Thursday, 5 August 2010

When Laughter really is the best medicine - how suppressed emotions appear to be held in the body and their effect.

Some years ago, my very good friend Ted who has mastered more physical therapy "body work" modalities than I can name, (and created a several more besides), related a case history that illustrated both our views of how emotions are held in the body - in the muscles, joints, organs etc. At the time he was using techniques centred on Trager, VHT and similar modalities that work on the  basis of releasing tension held in the muscles and joints, sometimes just by the practitioner holding a limb or making very slow and small movements with it.   As simple as it sounds, and physically it doesn't look very exciting, in fact it doesn't look like anything is going on at all, but mentally and emotionally, to the person on the table this is a huge deal: handing over total control like that can really open the floodgates. In letting go of their limb, the client's mind is agreeing to let go of the issues that they are hanging on to, as reflected in that muscle tension. Ted related how, more often than not, the energetic release of a muscle or group of muscles is often accompanied by a profound  release of suppressed emotions. I can tell you from my own experience of being a guinea pig for some of his body work, when Ted asked me to let go of controlling one of my legs that he was holding, I started to laugh and I just couldn't stop. Whilst he'd never had laughter as an emotional release, it made perfect sense to me: Many times, in circumstances with clients where I felt that laughter would be most inappropriate, I would see things that were very amusing, (or perhaps ironic in the extreme), and would suppress it. Here it was coming out! And of course, the emotion is not the only thing to emerge - the information is very powerful - what a discovery process! My powerful lesson was not to suppress laughter. When I am with clients now and a client says something unwittingly that I find very amusing, I usually bring it to their attention so we can both laugh at it.

This realisation was so valuable. In cases where the suppressed emotion is more sinister than laughter, the effect on the body's structure is damaging, potentially long term; this release can stop the damage and allow the  body to start to repair. The knowledge enables the client to understand what damage these suppressed emotions are creating and hopefully they can be helped to start dealing with their difficult  issues in a healthier way.

The way most body work modalities work demonstrates the impact of emotions on the structure of the body. I believe the same impact occurs, not just at the organ level but at the cellular level of the entire body.

This view has informed my approach to the way I help people with Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. It is entirely consistent with the research that has demonstrated the adverse affects of stress on the symptoms of Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Yes it is proven, and most of you will attest to that first hand  - stress makes gut rot worse!

For further reading and references on the topics discussed here, please feel free to email me painsinthebutt@workingwithjoy.com - Joy x.

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