Healing Journey Monday: Emotions and your muscles

Fellow blogger Tracie Louise recently posted about a new line of t-shirts and stickers that she’s created. I loved them so much that I asked her if I could use the pictures on several posts and link to it on Redbubble (where they’re for sale). I think you’ll love them too.

One of the popular theories among many alternative health practitioners and spiritual types is that any time there’s any tension or knotting or holding pattern in your muscles there’s an old issue or repressed memory or unexpressed emotions (or some combination thereof) connected with it. My journey operated on that assumption for a long time. Ultimately that has not proved to be the only truth for me – nor as it turns out, for my most recent practitioners (who happen to be the ones who have successfully assisted in healing me).

When I first started getting massages I had been practicing yoga for about five years and I’d stretched enough to be an inch-and-a-half taller so it was startling to hear that every muscle was twisted like a steel pipe. That first therapist made a lot of headway and I had not begun to do emotional work at that time. The next several practitioners bridged the no emotional work and the Fischer Hoffman Process phase to post Fischer Hoffman. They all believed very strongly in the emotional connection and I could certainly see that a whole lot opened up in my body after I’d done all the release work that goes with the Process. There was still a lot hanging on tightly in my body and I got tired of hearing the accusatory tones on the subject of whether I was doing a good enough job of letting go so I began to drop them one by one.

When I moved to Kentucky and began seeing the wonderful Judy Gray for cranio-sacral therapy there were still times when her work reached into some old issue or buried emotion. But there were also times when things were releasing and I felt nothing and she commented that it seemed like there were a lot of places where the emotional content was gone but the muscles still held on. Aha. That felt so true to me and it was such a relief to be supported instead of criticized!

On to the fabulous Kreig Cremeans and his Bodypatterning technique (and also his amazing student, Hanna Lee) and he supported Judy’s view. The opening Judy started continued even faster and since I’d created my re-do of Robert Masters’ Psychophysical Method and started practicing it regularly it moved along much more quickly. Again we tapped into some emotional content but eventually there was still a lot of tightness in the deep connective muscles and lots of shifts and openings but I no longer had old memories arising nor sudden bursts of tears, etc.

I also started to notice that the tight patterns in some places actually seemed to be the source of some present day emotional states. For instance there used to be a really taut muscle pattern that ran through my stomach. Long after the issues that related to it had been dealt with I would realize every now and then that I was suffering a sense of anxiety that I could trace to that pattern and that had no other relation to anything that was going on. The same with the tautness in my face and jaw creating a sense of anger with no cause.

When I told Kreig that I felt like sometimes the holding pattern could create the emotion instead of just being there because of a held emotion, he said he’d found the same thing. My circuitous connection to “Be Happy” is that I’ve been reflecting a lot the last couple of years about these emotion and muscle connections and their relationship to the philosophy that says to be happy in the moment, to feel joy in the moment, etc. if you want to attract happiness and joy into your life.

I found it very difficult to hold on to that space of happiness or joy while my body held a pattern of anxiety and anger. I’ve put enough effort into it to have gotten much better at it. But I look at someone like the late, lovely angel Mattie Stepanek (or name some other person with a really bad and/or painful physical condition whom you find inspiring) and I’m awed by the ability to transcend all the physical suffering and hold a space of joy. It helps by letting me see that it can be done but I can’t say I’ve quite figured it out enough to hold that space all the time.

If you have patterns of tension and/or pain in your muscles you probably do have some unaddressed issues and/or unreleased emotions in there so I’m not saying that you won’t need to do any inner exploration but if you’ve done a lot of that and there are still muscle issues it’s possible your muscles are just hanging onto the habit of being in that pattern. Don’t let practitioners bully you into digging deep for emotional connections that aren’t still there. And pay attention to whether any unexplained moods might come from your muscles.

12 thoughts on “Healing Journey Monday: Emotions and your muscles

  1. That’s so interesting…. I have done years and years of inner work, and feel pretty happy overall, and yet my muscles still hold a lot of tension. You have given me a great deal to think about.

  2. I like the post very much and it of course takes me back to those inntitial days of self discovery, when I was introduced to the term ” body armor”. Ellen was a very soft bodied person and somehow “embodied” the antithesis to body armor. What happened to me however was a gradual non acceptance of my physicality. I was introduced to Rolfing, Body Patterning, Aston Patterning the list goes on and on as I tried to….I don’t know what. But I clearly was doing it for teacher and not for me. Gradually I learned to revel in the natural strength of my body again and accept myself as I am, body armor and all as I explored the martial arts and other avenues such as rock climbing along with my spiritual path. Among my studies I found the works of a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst named “D. W. Winnicott. He talks about emotional holding patterns and it reminded me very much of what you were describing in your post. It’s like our psyche has similar emotional holding patterns, much as our bodies do. Lots of stuff on his work out there and it’s pretty clinical but fascinating. You may want to check it out. I myself will be revisiting the good doctor as its been years since I even thought about this stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    • Sounds like you have a story that could be its own post. I like the idea of accepting yourself but I guess because the armor for me meant twisted muscles, lots of excruciating pain and mind numbing fatigue I’ve been too determined to move beyond to find that space of loving what is. I’ll take a look for Winnicott, sounds interesting. Thanks for again adding such thoughtful comments.

  3. Pingback: Be Open And Approachable « Life is Mysterious

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