stored in the body.
Guided Body Scan: This is a simple practice that guides you through each body part and how it feels. Does it feel tight? Or does it feel relaxed? And if it’s tight, why might this be? And if this tightness were an emotion what would it be? I have created a Guided Body Scan & Relaxation Practice you can download here for free.
There is no right or wrong way to express your emotions. The important thing is that you discover a way to process them and release them that works for you. And remember, your body is an amazing vessel. It is sending you messages every day. It is your duty to learn how to tune in, listen and trust the messages it sends. Don’t ignore that little niggle. It’s trying to tell you something very important.