These days it’s well known that emotions and the stress they cause play a significant role in health. However, despite that being common knowledge most people don’t learn how to truly feel their feelings, process them, and move forward. This leads to holding onto resentment and blame which creates stress, and contributes to feeling unwell, pain, and even the development of chronic health problems.

In this excerpt from Real Causes Real Cure authors Jacob Teitelbaum, MD and Bill Gottlieb discuss how feelings affect your health, and explain how to feel your feelings and start processing them so you can begin to move forward. Making room for you to feel more positive feelings.

Feel All Your Feelings Without Resistance

Psyche is a word for the total complexity of mind—thoughts, feelings, desires, and beliefs. On a deep level, your psyche demands honesty. That means you have to truly feel whatever you’re feeling. If you don’t, two things happen.

•You get stuck. A feeling stays with you until you actually feel it. If you don’t really feel your anger, you may find yourself simmering for decades. And if you’re like most people, you’ll think your anger is caused by the stressful situations life delivers every day, from an obnoxious telemarketer to a long line at the supermarket checkout to a plunge in the stock market—but what’s actually happening is that your suppressed anger has accumulated into a giant reservoir that spills into your psyche at the slightest provocation.

•Molehills turn into mountains. When the body is injured, it usually heals—spontaneously and naturally. You don’t have to think about healing or plan it. A cut closes, a muscle mends, an infection is foiled—automatically. Likewise, after a bout of anger or sorrow, your psyche automatically heals itself, regaining its natural state of happiness and ease. When you deny a feeling, however, your psyche magnifies it, to make it bigger and clearer to you, so you’ll feel it and be done with it. If you keep denying the feeling, it grows bigger and bigger: The blues turn into chronic depression; anger turns into a constant attitude of hostility, cynicism, and hatred; worry turns into anxiety and panic.

How do you know when you’re done feeling a feeling? Well, it actually feels good to fully feel anger or sorrow or fear—that’s why we call a session of much-needed, unrestrained sobbing a “good cry.” And who hasn’t experienced the joy of a good, self-righteous hissy fit? On the other hand, when it no longer feels good to feel sad or angry—which is how you can tell when the feeling has been fully experienced—you’re done. Time to move on!

Labeling Not Required

Maybe you don’t know why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling. Not a problem. You may try to jump all over a feeling with your mind, labeling it or trying to figure it out. But that shifts you out of your feelings, paradoxically leaving you stuck in them. You have to fully feel a feeling to be done with it. You can’t battle it, ignore it, or file it in a box labeled “Angry at Andy.”

Are You Resisting?

Your jaw tightens. You cross your arms and legs. You breathe shallowly. These are all signs that you’re trying to block your feelings. If you notice this type of resistance, remind yourself to do the opposite. Let your jaw slacken. Uncross your arms and legs. Breathe!

And remember: Resisting a feeling is like trying to stop a cloud because you want it to be sunny again. Letting the cloud pass is the way back to a brighter state of mind.

When your mind attempts to label or explain why you are feeling a feeling, it’s okay to just say to your mind, “No, thank you.” Then continue to feel the feeling fully, without any resistance and without needing to understand why you are feeling the way you do.

When you’re toward the end of feeling the feeling, you may find that you intuitively under stand why you’re having the feeling. Your psyche may want you to know—but only after you’ve fully felt the feeling! This is because the event that triggered the feeling is just that—a trigger. The actual feeling may reflect an event or, more often, multiple events over your lifetime. Focusing on “understanding” the trigger is like shooting the messenger. You’ll never hear the real message!

Chronic Pain—or Chronic Resistance to Feelings?

I got so scared my heart jumped into my throat.

You make me sick to my stomach.

What a pain in the neck!

These are clichés, of course. But they’re speaking a profound truth about our emotions: Feelings often have a physical component.

For example, most massage therapists have had a pain-relieving session when tension was released from a client’s muscle—and the client burst into tears, recalling feelings and memories from an event that happened decades earlier. The feelings were literally stored in the muscle. When the feelings were released, so was the pain. Why does that happen?

Well, the body has to put your suppressed feelings somewhere—and locks them away in your muscles, which become a kind of “armor” against feeling. Eventually, this chronic muscle tightness can turn into chronic pain.

In many cases, you can relax chronically tight muscles by allowing yourself to feel fully. And feeling your feelings now can prevent chronic pain later. There’s another school of thought about muscles and suppressed feelings, championed by the late John Sarno, MD, author of several books including The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders. Dr. Sarno described a condition he called tension myositis syndrome. (Myositis means inflamed muscles.) In his view, the brain automatically attempts to protect you from overwhelming unconscious feelings—particularly rage, which is suppressed by perfectionism and what he called “goodism.” The brain does this by limiting blood flow to muscles, tendons, and nerves in a particular area, creating low-level chronic pain that distracts you from the feeling.

If you have unexplained and persistent musculoskeletal pain, try this: Every time you feel the pain, tell your mind, “I know you are trying to distract me from becoming aware of uncomfortable feelings. I appreciate what you are trying to do, but I am mature enough to feel all my feelings—and I choose to feel them all.”

Then spend 15 minutes or so looking for feelings that are uncomfortable. Simply give your brain a 15-minute “vacation” and allow yourself to feel whatever comes up during that time.

I sometimes ask my patients with persistent, unexplained, localized pain to do this exercise regularly. Often, their chronic pain disappears in about six weeks. (This approach is less effective for the widespread, chronic pain of fibromyalgia. You can find my Real Cure Regimen for that problem in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.)

More Ways to Release Your Feelings

There are several specific techniques that I’ve found helpful for releasing feelings—even ones that are very old and very traumatic. They have been helpful for me and for my patients. My two favorites? Trembling and the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).

•Trembling. As you feel your feelings, you may find yourself trembling (a kind of all-over shaking), and that’s good. It’s one of the ways the psyche releases old stresses and traumas stored in the body. If you’re in a place where it’s safe and comfortable to do so, allow this natural trembling to occur, even if you tremble for quite a while and quite intensely.

Why does trembling help? To find out, let’s look at the animal kingdom—keeping in mind that we humans are animals, too (primates, to be exact). When a cheetah chases an impala, and the impala realizes it can’t escape, it drops to the ground and “plays possum,” appearing to be dead. Physiologists call this the “immobility” or “freezing” response, and many animals do it when death appears imminent.

“Nature has developed the immobility response for two good reasons,” writes Peter Levine, PhD, in his excellent book on overcoming trauma, Waking the Tiger. It anesthetizes the animal, making death less painful. And, says Dr. Levine, “It serves as a last-ditch survival strategy. There is the possibility that the cheetah may decide to drag its ‘dead’ to its lair, where the food can be shared later with its cubs. During this time, the impala could awaken from its frozen state and make a hasty escape in an unguarded moment. When it is out of danger, the animal will literally ‘shake off’ the residual effects of the immobility response and gain full control of its body. It will then return to normal life as if nothing had happened.”

This shaking or trembling is the natural way to release stress and trauma. During periods of stress—when humans feel helpless and have no way to escape—we often go into a similar “freezing” response, during which we are emotionally anesthetized. Think of it as emotional Novocain—it protects us from trauma in the short term. But if we don’t eventually release this energy, we become more and more numb, dulling our feelings, energy, and joy. (This is particularly common in people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.) Trembling or shaking can help you release trauma and emotional stress. Unfortunately, when natural trembling occurs, people often feel “stupid” about it and suppress it. Not allowing this natural form of emotional release keeps us stuck in old feelings and is unhealthy.

Now that you’re aware of the significance of trembling, open yourself to it. Just being aware that it’s okay to tremble usually allows the process to happen. (For example, you will probably notice that after a time of upset or stress, you are shaky inside. It’s the same phenomenon, and it’s perfectly okay.) At first, you may want to reserve your trembling experiences for when you’re alone, so you don’t feel self-conscious.

The trembling can last for a few seconds or a few minutes. Sometimes it continues in waves, stopping and starting. Trembling may recur in the future, as layer after layer of old traumatic feelings presents itself for release. And it’s okay for trembling to recur throughout your lifetime, because it’s one of the body’s natural ways to release you from emotional trauma. Sometimes during trembling, an image or scene may appear in your mind—and it’s often the source of the feelings that are being released. Most of the time, however, there won’t be an image. What is being released is a collection of feelings from a multitude of old traumas. Either way is fine.

At the end of the trembling session, you will find that you naturally take one or two deep breaths. Trembling is an inexpensive, safe, and effective way to release old traumas. What more could you ask!

•Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Another simple, straightforward, and powerfully effective technique for releasing old, stored emotions is the Emotional Freedom Technique. It was developed by Gary Craig, who simplified a technique called Thought Field Therapy, developed by psychologist Roger Callahan, PhD, author of Five Minute Phobia Cure. Dr. Callahan had found that tapping certain acupressure points could quickly relieve emotional distress. EFT is helpful in dissipating phobias (such as fear of flying), anxieties, traumas, anger, depression, resentment, guilt, low self-esteem, and many other uncomfortable emotions. EFT takes only a few minutes to learn and often produces permanent results. The main ingredient for success is the willingness to use it.

Note: For simple issues, it’s fine and effective to do EFT on yourself. But for more severely traumatic, complex, or deep-seated issues (such as child sexual abuse), I find it can be very helpful to work with an EFT practitioner.

To locate one, visit Gary Craig’s website ( There are many books on EFT. Two favorites are Getting Thru to Your Emotions with EFT, by Phillip and Jane Mountrose, and The Tapping Cure, by Roberta Temes, PhD.

For more ways to find the root causes of common health problems and start to address them, purchase Real Cause, Real Cure from today.

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