Madeleine Eames

- Psychotherapist
- Mindfulness Teacher

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When Emotional Pain Becomes Physical

“I felt like killing him.”

“I could have wrung her neck.”

“I wanted to punch him.”

“I felt like jumping off a bridge.”


What is your reaction to these statements, and how would you react if someone said that?


Although these statements are not always acceptable to express, let alone act upon, what is important is that they point to deeper underlying emotions like rage, sadness, helplessness, that we unfortunately have learned to effectively turn off. It’s just a way of describing them.


These are also the types of statements that can set us free when they are inquired into met with compassion.


Imagine plugging a hose that is filling up with water. Eventually it will bulge, spring leaks and break. I see so many people that feel this way and describe it as “I’m about to burst”.


Or, “I can’t take it anymore.” Can’t take what?  “It” is the building tension of emotions that become eventually become unbearable.

Unfortunately sometimes people believe the description that they can’t take it anymore… you can, you always have 100% of the time, and you can also make choices to change it.


The truth is, that the longer we avoid feeling what we feel, it doesn’t go away, it just gets locked in a room and our energy gets expended on keeping the bursting door tightly closed.


The creates tension, which creates ongoing pain. It no longer requires a rocket scientist to figure out that the mind and body are not 2 separate things, they work as one.


How do I know? Because I accidently stumbled across it when I was treating people for trauma and PTSD from motor vehicle accidents and as they healed emotionally, so did their  physical pain.  


I’m not talking acute pain here. If you have a broken bone, an illness or appendicitis, don’t worry about your emotions, listen to your inbuilt harm alarm and get straight to the hospital!


But after 3-6 months when your body tissues have healed, you might look deeper to heal ongoing pain. Our systems get sensitized to protect us from any perceived threat, and sometimes that threat can be emotional.


There is no end to the reasons why we block emotional pain. It could be how we were brought up, how we were taught “Big boys don’t cry”, “Good girls don’t get angry”, “Don’t be a wimp” and other such nonsense.


It could be that we didn’t see anyone around us in our culture expressing emotions, so there was no role models for how to moved through conflict, through anger, through shame and guilt, and especially grief.


When we block emotions, we exile them and we exile ourselves. We cut ourselves off from essential life force and become intellectual, living in our heads trying to explain it and “figure it out”. You will never solve it that way.


We then live trying to avoid the people, places and things that trigger us into discomfort… and that requires our precious energy! Setting clear boundaries is a different energy than avoidance. The places that scare us are the places we need to go to heal.


“I don’t know who I am anymore.”  Is a doorway to exploring this land of exile.  You cannot know who you are unless you know how you feel in your body. Otherwise it’s just another false identity, a thought, label or idea.


A good place to start is to look at what you do when you feel discomfort. In other words, what are your escape routes. And ask what you would feel if you couldn’t do them.


Some common escape routes: exercise, Netflix, blaming, complaining (which is different than expressing emotions), surfing the net, shopping, comparing, numbing with alcohol, food, drugs, even worrying can be a great escape.


All of these are not bad, only if they are an escape from the truth. The truth of what you feel.


If you’re not sure, try closing the escapes for a while and see what happens.


Feel what you feel. Be truthful with yourself. Allow. Breathe. Walk in nature. Cry, scream, pound a pillow, write it out, talk to someone, for Pete’s sake allow your body to feel what it feels.


It might get worse before it gets better, but it will get better.


No judgement, all emotions are valid and don’t have to make sense. It’s your health you are caring about, not how pretty this looks.  Nothing lasts forever.


There is a place for everything: greed, guilt, envy, shame, rage, desperation, fear, jealousy, helplessness, despair, grief.


This will allow you to embrace: joy, enthusiasm, ecstasy, gratitude, peace.


Let’s get real, not happy.  You are here to be a burst of you in this brief time we have on this planet. Let go of being harsh on yourself. You are here. You are beautiful. You matter.


You will do wonders for your health, your body and your pain.


Take care of that body by embracing the truth,















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