The play of emotions
DR NATWAR SHARMA explores the world of feelings and emotions, their effect on the physical body, and how we can learn to manage them effectively.
Our life is largely the interplay of feelings and emotions. It is important for us to understand why they surface and how we react to them, because that in turn will develop our mental perception and improve our physical health.
What Are Emotions?
Emotions are basically ‘energy in motion – e-motion’. They generally carry a weight or leave an impression on our physical and subtle bodies. They are responses, primarily of ‘flight or fight’, which come from the subcortical regions of the brain, especially the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex, when we face a particular situation or condition. Thus they are part of the subconscious.
Emotions potentiate the memory associated with any incident or event. A memory without the backing of any emotion is not strong enough to last through time, nor does it have much impact on our current physical and mental make-up. In contrast, a memory with an associated emotion is more likely to influence our present situation.
This is one of the primary reasons that it is so important to be aware of and handle our emotions in a sane manner.
How Do Emotions Affect the Human Body?
In the current world, where many of us live in cities with busy routines, we are not able to be in touch with our feelings and emotions, let alone deal with them. We keep going on and on, until we cross the threshold and feel overburdened and stressed. Every individual has a threshold for emotional tolerance, and when we overstep that threshold it adversely affects our physical health.
How does this happen? When our capacity to cope with a particular situation crosses this threshold, the subcortical region of the brain, or the amygdala, is activated, in turn triggering the neocortex, which ultimately produces signals that manifest in the physical body as physical sensations.
Try these experiments:
Observe your physical body during various activities. For example, note the reactions in your body while watching an emotionally charged program on television, like a horror movie or thriller. Your muscles may contract without your knowledge and your heart may beat at a faster rate. These somatic changes in the body, directly or indirectly determine the level of stress you experience during the day.
Similarly, uttering a word or phrase or sentence that is charged with an emotion produces a physical sensation in the body. For example, you may feel tightness or heaviness, weakness or pain, or a tingling sensation in your body while recollecting something that scares you while repeatedly uttering, “I am feeling scared of …”
Repeat this experiment with different sentences conveying positive and negative emotions, and see what reactions they produce in the body.
You may be amazed with what you observe and feel.
Often the words ‘emotion’ and ‘feeling’ are used interchangeably. They are two sides of the same coin, yet they are different. For example, I may feel left out in a particular situation, but what emotion is backing this feeling? As an adult I may be sad that I was not included. As a child I may be angry at my parents for leaving me out of some talk or activity, or I may even be guilty that I did not do what I was supposed to do and automatically missed being a part of something. I may also experience a mixture of all these emotions.
Thus, one situation can produce a cocktail of emotions – and when such a cocktail is suppressed for too long it can be debilitating. Suppressed emotions generally manifest in the physical body as some kind of an ailment or disease – this I can duly validate through my work and research with my patients and clients, both as a physician and a therapist.
Emotions in Children
The depth of feeling and emotion in children is much stronger than in adults. One reason is that they are empty books: everything is written afresh on their pages. A second is that the subconscious mind is very powerful when they are young. And a third reason is that their capacity to discriminate is not strong enough; they still need to grow in wisdom in order to reason and come to a conclusion.
Children are very sensitive and receptive, so we must be extra careful when we deal with them. How do we explain things to them? How do we allow them to come to a conclusion in a simple way?
One way is to just be with them and go through whatever they are experiencing in that moment. For example, if your child is scared of the dark, instead of admonishing her, sit with her in a dark room and go through the experience together. In my practice, I have found this to be more effective as it may actually help children to open up and confide in their parents.
Basically, we need to devise different ways and methods to deal with children. Once they form an impression and come to a conclusion about something, it conditions them for life, so that they run according to the same program the mind has created. When writing on a new page, ensure that you write it well!
How to Deal With Negative Emotions?
It is important to release negative emotions from the subconscious, preferably as soon as they are triggered. Another interesting observation is that seemingly negative emotions, like fear and anger, may actually be used positively in context to the situation. For example, it may be good for a student to feel some tension or stress, to the extent that it drives them to work hard and do well in life. But when we continue to feel the same over a period of time, when we carry the negative emotion, it not only affects our own health but also the moods and conditions of people around us. A typical case would be that of the boss who walks into the office in an angry mood, which cascades down to the employees and everyone else he meets during the day.
One way to refine our emotions and feelings, purifying them of negativity, is the Heartfulness Cleaning – a proven and effective technique in this context.
Another method to deal with negative emotional reactions, such as anxiety, anger or fear, is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, our ‘rest and digest system’. When such emotions surface, try closing the right nostril with your thumb and breathing deeply through the left nostril. It helps to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.
Last but not least, pause before reacting in any situation. By doing so, you are most likely to respond in a heartfelt manner instead of reacting.
Much of the research today in the field of pathology of diseases traces their roots to deeply suppressed emotions in the human subconscious over a length of time. Medical science is opening up to various alternate therapies and modalities of treatment, such as psychotherapy, Emotional Freedom Technique, and other cognitive therapies, to deal with the root cause at the base of physical ailments. Slowly but surely, we are moving towards more holistic ways of healing, combining mainstream medicine with alternative therapies, facilitating the well-being of the body, mind and soul.
Article by DR NATWAR SHARMA