Can Unexpressed Emotion Be Linked to Pain, Discomfort and Disease?
We live in the “I’m fine” culture. Ask of someone, “How are you?” The inevitable response is, “I’m fine,” or maybe, “I’m good.” As a society, we seem to ignore the reality that, as complex beings, there are a myriad of emotions, responses, feelings and perspectives that are taking place at any one time inside each one of us. Just as minorities in the United States, Great Britain and Canada were denied the right to vote until relatively recently, for many, if not most people, emotions and feelings are still denied sufficient representation.
The Suffragette movement in early nineteenth century England was established to bring public attention to women’s beliefs and convictions that they should have the right to parliamentary representation, a right that was, at that time, accorded only to men. Predictably, politicians and lawmakers turned a deaf ear. In response, the Suffragettes resorted to radical forms of behaviour – public disturbance and violence – to emphasize their need. They tied themselves to the railings of Buckingham Palace, heckled members of parliament during speeches, seriously considered fire-bombing the Prime Minister’s residence. One lady killed herself when she famously threw herself under the hooves of the horses in one of England’s foremost national horse races.
In an age where national security in all western countries is hyper-alert to the potential of terrorist attacks, the level of terror these women created may seem minimal in comparison to the terror that threatens us today. Our populations have been slaughtered in mass from commercial planes slamming into downtown city buildings, bombs are ignited by simply dialing numbers on a cell phone, suicide bombers wander into highly populated areas then ignite explosives strapped onto their bodies killing themselves along with dozens, sometimes hundreds of people.
Under-representation often ends up in violence. For many individuals and groups wishing to bring attention to their cause, violence is a last resort. It is a frustration, a build up of anger, outrage and betrayal, an unwillingness to be ignored or under-represented any longer, and the willingness to take action on that cause. The action taken, as we see on our television screens daily, is often targeted specifically to create intolerable physical and emotional pain.
A Return to Consciousness proposes that each one of us copes with the same drama internally. If disease and discomfort are construed as a form of radical behaviour, then there are grounds to interpret physical pain and disease – the viruses, bacteria and cancers that invade our bodies – as forms of violence, albeit directed towards ourselves. If this is true, the question arises then, whether we too are under-representing ourselves, or to put this into another context, whether elements of ourselves are resorting to violence as a means to bring attention to their cause.
Many books have been written over the last twenty years linking unexpressed emotions and feelings to disease and discomfort, claiming pain and disease to be physical outcomes of insufficient and limited expression. Behavioural research too has compiled evidence and statistics from scientifically conducted experiments connecting unexpressed emotions and feelings to the emergence of symptoms and disease. If an interactive connection between emotions and physical outcome exists, it would be reasonable to assume that pain, discomfort, flu and colds, arthritis or cancer may be prevented, reduced, or even on occasion eliminated when feelings and emotions receive sufficient representation, because emotions and feelings would not need to resort to violence to represent themselves.
As the nations representing NATO and the United Nations who are involved in peace-keeping and military intervention in other countries have discovered, ending the violence representing decades of under-representation within a country, or segments of the population within that country, is very complex. The violence has to be quelled, which may mean negotiating with or challenging the forces of resistance. Political prisoners, incarcerated due to inappropriate acts or the suspicion and distrust on the part of the government, will eventually have to be released and permitted a voice in the running of the country. Healthy leadership will need to be encouraged, one it is hoped is democratically agreed upon from the vote of the populace. A relationship of trust will need to be built up and established between the new leadership and the people, bearing in mind the profound distrust segments of the population may historically have had towards government authority. This process takes time, resources, dedication, patience and often lives.
While many countries need to pass through these stages upon their journey to recovery, each nation’s journey will be individual and unique, since the challenges, pitfalls, achievement and victories each nation will have to face and pass through to arrive at that outcome will be unknown. Stepping onto the journey of recovery is therefore a step into the realm of uncertainty.
The journey to fully represent ourselves is very similar to the journey a nation takes to recover from its trauma. From the very first chapter, A Return to Consciousness proposes that each human being encounters personal trauma. The trauma encountered becomes foundational to how we represent and under-representation our feelings and emotions, indeed the choices we will make for the rest of our lives. If our trauma is under-represented – if we don’t think or talk about it, or avoid being aware of how it is influencing our lives – it will always seek to represent its own needs. It will claim a stake in our health and in many of our life’s choices, especially the big ones. It will have a say in who we choose as life partners, how we parent our children, the foods we eat, the careers we choose, the places we go on vacation, the amount of debt we carry. If we do not know our trauma and how to represent it, then trauma will represent itself beneath our awareness – unconsciously.
The personal journey to reverse the effects of our trauma is the classic mythical hero’s journey, a journey of challenges, pitfalls, victories, exuberances and achievements, one that asks that we too take a step into uncertainty. A Return to Consciousness is a guide to this epic journey, written with the intention to take the mystery out of the experience.