Healing from the Inside Out: How Emotions Can Cause “Dis”-ease and What You Can Do About It

June 14, 2015 Updated: April 23, 2016
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Some thoughts on healing on a balmy summer-like day in New York City. Hoping that these can be of use, and perhaps inspire you to find your healer within.

All healing is really about emotional healing. It’s literally, an “inside job.” That’s why I call it healing from the inside out.

Repressed emotions can cause disease. Releasing emotions can heal disease. Even cancer. Even diseases that Western medicine deems incurable.

On thoughts and emotions: healing necessitates addressing these elements of our being. Getting well is not just about fixing the physical body.

These notions, firmly rooted in the ancient wisdom of global healing traditions worldwide, have now been well-documented by the investigative tools of Western science. Links between thoughts, attitudes, emotions and illness, and links between thoughts, attitudes, emotions and healing have been described in both basic and clinical studies.1,2,3,4

Some of the science of it has to do with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the autonomic nervous system and the causal effects of thoughts and emotions on these systems. Additionally, studies have shown effects on gene expression linked to inflammation, immunologic response and aging. These mentions are illustrative, not exhaustive. Suffice to say, clear mechanistic links between thoughts, emotions and the physical body have been demonstrated: our thoughts and feelings affect our bodies.

A bit more of the ancient wisdom: the traditions of Chinese medicine and Ayurveda link bodily symptoms and emotions. In Chinese medicine, the lung is the repository for grief, the liver for rage, and the kidney for fear. In Ayurveda, the vata dosha may yield arthritides and worry, the pitta, ulcers and rage.

As a practitioner, I have witnessed these relationships in my work. As a fellow journeyer, I’ve experienced them personally. For those of you who enjoy reading personal accounts, many have shared their stories of emotional healing. Several are cited below.5,6,7

More on emotions and “dis”-ease: anger, fear and sadness, for example. They are normal and natural feelings, and we experience them as aspects of our wonderful humanness.

However, when feelings remain internalized, without avenues for healthy expression and release, they can create a vibrational state in our bodymind that disrupts our natural homeostatic balance. This imbalance can express itself in bodymind symptoms. I use the term “bodymind” because these symptoms can express themselves as physical symptoms, or as emotional symptoms, or both. When symptoms become “loud” enough, we may have a label for them in Western medicine, called a “disease.”

What you can do about it
Emotional healing is unique and individualized for each and every one of us. We may begin at any level of our bodymind. We may start with the physical, we may start with the mental/emotional. And there are many, many tools and techniques to support this process.

Some are “passive,” others “active.”

Passive approaches are those that are done to you, such as acupuncture, massage, et al. Active ones are those that you can do yourself, completely on your own, such as breathing exercises, meditative practices, journaling, etc.

Active techniques can be truly empowering, but passive ones are most useful too. Sometimes it’s helpful to have an experience to shift our bodymind state without having to put forth a lot of effort. A group, a class and/or practitioner can offer such support.

About particular therapies
Mindbody therapies are approaches that acknowledge the connection between emotions and the physical body. Thus, emotional healing is an inherent aspect of their processes.

To list more than a few:

The systems of homeopathy, Ayurveda, Chinese medicine and other global healing traditions, which, by their very nature, consider the essential oneness of soma and psyche.

And while many of the following practices are elements of global traditions, often in the West we see them as stand alone therapies: acupuncture, energy medicine and energy psychology techniques, manual therapies such as chiropractic and osteopathy, other body-centered somatic therapies such as massage, Rolfing, Core Energetics and Reichian Therapy. In addition, subtle sensory therapies such as aroma and essential oil therapies.

Also, the various techniques of the classical yoga traditions, mindfulness and meditation practices, past-life and regression therapies, breathwork therapy, creative self-expressive therapies, writing or journaling therapies, movement therapies.

And, of course, conventional Western therapies that focus on the psyche, such as psychotherapy in its various forms.

As a postscript to this list, I’ll offer that our day to day lives continuously present us with opportunities for emotional healing, from moment to moment. More on this notion in posts to come.

Some final suggestions
Be gentle and patient with yourself. The greatest healer lies within you, not within the office of any practitioner or scope of any technique or system. Emotional healing is a journey of exploration and growth; a journey that will only and always lead to a greater sense of wellbeing, and to peace of mind.

References

1Chida Y, Steptoe A. The association of anger and hostility with future coronary heart disease: a meta-analytic review of prospective evidence. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2009 Mar 17;53(11):936-46.

2Powell ND, Tarr AJ, Sheridan JF. Psychosocial stress and inflammation in cancer. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Mar;30 Suppl:S41-7.

3Loizzo JJ, Peterson JC, Charlson ME, Wolf EJ, Altemus M, Briggs WM, Vahdat LT, Caputo TA. The effect of a contemplative self-healing program on quality of life in women with breast and gynecologic cancers. Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 May-Jun;16(3):30-7.

4Spiegel D. Mind matters in cancer survival. Psychooncology. 2012 Jun;21(6):588-93.

5Moorjani, A. (2014). Dying To Be Me. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House Publishing.

6Hay, L. (1984). You Can Heal Your Life. Carson, CA: Hay House, Inc.

7Bays, B. (1999). The Journey. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster, Inc. Pocket Books.