Do negative emotions affect your health? Conditions such as depression and anxiety have been shown to affect how we manage and treat our other chronic conditions but, even if one does not suffer from these conditions, unresolved emotions can pave the way for chronic diseases to manifest. These unresolved emotions include grief, anger, jealousy, hatred, guilt and shame to name a few. Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with experiencing these emotions. What I am saying is that when these emotions are not allowed to percolate through our being but are repressed and ignored, emotional blocks can arise leading to physical symptoms which eventually manifest as illness. But how does one know if they have emotional blocks?
Emotional blocks can be identified by situations in our lives where we get triggered and have intense negative feelings which keep us from handling the situation effectively. Usually, the situations that trigger these emotions are similar to emotionally traumatic or distressing similar situations that we have experienced in the past in our infancy, childhood and early adolescence. For example, if we were left to cry in the crib frequently when we were seeking attention and physical touch, this could be interpreted as abandonment by the subconscious mind. Similar situations in our adult life could trigger those same feelings such as being stood up on a date.
There are many experiences we have when we are young which, if not processed emotionally, can lead to issues later in life. These do not have to be major emotionally traumatic events such as physical or sexual abuse. They could be subtle and unrecognizable by those around us. For example, if, as a child, your sibling was offered a treat such as ice cream and you weren’t, this could be interpreted as neglect even if this was not your parent’s intention. If the parent does not recognize their child’s interpretation of this event as neglect, it will go ignored by the parent and perpetuate the feeling of neglect in the child’s viewpoint.
Most children do not have the courage or the maturity to confront such feelings to see if there is any external validation for them, in which case they become lodged in the subconscious mind. In our example, the feeling of neglect will be translated as unworthiness by the child and can affect his or her future experiences such as whether he or she applies to the university of his or her choice, strives to obtain the job he or she desires or pursues his or her lifelong dream or ambition. Over time the feelings of neglect and unworthiness can result in depression and physical symptoms which can manifest as illness.
How do these negative feelings lead to illness? Suppressed negative emotions lead to chronic stress which leads to overstimulation of the adrenal glands with an increase in cortisol release. Over time, the adrenal glands will burnout leading to a decrease in cortisol secretion, so-called adrenal fatigue. This will result in a decrease in the anti-inflammatory effect of cortisol, with rampant inflammation, eventually, leading to chronic disease. So how does one prevent this from happening?
Like I mentioned before, the problem is not the negative emotions themselves as we are all bound to experience these at various points in our lives. The problem is not allowing ourselves to experience them fully and allow them to pass right through us. The truth is that we are multi-dimensional beings, mental, emotional, vibrational and spiritual, who take on a physical form for our journey here on earth. Our physical form, here on earth, has to and will experience the full spectrum of human emotion which is needed to experience ourselves as whole beings including the so-called negative emotions or the shadow self.
It is only through the full human experience that we can know ourselves as whole. The problem is that negative emotions are often too painful to bear and we block and suppress them which results in chronic disease as I have already described. The main driving force for suppressing these emotions is fear of pain. However, our fears are often unwarranted.
There are two types of fear, psychological fear and actual fear. Actual fear is a real danger to our lives such as encountering a jaguar in the jungle. Psychological fear is those circumstances, conditions and feelings which our ego tells us will bring us pain. The problem is that the ego is only looking out for its own sustainability with no thought of our greater growth and development. Therefore, it often keeps us stuck in old paradigms and ways of thinking and being which keep us from growing which can only happen when we lean outside our comfort zones.
One of the ways we can lean outside our comfort zones is to not resist our negative emotions and allow ourselves to experience them fully and completely. If we do this, we will realize that the feeling is simply our soul’s experience of a specific moment in the physical body and not to be feared as all feelings, at their core, lead us to inner peace and unconditional love. We can then gain clarity about what action we need to take in our lives to deal with the situation which led to the negative emotion. This is how negative emotions can be transmuted and fuel our journey to experiencing our higher consciousness which is our true nature. This is how we can also prevent negative emotions from leading to chronic stress and, eventually, to chronic disease.
Here is a case study to illustrate this point. I had a patient, who I will call Lisa, who came to me for shortness of breath and chest pain. She had multiple investigations including a CT scan of her chest which showed inflammation in her lungs and lymph nodes. I did a bronchoscopy, which is a test where I take a long flexible device with a camera and a light to go into her lungs and do a biopsy. This did not reveal any specific diagnosis and her symptoms persisted. I eventually referred her to a thoracic surgeon for a lung biopsy. Before this happened, she had planned a vacation to Trinidad, where she is originally from.
While she was there her symptoms had, miraculously, completely disappeared but when she got back they returned. I then started to question her further about stresses in her life and it was then that she revealed to me that her marriage was not working and there was a lot of tension and conflict with her husband, who had not gone with her on the trip. This was proof that her symptoms were a direct result of her grief over her failing marriage because when she was away from him for sometime her symptoms resolved. She did not require much convincing that her symptoms were related to the grief and stress caused by her husband and she resolved to leave the situation immediately.
Can you recall a time when negative emotions derailed your health? Are you still suffering from the effects of unresolved emotions? My upcoming book may give you the insight you need to finally overcome them.
Nauman Naeem MD FCCP FRCPC