Do you find yourself holding on to old protective and destructive mental patterns?
According to Ayurveda, toxic emotions, known as mental ama, are created in the mind as a means of self-preservation. Such emotions can create destructive behavioral patterns that can linger for a lifetime.
We spend years of our life trying to change our minds, to free ourselves from emotional pain, often times with little success. The reason changing the mind is so difficult is because these emotions, while created in the mind, have actually taken up permanent residence in the cells – not just in the mind but all over the body!
So, to change your mind and break out of old destructive patterns of behavior, you must first dig these emotions out of the body on a cellular level.
Research at the National Institute of Health has now proven the existence of mental ama (toxins), in the form of emotional chemicals trapped deep in the cells throughout the body.
Read on to find out how to root out old emotional pain!
How Do Emotions Get Stored?
Pent-up childhood emotions like anger, jealousy and grief often get repressed and then store deep within the cells as “molecules of emotion.”
Childhood traumas, as well as pent-up emotions like anger, jealousy and grief, are often repressed because the child may not feel safe expressing them. We often judge these emotions as “bad,” and we do our best to stuff these so-called negative emotions while making every effort to express only the positive sentiments.
When we choose not to express emotions like anger, resentment, emotional pain or sorrow, they store deep within the cells as old memories, also known as mental ama or “molecules of emotions,” a term coined by the renowned researcher Candace Pert.* According to her research, these repressed emotions alter the flow of the body’s information network, compromising immunity, mood and energy.*
Pent up emotions also block blood flow to parts of the brain, says Pert,* since this blood flow is regulated by small information (emotion) carrying peptides.
Hug and Cuddle Away the Emotional Pain
Safe and supportive touch like hugging and snuggling with loved ones has been shown to support healing of the signs of trauma and depression.
In one study, a group of monkeys were raised without the natural nursing, cuddling and touch of their mothers. Not surprisingly, they all quickly showed signs of trauma and depression.
They were cured when researchers brought in what they called a “monkey hug therapist,” an older monkey who constantly held and cuddled with the stressed out and depressed baby monkeys.*
The Cortisol Connection
Any type of trauma, whether it be physical or emotional, will surge cortisol into the blood from the adrenals. If the trauma is repeated or chronic—as it often is with emotional stress—the receptors for handling the stress become overwhelmed. The receptors break down, and thus fail to function or send feedback to the brain that there is enough stress hormones and to turn them off!*
As a result, the levels of stress hormone releasing factors rise to dangerous levels. In one study, cortisol releasing factor was tenfold higher in severely depressed or traumatized individuals’ brains compared to those not stressed nor depressed.* Excess cortisol has been linked to most every type of chronic disease.
Decreased Blood Flow = Mental Fogginess and Poor Decision-Making
The blood flow to the brain is also regulated by these emotional peptides. We know that people become white as a ghost when they are frightened and red as a beet when angered. But, research has shown that if this emotional charge is caused by a repressed emotion, denial or trauma, blood flow can become chronically constricted.*
This can shut down blood to the frontal lobes, which is where most of the emotional peptides are found. This lack of blood flow to the frontal lobes as well as other parts of the body can affect mental clarity and the ability to handle stress and make decisions well.
A Vicious Cycle
When emotions are felt and not expressed, they can block the flow of chemical information through the cellular receptors. When these information systems break down, emotions get stuffed and traumatic molecules of emotion cannot be released or processed. This blocks the natural processing of emotions and the free flow of hormones, neurotransmitters and other information-carrying chemicals found in the immune and endocrine (hormone) systems, as well as the brain.
Rooting Out Old Emotions
Self-massage is one great way to get the benefits of “touch therapy,” an entry point for repairing emotionally-damaged receptors found in the skin.
Based on this research, the only “bad” emotion is the one that is not expressed. Does that mean we should scream and yell while throwing pots and pans? While that might help and be healthier than suppressing those feelings, it rarely completely solves our problems.
That’s because anger is rarely a core emotion – it typically is a reaction to a deeper underlying issue. For this, Ayurveda prescribes a process of “critical analysis” or “self-inquiry” to root out the underlying issue.
To achieve the same result, Dr. Pert has discovered the value of touch therapies to gain access to these emotional issues. Dr. Pert found that the entry points for repairing these emotionally-damaged receptors are found in the skin, spine and organs. The skin is accessed through touch – including hugs, cuddling and massage. The spine is accessed most directly through massage, chiropractic, craniosacral therapies, and other touch therapies.
So, while being a little touchy-feely might rub you the wrong way, a life without it just might deny you access to a healthy body and mind.
Touch and Other Therapies
Throughout Dr. Pert’s research, she makes constant reference to “touch therapies” as a critical piece of the emotional repair puzzle. She also discusses meditation, breathing, diet, yoga, exercise, and many other modalities also taught as a part of Ayurveda.
Remember: the only reason Ayurveda exists is to help balance the body in order to increase the mental clarity needed to free oneself from old repressed and harmful emotions. It is the key to unlock both perfect health as well as spiritual wellbeing.
Ayurvedic Touch Therapy
Perhaps the most popular and effective touch therapy in Ayurveda is a daily self-massage called Abhyanga. This can be a quick oil massage in the shower, or a more elaborate and classical Daily Ayurvedic Massage.
The most elaborate of Ayurvedic touch therapies is called Panchakarma, which was originally reserved only for the royalty.
Dr. John Douillard, DC has written and produced numerous health and fitness books, CDs, and DVDs. He has been teaching and lecturing internationally for 25 years and publishes a free wellness video-newsletter filled with the latest studies and research. He was the Director of Player Development for the New Jersey Nets in the NBA and currently directs the LifeSpa- Ayurvedic Retreat Center in Boulder, CO, where he lives with his wife and six children.