When something happened to put my nervous system through a grinder for a two or three hours last night, and I observed the effect it very quickly had on my physiology, it got me deeply understanding something (in action) that I had been pondering over (in theory) for quite a few days. It was one of those situations that teenagers unwittingly put us parents through quite regularly, when they say they are going to keep you informed when travelling somewhere (alone, late at night) and they don’t and you worry yourself sick…until they pop up, two hours late, to say “I’m fine, why all the fuss”. By then, it was all too late for my nervous system, which felt like a fire hose of electric energy had blasted through it, leaving fires smoldering in all the “rooms” of my body. I knew all the symptoms all too well, though I seldom get put through these paces any more. In fact, I realised, it had been quite a long while since I felt like this before trying to retire my super-charged body to bed; it used to be a whole way of life to feel like this at least once a week and, in a second, it was like I was transported back there…to those nightmare friday evenings of my early adulthood. I had to be impressed by the momentum I witnessed as massive amounts of cortisol seemed to come out of nowhere and super-saturate my whole nervous system to the point I was forced into the passenger seat of my own, normally, fairly balanced control room to be taken for a ride and there was almost nothing I could do, or so it seemed…
For the twelve years of my first long relationship in my twenties and early thirties, highly traumatic emotional bust-ups were a regular finale to a week at work as my partner would drink to excess and all sorts of awfulness would surface to belie the completely different quality of coexistence that was mostly there during our day-to-day life together. On those nights, if we were together, he could be horrible; like a different person. If we weren’t together, or he had just wandered off as he sometimes did, I was put through the scenario of fretting over him being missing, in the middle of the night or early hours of dawn; left to imagine him blindly-inebriated behind the wheel of his car, or even worse scenarios than that since he knew no fear or boundaries when he had had too much to drink. There were times I would phone around pubs, hospitals or friends to try and piece together what had happened to him; and all the time, my body held rigid with tension and that cold sweat that comes from deeply immersing into worst-case scenarios for hour upon hour whilst feeling just so helpless or unable to distract myself with sleep or anything else.
By the next day, we would act as though nothing had happened; in fact I would try to compensate by making things seem even more “normal” than ever in the hope of preventing a repeat. This was partly because, when he returned, he would get so angry at all the fuss and I would try to explain to him, in vain, that I couldn’t be all on and then off again. He wanted me to love him with everything that I had, to fuss and take care of him every day but then to give him space and be all basé when he went missing without explanation. This was a grown man with responsibilities and (in the end) a young daughter and yet he was behaving like an out-of-control teenager, which took a terrible toll on me and my nerves. In the end, I was almost chronically unable to express anger, for all its force bubbled inside of me after so many years of lop-sided relationship, and I was on the brink of collapsing into chronic illness, which happened within two years. I have spent the past 12 years in recovery; and quite an adventure that has been as I have unpicked the mechanics of my health through all the deeper layers. Part of that healing journey included a phase where I vented all that unspoken anger in some highly cathartic ways and yet I have been left with the same foible-istic “wiring” to my nervous system, which, in fact, I suspect I developed as a very young infant or earlier.
With our kids, they literally don’t understand this finely tuned balance where we have no choice but to be involved in their affairs, plus they want us to be there for them on tap when it suits them (my daughter had been reporting every step of her journey to me…until she so-abruptly stopped texting or answering her phone last night, leaving me to draw all sorts of conclusions). To them, its a case of getting distracted or having other priorities while we can’t help ourselves but live vicariously through them…as my mother did through me yet finding it all too fast paced and alarming second-hand. Blissful ignorance would be less painful than being dragged, via social media and mobile phones, through lives that are far more frenetic and spontaneous than we ever coped with (or, if we did, we’ve long since forgotten how we managed to do that). As our kids become more independent and experimental, its like our nervous system gets taken for a ride through all the vicissitudes of a teenage landscape and this can be oh-so tough on any set of nerves but not least those of a person to whom neuralgia is already a daily ride through weird and wonderful kinds of pain. With sinking heart, I knew from all the signs in my body, as I tried to calm myself sufficiently, for what was now a very late bedtime for me, with lemon balm and a guided mediation plugged into my ears, that I was now on some sort of conveyor belt towards a wall with which I was likely to crash before morning, yet I felt like I had no way of stopping it. My body’s automatic responses to this degree of worry had gone into overdrive and I was in the driver’s seat of a runaway train whose brakes had just failed. It was this that led into my morning insights.
Because I have been reading a book, refered to already a couple of times in my posts, called “The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion: How Feelings Link the Brain, the Body and the Emotions” by Michael A Jawer. Its turning out to be a very fascinating book because it deals with the oft-overlooked or underplayed aspect of electricity in the body. This interests me very much as all my health issues seem to be about this phenomenon of electricity; whether it’s the sense that I am, somehow, more electrically charged than the average person or more sensitive to it in my environment, as I most certainly am. In this book, Jawer explores how undealt-with emotion caused by trauma becomes trapped in the body if not processed appropriately (and this last factor could be to do with “wiring” issues due to certain childhood factors, such as trauma inherited in-utero or a lack of being held as a baby plus, of course, other traumas that happen during life but which aren’t processed appropriately at the time they happen). He describes such emotion as being like a “vortex of energy”, or a stone of emotion held in the body with nowhere to go, which feels exactly right. To me, the image conjured up is of a marble inside a jar with the lid tightly screwed on; it can roll around all over the place, clink-clack against the sides, but never gets to be released. Most interesting of all, he talks about how in some cases, which correlate with PTSD, this stone becomes “so compact, so self-contained, that the stream effectively learns to flow around it”. In other words, its possible to hold these very deep traumas which impact the physiology in powerful, often baffling, ways and yet the person can seemingly carry on, not even measuring high levels of cortisol in tests (as has been the case for me, to the bafflement of all in spite of other symptoms that seem to suggest stress-reactions going off all over the place). The trip wire is that, in very specific circumstances which, presumably, don’t flow around this “stone” of unprocessed emotion but which crash into it head-on, their cortisol levels surge way-up high, racking their body with all kinds of extreme symptoms; which feels exactly what I had going on last night…a sort of bodily re-run of trauma from many years before.
Now, absorb for a moment that emotion is electricity-in-motion; which is the name of the game where energy is concerned. Energy is designed to move and, though it can never just disappear, it can be transferred or exchanged but in, order to move, it needs to have the facility to do so. But what if that electricity is, as it were, trapped into a closed system that holds onto it, very tightly, almost by design. Jawer explores why certain people might not process emotions appropriately as children and then into adulthood, causing them to hold onto energy instead of it being a free-flowing system of interchange with the outside world. This helped to make me very aware of how, as that fourth child in a family where I felt like a bit of a spare part and with parents who didn’t welcome a lot of fuss (as mentioned in my post Held), I learned to keep all my emotions in check. I also went through many years of being bullied where I learned, the hard way, that pretending this wasnt happening to me was preferable to getting parents or teachers involved, which only escalated the problem the one time I tried it, so I dealt with this highly traumatic, long-lasting situation for years without letting out even much of a hint of what was going on to my family. In my mid-twenties, I was sexually abused yet, by monday morning, had locked that up so tightly that I managed to go to work as normal and act as though it never happened (something that has always bewildered me and which I even used to try and convince myself it “didn’t really happen” or was “my fault”). I then put myself into similar precarious situations which, in hindsight, was a subconscious attempt to make sense of the first event; a phenomenon that Jawer talks about in his book. In fact, I seemed a glutton for punishment at times; something else which really baffled me in hindsight.
It was like, after all this time, I had come to regard myself as emotionally numb and had to keep sticking pins in myself to test if there was anybody in there. Even to myself and to this day, I always feel incredibly calm; very seldom do my emotional waters run high, nor do I feel stressed or over-wrought most of the time…in fact I am calmer than most. This, in fact, seems to be the problem with some of us that are wired this way; Jawer talks about a whole subset of such folk who present for tests and baffle doctors with a lack of meaningful results to explain their obvious health issues, the only give away to the most eagle-eyed of doctors being, in fact, their ultra low levels of cortisol in daily life, which seems to be a trait. But then, occasionally, some over-the-top physiological reactions occur in response to certain scenarios that are particularly meaningful to us, in the way of emotional triggers around some undealt-with event from our past. And while that emotional trigger can be worked on in the usual ways, the hard-wiring that has often occurred around them feels more lasting and tricky; or so it feels in my case since, long after the necessary processing has been done around various traumas, I feel as though my body still reacts differently to energy, compared to the average person. This could be to do with those changes to the HPA axis (hippocampus-pituitary-adrenal axis), in early childhood, described by Jawer in his book, due to factors refered to in my post Held, which I strongly related to when I read about them. These extreme responses to certain triggers seem to be hard-wired into the very way our physiology now processes electricity, which seems to become modified to accommodate whatever trauma is living in there, like a permanent voltage load that we carry in all our cells. I’m left with the question, will I ever be able to bring that load down in order to experience a more “normal” range of sensations or is this me now; will I always start out “more electric” than the average person, thus having to be mindful of how much extra-burden I take on so as not to over-step the limit of what my nerves can handle?
In that first long relationship, as above, it became a learned thing to keep my emotions in check as it made for an easier life, or so I thought. Perhaps if this entrainment hadn’t come from my earliest experiences as a baby, when to cry or fuss was only ever going to backfire for me in a household with already too much going on around older siblings and an over-wrought mother, then I might have broken out of this pattern but it became part of me to hold my feelings tightly inside of myself come what may. This is to my detriment as people sometimes complain to this day that they have no idea what is going on behind my über calm exterior or that am cold or disengaged. I am what Jawer refers to as the “Type C personality”; those who
“are outwardly calm and unexpressive, preferring to keep their feelings underwraps…yet their bodily functioning betrays them. From heart rate to muscle tension to skin conductance, they show unmistakable signs of a bodymind that is still grappling with issues of feeling, that wants to discharge its ossified energy and acknowledge the full extent of its humanity”.
This has been my major work-in-progress of the last twelve years’ consciousness-growth era, during which I have pushed myself further and further in terms of self-expression through writing and art, even in friendships and other relationships and publicly owning my truth over animal welfare including the veganism that is close to my heart, provocative as this can be amongst those who disagree. Yet the pitfall is that, within all these years of fibromyalgia and other “fringe” health conditions that few people relate to or take seriously, I have learned once again to seem to be perfectly fine at times when I have been in terrible pain or really struggling…since what was the point of trying to explain myself, worrying anyone else, or drama-ing up what I was going through, which would only make me even more aware of my own health crisis and all the panic and pain going on inside of me. In this, I detect another catch twenty-two since it is the fact that I don’t process emotion optimally that has, most likely, led to so much illness in the first place; my body now brittle like the jar in my earlier analogy. I see how fifty years of living to this pattern has made me into this “jar”, with the hard “marble” of emotion tinkling around inside of me, going nowhere; but at least I am now aware of this in a way that has only become more starkly apparent over the last few years (which, I suspect, is half the battle in dealing with it) and these new insights, via Jawer’s book, take my understanding one step further.
I share all this because we have all, to some extent, learned to be this way as a modern way of life. Step into any corporate office and you will encounter a sea of dead-pan faces where deep waters of trauma underlie the surface of lives made to look pristine with the “stuff” we wear, do, possess and put out onto social media, in order to give that all-important impression of everything being “just fine”. Our most ruffled surfaces are equated with failure and illness, with letting things slide or “the side” down. We carry this artificially put-together profile seamlessly into our family lives, where enquiries such as “how are you?” are met with responses that are as shallow as they are untrue. We let our hair down in ways that equate to all the excesses of a materialistic way of life but how often do we really let out how we are feeling, warts and all? This epidemic of thinking that it is so cool to keep our emotions in check underlies the epidemic of chronic illnesses that hit us in our middle years and, increasingly, much sooner in what began as such promising lives…because there is no free-flow to our emotions and we become electrically charged, to a detrimental degree. I’m convinced that this underlies, certainly, the majority of my health ailments and probably at least the beginnings of most of those afflicting people living the western-style lifestyle. We become like a circuit board that is about to blow and we defy the laws of science existing like this until, at some point, we melt all our insides.
When we get to that point, a degree of catch twenty-two comes into play because we feel we can’t let out all this charge that we carry, for fear of going “boom” if we did. And we can’t deal with other people’s emotions; so we become hyper-sensitive to all their “stuff” too, like one single volt of it would be enough to tip us over the edge. So we spark slightly (most of the time) and we burn out…in our work lives, on the commute, when we are angry stuck in traffic, in our family dramas and mostly in our health. Excuse the whacko-science theory but I believe there is some truth to the fact that wi-fi feels too much for me to be around (I can’t bear it…) because all those cross-signals are heavily loaded with people’s emotions, invisibly smogging up the air. Imagine all that teenage angst and kitchen-sink drama that is now flooding our homes and our bodies, having penetrated through our walls, our bones and our cellular matter, coming at all angles from the direction of every neighbour, every passing car and every two individuals whose conversation is happening with us positioned between where they happen to be. To someone who is in free-flowing motion in their own energy field, this is probably not such a great problem but when we are already up to bursting point ourselves, it can be the straw the breaks the camels back. Jawer talks about how people with this kind of nervous system are prone to experiencing examples of anomalous perception. These include experiencing poltergeist or ghosts and other so-called paranormal experiences, phantom pain (as often experienced by people who are missing a limb, for instance) and being sensitive to all sorts of environmental factors that remain off other people’s radar, such as other people’s emotions or experiencing electrical “crackles” and other bizarre sensations in response to geomagnetic variables and space weather events; all of which I am hugely responsive to. When we look at all of this in the context of electricity and the need for that electricity to move, it all starts to make such a lot of sense and I recommend reading the book for far more depth than I am able to impart with this short taster; I really have been glued to this book for all the relatability I am finding with the kind of experiences it covers.
What I’m mainly wanting to do, in the light of my week, is to explore the topic of “stuck emotions” and what effect the lost ability to process these can have on our health. In my case, that lost ability is so chronic that it goes back to the very beginning of my life, probably further. I mentioned in my post Held about how my mother didn’t hold me so very much, or have that much time for me, as a baby and young child but, I newly realise, that wasnt because she lacked emotion. On the contrary, she was very quick to prick tears, though the sounds she would make when she became emotional would always sounds like she was resisting it with all her might and like it was strangling her as it reached her throat; you could tell she did her utmost to suppress it. As a family, we all learned to intellectualise our feelings when my siblings and I were growing up; something I know I still do (look at my blog-writing as example in full view) but we didn’t let it be raw as it came out or shout it to the skies. We even loved with our left hemispheres, taking our love as “given” and in no need of demonstration, except through day-to-day acts of consideration, so little room made for sentiment. Yet in her later life, my mother started to show affection more (towards her grown-up children who were already lost-causes in their lack of demonstration) and she would then prick tears quite readily, at least around me, so I came to know her as extremely sentimental and affected by many things. I also think she was entrained out of showing it for most of her life (as was I ) by her particular upbringing, which was challenging and regimental due to my grandfather’s career as a military RSM. There was no room for high displays of emotion-showing in an upbringing like that; in fact, they were probably regarded as weakness.
I also suspect she was going through a very great deal of largely hiden emotion when she was carrying me due to the circumstance that my father was gravely unwell at that time plus a few other factors spinning out of that. It occurred to me that, perhaps, I had a greater access to her emotions when I was inside of her womb since that was where she held all her emotions….deeply, on the inside. Perhaps that was the why there was such a dire shock in store for me, when I was born; only to find that I no longer seemed to have ready access to all that emotion that I had felt to be coming from her, in utero. It must have felt like I was about to be parented by a grand-opera diva, full of florid expressiveness…and arrived to find she had transformed into someone considerably less demonstrative; did I even recognise her? So what if this is another factor in the pre-wiring of people who grow up so painfully sensitive yet bizarrely locked up in their ability to express their own emotions. Did this, potentially, come from the example set to them by a parent who kept all their own emotions in abeyance on the outside (for all they were so detectable on the inside); meaning we are taught, in the womb, to internalise and never release what is held so deeply in our cells or “the emotional body”, as these are often collectively termed. We learn this internalisation process as normal and so we keep that family trait going. I’ve been such a great advocate of “flow” in all of my writing and health-exploring, even my painting and philosophising around the sacred feminine over the past few years and yet, I find, it is still detrimentally absent in my own physiology; how ironic is that.
So how do I get to flow my emotions through my cells more efficiently, more quickly…just, generally, more? Things spring to mind, such as laughter and sex, music and creativity as modalities of encouraging this kind of flow to occur (and they do; as I’ve found at all the times I’ve used these for my own wellbeing and health). At times when I know I have been particularly caught up on the inside, I see those signs in the way that I tear-up over little things…pieces of music or a film I’m watching, leading to far more emotional release than I would have expected from that one small thing. This happened to me recently, when my husband was away and I had a cold, and I just seemed to cry for three of four minutes at a time, over little things, and then I would feel better for a while; a series of releases, one after another, like energy bubbles popping at the surface. Something which I have found particularly useful and which, in fact, made all the difference to me this morning when I first woke with a body racked in pain, is CBD. Using three squirts of this, instead of my usual one to two, held under the tongue for as long as possible, allowed me to fall back into a deep, relaxed sleep and feel somewhat repaired from the mini-trauma of the night before when I woke up again. Looking back at how I used to take such routine, often weekly, emotional-domestic traumas through my body with nothing like that to help support me, except for alcohol (which would have only made it worse…), makes me flinch at the memory; like the thought of a car trying to continue its journey on flat tyres, rubbing metal on tarmac until it starts to spark and burn what’s left of the rubber. These days, I use lemon balm, licorice and a whole array of other herbs in support of my recovery process when the nervous system feels sore but the best medicine for the last few years, by far, has been having the kind of relationship that remains steady and supportive through thick and thin, with no rude surprises or unnecessary emotional traumas, and with the ability to discuss absolutely anything that comes to mind.
If only all our relationships and circumstances could be like that. Yet I know the next step has to be to move beyond avoidance of situations that might rack my nervous system with alarm and far too much transient electricity, on top of my pre-wired load, into territory where that can happen and I can still cope with it, due to a physiology that is robust enough to process emotions through and out the other side…without leaving the glowing embers of destruction throughout my entire body. To get to this, I know I have to consciously take in hand the rewiring of a nervous system that designed itself to be covert, private, self-protected and almost pathologically undesirous of putting other people into awkward situations; this being one of my worst failings, which is an ingrained belief that I must not be a bother or embarrassment to other people. I have to make the expressing of my emotions a number-one priority and not something that I hold in abeyance for any of the above reasons. This will take some radical alterations in the way I handle situations, as they arise, one by one and, like anyone else tackling this, I will have to learn how “on the job”.
A main thing to be wary of is how the mind is prone to replaying something that just happened, on continuous loop, for hours or even days afterwards, which re-traumatises the nervous system over and over again, multiplying the collateral. Now, when something happens, I know the first step is to get it into perspective and that means putting my needs at the very front of anything else going on. Then to let go of anything that I can’t change with my direct actions. The next is to remember to breathe and take mitigating steps to calm my whole nervous system down (whether with herbs, CBD, meditation or whatever) and the next is to press stop on the reruns of what just happened in my mind. If I can distract or defuse with laughter, happy sex (with a loving partner)…or even both at the same time, if appropriate…light-hearted and uplifting music, a change of focus, creative hobbies where these are used to process emotions through (not obsessive-compulsions that hide or bury them)….and so on… then I know I can sweep up any signs of damage off the floor and make amends to my nerves pretty quickly. I’m conscious of what food and drink I consume as this impacts the entire chain reaction of how food and oxygen is converted into energy in my cells. I take care of my heart as a priority, through all of these approaches and more (being ever mindful of the fact that, as Jawer reminded me, “MGCs show the heart to be five thousand times more electromagnetically powerful than the brain” so prioritising heart-care is one massive leap to resolving the flow of emotion-as-energy in the body).
Above all, I need to let out how I truly feel about something as it happens…not in a vindictive way but just enough to make my part heard, even if not responded to…and then move on. You could call this electricity in flow – e-flow; which sounds like some new-age kind of energy and, in terms of fuelling my future wellbeing, I suppose it is. So far so good; although I feel extra tired today, I can’t believe how quickly my body has recovered from the upset of last night and the amount of pain I first woke in this morning, which tells me I am into a new phase; so, who says you can’t teach a fifty year-old new tricks. Except, this is no trick but, rather, a very real and effective way of being that feels so much more comfortable than what I was used to before and it’s still early days.