In Dr. Esther Sternberg’s book, The Balance Within (Freeman & Company Publishers), she quotes Oscar Wilde (famous author and playwright) as saying, “Life is…made up of exquisite moments.” Our minds hold memories from the time we are born. Dr. Sternberg explains that memories are stored with emotions attached. She says that a good movie or actor can cause us to feel the emotions they portray. However, Dr. Sternberg states that, “imagery in a book can tap into an already held image that the reader can visualize, an image that when visualized can evoke a powerful internal emotional response.” There are so very many things that can cause memories to pop into our minds. And attached to those memories can be some very powerful emotions! Dr. Sternberg also cites in her book the research that has proven the existence of a bi-directional communication network between the nervous system (the brain) and the immune system. In everyday language: How we feel influences how we heal!
When we recall good memories, with all the feelings that go along with those memories, we feel good. It’s those bad memories, the ones with those negative emotions attached to them, that cause us to feel bad—physically and emotionally! Over time, it’s these negative emotions that cause an increase in our bodies’ harmful chemicals being released into our blood streams. Reframing these negative emotional moments is a healthy way to decrease the negative effects of emotional memories.
There are several ways to do reframing. As discussed in Part I, the simplest way is to get more information to enable you to consider different points of view. With more information, it is often easier to change one’s mind/one’s feelings about a given situation. This method of reframing is made easier when there is some time that has passed between the time of the incident and the time you attempt to do the reframing. Time often helps people to calm down, decrease the emotional impact of negative incidents.
Meditation: Decreasing the emotional impact that comes from upsetting incidents can also be achieved by meditation (subject of a future blog). There are many forms of meditation. My method of choice is Mindfulness Meditation, which was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn (Google him for more information.) His method is simply a way of relaxing the mind and the body at the same time. (I also use this natural method to lower my blood pressure!) This method of meditation is strongly supported by both the science field as well as those in medical research. When you relax both the mind and the body, you can let go of everyday stresses: the list of things you need to do, where you have to go, how you are going to get there, who you have to see—for some people the list can be endless! Once totally relaxed, your conscious mind clear, some of those unwanted thoughts that have been kept suppressed into your sub-conscious mind can rise into your conscious mind for your consideration.
REMEMBER MY WARNING: Anyone in a fragile state of mind should not do this alone and should seek professional assistance.
The key is to NOT re-live the past incidents—just review them as if you were someone else or it’s someone else’s movie. Consider both or all sides of the issue(s). Stay calm and relaxed in your meditative state. You will be fully alert and know all that is around you. It is not the same as hypnosis, as there is no spell. You are simply TOTALLY relaxed and feel no stress.
Writing: This method of reframing is a lot more powerful than many people think. Once you write how you feel down on paper to actually see the words helps get the feelings outside of the body. If an incident involving someone who has passed away, you can write that person a letter, explaining how you feel about the incident. Write what you expected of those involved. Be specific and express all of the emotions you feel!
Use the format: I felt _____ when you_______. It is important to use emotional terms to describe HOW you felt
It is even more helpful to read a letter to a supportive friend. I participated in group therapy sessions in a Women’s Shelter. I listened one day as a woman read a letter to her husband—a police officer who came home from work protecting the public and often physically beat her! While we women around the table took turns responding and validating her feelings (We all felt that she had a right to expect her husband to treat her well, protect her, and not have to run to a shelter in fear of her life.), it was like watching a flower bloom. At first she looked downtrodden, head bowed, eyes looking down, so very sad. As she heard her feelings being validated, her head came up. She straightened her back. She looked at the other women around the table, and lastly she smiled—with her eyes as well as her lips. You can be creative and have a ceremony: Get a metal pail with some sand in it and set the letter on fire. Or tie the letter to some balloons and let them go over a lake or an ocean. In both cases, watch as the smoke or balloons carry away your negative emotions and the mental anguish that was attached to them. Feel the stress as it leaves your body!
Role Playing: Get a close and supportive friend to act out any past incidents. This is especially good if the incident happened during childhood. Role playing the same scene as an adult will give you a better perspective. You act out the scene as you did when you were a child. We all have that little child inside of us—remembering both good and hurtful experiences. The same incidents seen as an adult should help you replace the hurtful feelings with new ones—possibly peaceful understanding or justifiable and controlled anger!
Art: This method of expression does not require words. If you cannot or wish not to use words, drawing and/or painting is one of the Creative Arts Therapies, which are used in many group therapy sessions and in hospitals throughout the country (subject of a future blog). This method is often used with children, especially young children without a well-developed vocabulary.
Dance: Free-form dancing (another Creative Arts Therapy) allows you to express yourself through body movements. You move energy, allowing it to flow freely through your muscles, as you stretch and bend. You can move to music or create your own melody inside your head. There is no right way or wrong way to do creative dancing. Just move according to how you feel.
Blocked Energy: I have developed a theory from my own readings and experiences about blocked energy and illnesses. You see, there is a natural flow of energy in the body that goes from the brain, down the spine, and travels through the nervous system (through the nerves that pass through the spine’s vertebrae) to different parts of the body. In essence I believe that when energy is blocked, causing either a disconnect or decrease in energy flow to a part of the body it causes a malfunction in the part of the body that is being blocked. Previous blogs have already described the process by which the body disburses excess or negative hormones, enzymes, etc. due to the body’s current emotional state of being. The nervous system is directly affected by our emotional state. The decreased energy flow could ultimately be the cause of blocked energy in weakened areas of the body. With the blockage of the normal flow of energy, malfunctioning of that body’s organ would be the logical end result. In short, if a part of the body does not get the right amount of energy, that part will not work properly!
Let me give you an example from my life. On a routine visit to my chiropractor, without telling him what distress I’d been feeling one particular week, I asked what part of my spine seemed particularly resistant to movement as he did his adjustments. The bones in the spine should be able to move freely during adjustments. (Compare the flexibility of one noodle partially cooked with one that is totally cooked to see the difference in how well you can move or bend the noodle.) I asked each time I saw the doctor for an adjustment. The doctor told me the particular vertebrae that appeared to be stuck (or did not move as freely as the others). I checked with a map on his wall that diagrams and traces the nerves that go through the spine to different parts/organs of the body. In each case, the nerves that went through the stuck part of my spine proved to end up in the part of the body that had been given me distress that particular week (my lungs, my intestines, my sinuses, etc). I don’t yet know why one particular organ or part of the body would experience stuck energy over another part of the body. For that answer I will continue to do research. Meanwhile, the important thing is to get energy flowing throughout the body to enable healing. Our emotional reactions will continue to produce blockages of energy in various parts of our body. Increasing energy flow throughout the body can be done in various ways. Chiropractic is only one way.
Breathwork & Reiki: These two methods of eliminating blocked energy require professionally trained practitioners in these areas. Holotrophic Breathwork (breathing in ways directed by the practitioner) enables the body to free stuck energy and be released. A trained Reiki Master is able to pass his/her hands over your body and increase the flow of energy. In my personal experience (which need not be true for everyone) a good Reiki Master’s hands project heat into my body (without touching me). This heat not only increases the flow of energy, it also relieves me of pain.
It is important to realize that it is not often easy to reframe, because we are creatures of habit. As with anything new, we often have to try, try again!