Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Should You Trust Your True Emotions? October 5, 2012

Since writing my last post about my “white coat syndrome,” which has to do with hidden anxiety as manifested by high blood pressure, I’ve thought a lot more about the mind-body connection. And I have a theory:  our authentic emotions, whether we’re aware of them or not,  have as much to do with our health as any other factor.

We can eat healthy, low-calorie foods at every meal; yet, if while we eat we’re feeling anxious about something we’ve said or worried about something outside our control, or if we’re feeling sad, hurt, or angry, our emotional pain will have as much to do with our blood pressure, and therefore our physical health, as what we’re eating, our genetic inheritance, or how much exercise we get.

I know.  This is not a scientific study. I’m my only subject, and my blood pressure is the only objective measure. But I’m telling you this:  when I feel emotionally uncomfortable my blood pressure goes up.  When I’m in an emotionally good place, doing something I love and am good at, it goes down. This is simply the way it is with me.

For social reasons my parents taught me to repress emotions they considered negative:  self-pity, anger, frustration, impatience, criticism, judgment of others, pride in my accomplishments (“Don’t get a big head!”), enjoyment of my body’s skills (“Don’t show off!”), and so on.  My mother’s favorite saying was, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Apparently her thinking was that if I didn’t express or act on a negative emotion, it wasn’t real and couldn’t hurt me or anybody else.

My education taught me to trust left-brained objective and logical thinking, things like my knowledge and test scores, not what felt important and meaningful to me. To believe accepted theories, not inner realities. To conform with social norms and ignore the gut feeling when something felt wrong. I was convinced my parents and teachers knew better than me, so I duly de-valued and ignored my emotional self, believing that at worst it was evidence of a terrible flaw, and at the least, unimportant.

I was wrong. My blood pressure confirms it.  Emotions are the body’s natural expressions of our instinctual, archetypal selves. If we’re hungry we feel anxious or irritable. If we see blood we feel fear. If someone says something mean to us we feel hurt or angry. If an object of our affection rejects us for another we feel jealousy and pain. If someone thwarts our desire we resent them. When someone dies we feel sad. These are powerful physical realities that every human experiences and there’s nothing wrong with them.

The ugliest emotion we can feel is as worthy of our attention as the noblest. This doesn’t mean we need to express or act on it, but it does mean that knowing what we feel and where the feeling comes from is good for us. And it means that engaging in practices that reduce the strength of unhealthy emotions and replace them with healthy ones—like acceptance, gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion for ourselves and others—is essential to the healthy functioning of our bodies and souls and has everything to do with the quality of our lives. As Deepak Chopra says: “It is up to you to keep the messages that course through your body positive instead of negative.  No other duty in life is as important or vital to your health and well-being.”

The latest data: When I returned home today after the funeral of a friend, my pressure was 130/83.  After finishing this post two hours later it was 115/78.

First image credit:  Feeling sad and lonely by ppawelczak of deviantART

My new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

Obsessing About Stressing October 2, 2012

The other night I dreamed an entire blog post. I woke up a few times thinking, “Yay! This will be a good one!” but dozed off again before writing anything down. When the alarm rang we jumped up and raced off to our grandchildren’s soccer, baseball, and volleyball games. By the time I thought about my dream it had snuck into that place where unremembered dreams hide. I sure wish I could find that place. I hate losing a good idea for a post. But I’m trying not to stress over it.

I used to think I was very laid back, but lately I’m reconsidering: partly due to an excess of traveling, and partly because I had my annual checkup last week and my doctor questioned my alleged “white coat syndrome.” My mother, a nurse, would have dismissed it with, “Pooh! It’s all in your head!” But, hey! What’s in your head is still real, right? It’s even been written up in medical journals! It’s when your blood pressure reaches a hypertensive average in an office setting but not at home. Oddly, people with this condition don’t exhibit signs of trepidation. That’s me. I don’t feel anxious or get palpitations, but put me in a room with a white coat and my blood pressure soars.

I’ve known this since I volunteered to be a guinea pig in my high school anatomy lab. After a quizzical look and two re-checks, my teacher sent me back to my desk with a vague, “Oh, you’re probably feeling a bit excited,” before quickly changing the subject. Now I always warn the nurse.

My goal is a reading no higher than 130 over 80. Last week I felt perfectly calm but it was 161 over 94! Yet I always get normal numbers at those blood pressure machines in the grocery store! Weird. But, good patient that I am, I bought a blood pressure monitor. After recording the numbers I note what I was doing before I checked it because I’m curious to see if there are any patterns. So far, out of 25 readings my average is a perfectly respectable 125/76.

And yes, I’ve found a pattern. The six lowest readings averaged 110/70. Of these, two were taken immediately after I’d written long e-mails to friends, one after playing Words With Friends on my I-phone, two after being with my children and grandchildren, and one after checking my social media sites. I love it! All six had to do with positive interactions with family or friends! Conversely, the highest reading, 149/87, was taken after I’d spent an hour trying to figure out how to edit my e-mail signature! That time I didn’t need to take my blood pressure to know I was stressed!

So what gems of self-knowledge have I mined from this little science experiment?

1.  My ego may believe I’m not afraid to die, but somewhere in my unconscious (probably next door to the Cave for Unremembered Dreams) lives a part of me that fears the things I associate with doctors: physical vulnerability, suffering, mortality. More “proof” of this split-off part: an hour ago while I was writing about white coat syndrome my blood pressure rose to 137/86! Now that I’m almost finished with this post, it’s down to 128/73!

2.  I love how easy my computer makes blogging and writing to friends, but it also has a sick technological side. Obviously, I need a computer doctor! No one with a white coat need apply.

3.  Balancing work I love with good relationships is the best medicine I know for stress.

I just took my blood pressure again. It’s 122/71! (Am I obsessing? Should I worry about bursting blood vessels in my left arm?)

My new book, Healing the Sacred Divide, can be found at www.Amazon.com or www.larsonpublications.com.

 

 
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