From Don: I’ve had two chronic medical problems for many years: a heart arrhythmia and an enlarged prostate. They have both been successfully managed with a combination of naturopathic and allopathic medicines. Both conditions got worse during the final month of our recent six-month trip to Australia, India and Southeast Asia when we were getting ready to go to Myanmar. For reasons that still remain unclear to me I became convinced that I was going to die in Myanmar. By the time we got back to Vancouver in early March I was starting to worry that I might have prostate cancer.
My family doctor sent me for lab tests right away. All the test results were normal and my PSA level, which is one of the critical measures used to detect any abnormality in the prostate, remained very low. When I went to see a urologist the following day he confirmed that all of my test results were normal, and that there was no sign of any abnormality beyond a mild enlargement. He recommended that I take a prescription medication at night to relax the smooth muscles around the prostate, and help me go with the flow :)
In addition to taking allopathic and naturopathic medications I also received a series of craniosacral treatments while we were back in Vancouver that focused on helping to relax and unwind tense muscles inside my body, with a particular focus on the prostate and the heart.
Somatization is the unconscious conversion of emotional energy or tension into physical energy or tension. Somatization Disorder is a psychiatric condition marked by multiple medically-unexplainable physical symptoms beginning before age thirty. I don’t suffer from a Somatization Disorder.
So far I haven’t said much about heartache or about how sadness and grief can directly influence the physical functioning of the heart. I’ve had even more heart irregularity since being back in Vancouver this time around, despite taking two doses of my homeopathic heart medication every day. However as soon as I felt into what was going on at the emotional level I could feel a deep grief and sadness about not having a permanent home in Vancouver and about once more leaving Vancouver and all of my friends. At times the intensity of these feelings would be too much for me to tolerate and then I’d somatize the emotions: I’d get a stiff neck and a tension headache that I call a “heartache headache.” As soon as I was able to drop back down into the heart and get in touch with the feelings the neck pain and the headache pain went away. This was all familiar territory to me. What I hadn’t appreciated before was that unconscious tension in the musculature of the first or base chakra region, resulting from a primal fear of dying, could have been causing some of the increased problems I was experiencing with the prostate.
To my way of thinking, the difficulties that I have had in connecting with my feelings have resulted directly in adverse physical consequences in my body: unfelt grief and heartache has led to heart arrhythmias, and unfelt survival fears have led to chronic contraction of the muscles in the lower abdomen, resulting in prostate-related problems. None of this is new information: Louise Hay has been preaching that gospel for many years, but the clear relationship between my emotional health and the physical health of my own body has made it abundantly obvious.
So what’s the take-home message here? I’m seventy years of age. I’m currently nomadic and peripatetic and I don’t want to end up in a nursing home by the time I’m eighty. The two things that are most often recommended for a healthy lifestyle are a healthy diet and regular exercise. I’d like to add to that the willingness to feel the emotions that are being unconsciously denied expression so that I don’t create or exacerbate bodily ills by somatizing the feelings. The more I remain aware of my emotions the better I feel and the more I heal, and that’s the truth with a capital T. It’s not rocket surgery (as Britney Spears is alleged to have said), it’s just common sense: we are emotional beings and we feel our emotions in our bodies. Some of us are less able than others to get in touch with our feelings, and more sensitive than others to the physical expression of these feelings in the body. When we block the emotions the body suffers, and then so do we. We are not just our bodies, our thoughts and our feelings, we are eternal spirits clothed in human flesh, but we sure need to respect and honour the vehicle that enables each one of us to have this experience of life. To ignore the body is to disrespect its messages, and its creator, and I for one sure don’t want to be doing that.
Photo of the day: Altar offering, Phnom Oudong, Cambodia
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.