Emotions and disease (2)

Covered up

I often get asked about the relationship between emotions and disease. There is a lot of interest in the subject and many people intuitively know that there is a close relation between how they feel and their state of health.

To me the short answer is – emotions may have a significant role to play in the development of a disease, but they are not the cause. The cause of a disease is what creates the imbalance in the first place – mostly a desire to hold on to things or people and of not wanting to change.

Emotions are interesting and very complex constructs. We all have so called primary emotions, which are survival tools that help us fulfil our needs for food, water, oxygen and procreation. They are fear, anger and grief – but also joy and love. Primary emotions are very strong and they motivate us to action. Based on these primary emotions are secondary and tertiary emotions – more organised constructs, that are controlled by a higher developed part of the brain. What happens is that the ego is  using the capacity of the body to generate emotions – which literally means “to move out of something” for it’s own purposes. And at the core of each egoic reaction is a fixation – a “desire” – a want, not a need.

So for example, anger may be the primary emotion that enables us to find the strength to pull out of a dangerous situation. Rage on the other hand is a secondary emotion that is using the ability of the body to produce the emotion “anger” for an imagined purpose – for example to avoid feelings of fear or insufficiency. Jealousy could be called a tertiary emotion, rooted in a fear of being left behind and creating a whole story around why we would be more entitled to receive the attention than another person.

Emotions are not feelings, but they are related to them. In fact, emotions make use of feelings, to colour their purpose. Basically there are only 3 kinds of feelings – positive, negative and neutral. Joy feels pleasant, fear feels unpleasant. Our tendency is to move away from what we experience as painful  – that is the instinct nature is giving us. However, the desire to move towards the pleasant, more agreeable is a desire of our egoic mind and translates into “searching” or not accepting what is. It is the basis for the process of ego formation, which takes a desire – an “I want that” or “ I do not want that” and builds a reaction around it. When we touch something fiery hot, the body uses the feeling of pain as a signal and the dynamic emotion of anger will enable us to quickly pull away. Later it uses the emotion of fear to solidify what we have learned – fire is hot, don’t get too close to it.

This is simply an evolutionary impulse, a survival mechanism to keep us sound and safe. It is an instinctual action based on a need.

But the egoic mind – which is another word for “me” – has also learned that the pleasant is a much nicer feeling than just neutral and has become addicted to it. Neutral is perceived a boring for the mind and not desirable.  More so, an unpleasant feeling is to be avoided at all cost. So it overrides the natural vacillation between feelings of unpleasant – neutral – pleasant in favour of a desire – and a search – for the latter, oblivious to the fact that a grasping for the pleasant always conditions the unpleasant. So in order to justify the addiction for what is perceived as pleasurable, the unpleasant that goes with it is being largely being ignored or avoided.  This is an illusionary state, it is not based on what is real or true – and it means that on some level of our being we are in resistance.

Resistance translates into contraction. It is a biochemical reaction on cell level and a whole cascade of energetic, emotional, mental and physical changes. Another word for resistance is stress. A stress reaction is nothing else but a putting up resistance and responding with a fight or flight reaction. The instinctual survival mechanism uses a stress reaction to pull out of danger and the egoic mind uses the same reaction to get what it wants.

The physical, mental, emotional and energetic changes of a stress reaction when we encounter a sudden obstacle on the road while driving are the same as those we experience when we experience a conflict with a superior at work. In the first instance the stress response may last a few seconds, in the second example it may last days, weeks and months and even tough it may not be perceived as strongly, it adds on to all the other conflicts we accumulate in a lifetime.

So being in contraction means that life energy, blood and emotions cannot flow freely. They become stagnant, create disturbances and after a while they result in functional changes. This can go on for a long time, as the body is a marvellous intelligence that can compensate for our foolishness. But when we listen to our body, we sense a feeling of unease. Something is not right, something does not flow or something feels blocked. It is just that our egoic wish of wanting what is pleasurable, even at the cost of feeling a little queasy, might persuade us to just ignore these signals and tell us things like “ no gain without pain” and we come to think this is normal. However, if the feeling gets stronger, we may use food, alcohol, nicotine or other distractions to avoid it further.

And this is how emotions and the origin of symptoms or even a disease is related. Please understand that I have over-simplified to paint the picture – it is far more complicated than that, but I have come to the conclusion, that indeed – this is what is on the bottom of it: an egoic drive for what is perceived as pleasant, ignoring the unpleasant. This is what is called the illusion and to create and uphold the illusion, the egoic mind has learned to make use of all the miraculous and awesome possibilities of our body.

Letting go means becoming aware of all of this. Seeing it and accepting it – letting go is the opposite of ego-formation. It does not grasp – it releases. It is the answer of how to deal with damaging emotions. But that’s another story.

About Michaela

I am a wanderer and a wonderer, like you are. I love our journey and to walk in the company of friends – to learn, experience, share, laugh, cry and above all I simply love this marvelous, magical, mysterious life. I have no plan (cannot believe I am saying this) and my only intention is to be truthful to myself and others.
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9 Responses to Emotions and disease (2)

  1. Martina says:

    This is very helpful Michaela. Thank you.
    Ongoing studies for me, & relates not only to experience of arthritis a few years ago, but also useful when instructing Tai Chi/Qigong, which many people come to as an antidote to stress.

  2. Michaela says:

    Oh..hi Martina ( I can see you !!)

    Oh yes, I also realised the connection first while doing energetic exercises. It is all about balance and becoming more aware what is happening in the body, is a big step. I do not know Tai Chi / Qui gong very well – maybe I can tempt you to write a little about it ?

  3. Sheila says:

    Yes, very helpful and timely.
    Michaela, you said, “Jealousy could be called a tertiary emotion, rooted in a fear of being left behind and creating a whole story around why we would be more entitled to receive the attention than another person.”
    I struggle with ‘jealousy’ in my intimate relationship. I wish I could give that one away………..it’s not fun. But what I find interesting is I actually was left behind by my family (2 times) when I was 5 or 6 y/o. There are 7 kids in my family of origin and I was #5. I was always getting lost when we went somewhere. I vaguely remember waiting in the parking lot of the amusement park for my family to return. There were 2 ladies that made me stay there and reassured me they would be back but I don’t remember feeling traumatized or upset about it. Buried emotion? maybe. What may have been traumatizing is my brothers and sisters teasing me afterwards. Kids can be cruel. My dad says I was sitting there when they returned sucking my thumb…..just waiting.

    So you’ve given me more inspiration to look deeper. I really would like to be rid of my feelings of jealousy. My second husband was very jealous and I found it to be irritating and unattractive. That’s what keeps me from acting out these feelings……………..but they’re still there.

    BTW, love the snowflakes! very creative.

    • Michaela says:

      Hi Sheila..

      Thank you for your comments. Yes, it really pays to look deeper and when I wrote the piece, I wondered about jealousy myself. It’s this anxiety, or really fear of loss. It’s about insecurity and not feeling safe. I am not prone to jealousy, but there have been instances I have been. It goes along with anger too.

      Thinking aloud…let’s explore it and what is beyond.

  4. Jane/Frangipani says:

    Love the falling snow!

    If we recognize the cause of the stress, we can let it go. How? How do we make the leap?

    Thanks for your story Sheila.

  5. Michaela says:

    The first step is always to recognise and acknowledge stress itself. If I can see, I feel resistance, or stress and point to the location and even describe the quality of the feeling – that is already a big pointer. Stress does not only have one reason – there are many, many layers to it. But if you know a reason for stress ( for example a conflict). then again acknowledging it, accepting it – that is the letting go. It means giving space to it and the moment I am no longer identified with it – I have let go.

    • Jane/Frangipani says:

      Yes, there are many layers to stress. I might think I know the reason for the stress but it may be my mind/painbody tricking me into thinking it is one thing but it is really another. I guess the key is the acknowledgment and accepting it. Then it doesn’t matter what the reason is.

  6. Sheila says:

    Hi Jane! I also really appreciated your telling about your relationship with your first husband who passed away. It was beautiful and touching. Thank you.

    Yes, Michaela, I would say ‘not feeling safe’ is a strong emotion that arises when I am experiencing ‘jealousy’. So ‘who’ is not feeling safe? I am thinking about that one……………’who?’ …………I feel safe in my life in this moment so it’s not something happening now. The past living in me still (unconsciously)?
    My husband’s ex has re-established a relationship with him so I will have ample opportunity to go into these feelings and get to the bottom of it. haha-lesser of two evils? we’ll see.

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