Frontiers of the Mind/Body/Emotion Connection
By Karen Burton
The Emotion/Disease Connection
In cultivating your health, the thought of emotions being a instigator in any part of your health has been a heated debate in the medical community since the beginning of time. Can emotions cause disease?....and if they can, will alleviating the emotion, cause remission of the disease process?
In Chinese medicine and other Eastern medicine disciplines, emotions have long been held to be cause of disease within the body. According to traditional Chinese medicine the emotions when suddenly and greatly exaggerated, like in a trauma of some sort, will lead the body to be out of balance and this leads to disharmony between the Ying and the Yang, which is a prerequisite for normal physiologic activity.
The extremes of emotions in Chinese medicine cause disorder in the flow of Qi. Extreme anger damages the liver, excessive terror damages the kidneys, and so on and so forth. Each emotion is tied directly to organs and systems within the body. In this model of thought, the regulation of emotions is recommended to maintain good health. However, in Western medicine, that has been a heated debate.
In the last 20 years the brain-emotion connection has started coming to the forefront in small increments in Western medicine. With the advent of great new technologies like MRIs, CTs, fMRI, PET scans, etc., the 'science' behind the emotional connection is now being imaged and physiologists and biochemical scientists can now visually see brain activity when emotions are triggered, which then show visual pathways to where symptoms occur within the body.
With this exciting imaging and work done by George Solomon, Novera Spector, Robert Ader, and Elena Korneva in 1987 a new exciting discipline began. This was a new exciting development of a new field of study such as neuroimmunomodulation that was developed to understand the relationships between emotions and disease. In the late 1980s these molecular scientists found evidence that the body does talk to each other and that emotions do trigger those responses. This scientific proof became what neuroimmunomodulation specialists have used to provide the scientific basis for understanding how emotions can influence the onset, course, and remission of disease.
Bill Moyer's book in 1993, Healing of the Mind, demonstrated a wider acceptance of this new emerging discipline and soon scientific conferences with subsequent published material such as the Selye volumes published in 1994 became the validation of the belief in the scientific community that emotions and disease are intertwined.
During this time frame above, the late 1980's and early 1990's, another discipline came into being. This was the development of "energy psychology." This began in the late 1980's by a clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Roger Callahan, who through researching ways to help his clients with phobias and emotional trauma, came upon ways to clear these and heal his clients by tapping sets of points on specific meridians, which are energy conduits in the body. Even though these 'meridians' are treated as a fact by the Chinese, in Western medicine, they were not widely accepted and Dr. Callahan's work was largely dismissed by mainstream medicine.
During this time frame, Dr. Callahan developed a set of algorithms (a set group of point to tap on), and created his methods called Thought Field Technology (TFT). He taught this to whomever he could and soon a man named Gary Craig came to him and learned his technique. He took these algorithms and soon developed a set of tapping points himself to simplify this and create a general tapping algorithm that everyone could use. This soon developed into a method called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).
Other techniques such as Environmental Stress Management (ESM) were also teaching the same kinds of tapping algorithms to boost organs and systems within the body and energy psychology took its place in holistic medicine as a valuable tool. Clinical trials, such as those done by Gary Craig with Vets and PTSD, and Doctors Andrade, and Feinstein in South America utilizing 29,000 patients with anxiety have given these evolving energy psychology techniques clinical significance and popularity.
As written in journals about the South American trial, "Despite its odd-seeming procedures and eye-raising claims, evidence is accumulating that energy-based psychotherapy, which involves stimulating acupuncture points or other energy systems while bringing troubling emotions or situations to mind, is more effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders than the current standard of care, which utilizes a combination of medication and cognitive behavior therapy."
So, what does all of this information mean to you? How does this impact the general public and how physicians in general are treating patients?
Since these trials and new found techniques have arrived on the scene, and the new found science that verifies some of the related claims, a new dialogue of how emotions impact health has opened up. Stress, and its wide variety of emotions, has become widely accepted as one of the ways that emotions do impact disease processes and health. Even the public is becoming more and more aware of how stress is impacting their health and ways to release stress have blossomed, creating dialogue and awareness.
Physicians, in response to this, have become more aware themselves, and more open to the notion that emotions are impacting the health of their patients. As an energy coach who works with the energy-based psychology techniques, it has also opened up my practice to joint ventures with such open-minded physicians in bettering the health of all involved. However, the doors are slow to open mainly because the general public is still unaware of how this works or how it would benefit them. So, here are some examples to enable discussion of such discussions within the physician population, as well as the general public.
Let's take a look at a very big problem in society, that of depression. It's widely accepted that depression is an emotional disease with the possibilities of chemical imbalances within the brain. There is still much research to be done on what the causes are, but all are in line with the fact that emotional stress is a huge part of it. The methods of choice for "maintaining" depression at the moment are drugs, a few diet modifications, and stress management. So, let's take a look at how an energy-based psychology technique would be useful in this situation.
Depression, to an energy coach, is a build up, similar to layers of an onion, of emotional distress or trauma. Every person is different in how this emotional stress expresses itself in the body. When this load of emotional distress gets too much, the body starts to shut down. The organs stop to really function optimally, as the emotions directly affect them, just as is shown in Chinese medicine. This puts stress on your adrenals, liver, stomach, and colon, just to name a few. Maybe some diarrhea or constipation begins as these organs are affected. Fatty livers develop, adrenal dysfunction, etc.
The amygdala in the brain, your fight or flight response, becomes stressed and stays in stress mode, which then causes stress responses in the body such as hypertension and gastric reflux. Pretty soon, anxiety responses take over and the person just gives in, feeling sick, not functioning correctly, and just overall unable to deal with the emotions that trigger constantly in their life from all of the past traumas.
So, to help in this situation using energy-based technologies, we begin, at the beginning. We go back to the roots of where this began. This can be done by kinetic testing original traumas, or developing good techniques of detective work in finding out what the person can remember about their childhood. If the person can remember traumatic emotional memories from their childhood, you can almost bet that is involved in the original beginnings of the disease process.
Then we find out what emotions are actually involved. Is the person feeling anger, fear, sadness, grief, hopelessness, burdened, etc, with that original trauma. The feelings of not being in control in some aspect of their life is usually involved, as that is a huge trigger for anxiety. Being powerless is another emotion that is usually triggered with depression. The person is just too tired, too worn, too burdened, and too powerless to continue.
Once identifying the emotions involved, teaching techniques such as acupressure tapping is taught, retraining the brain to take back control in the person's life. The process is one where you tap as you talk about issues you have and identify the problem, ask your body to clear it out, and then tap back in powerful thoughts of peace, calm, strength, and taking back power in your life. This is a psychological process that the mind/body identifies and corrects. The thoughts and emotions in this process also cause a very physical release, that if using the wonderful new technologies mentioned above, could be tracked in the body.
Other problems in relation to depression can be feelings such as feeling stuck, not living up to what you believe you should be doing, a dead-end job, or emotional problems dealing with communication. Problems such as these can all be addressed using psychological acupressure, but are hard to address in a physician-based approach. However, all of these emotions are connected to disease, as they create deeper emotions such as those mentioned above, and do impact physical responses in your body.
In other instances where disease processes have begun, emotions can be cleared in relation to organs to aid in the process of healing, as well as tap out the emotions that come from having a disease process, such as the hopelessness or insecurity, etc. Dealing with the original trauma also allows the body to release the emotion directly responsible, which when released frees the body to heal.
This is just the beginning of how the two disciplines can be married to create healing as a whole person. The mind and body are entwined. The old saying of "what you think about most of the time, you are," is very true in this regard. It's a wonderful thing to create discussion. The first step in change is bringing awareness to an issue and educating yourself and then others. It's a tool that can EMPOWER your life and create health if you allow it to. Empowerment is the key. Use it wisely.
Karen Burton, Energy Coach, psychological acupressure
"Empowering you to become extraordinary"
"Empowering you to become extraordinary"
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