There is an emotional connection to physical pain. Before I became a massage therapist, I was just a person that was trying to figure out what was going on with my body. I began by trying to find the answer through Google, but I didn’t know what to put into the search.
I kept trying things like, your emotions and your health, but I wasn’t finding any concrete answers. I would find things that were put up on sites as a joke, or some romantic fantasy; or just some general statements from the medical community about how your emotions could affect your health, but nothing concrete.
But when I thought about one of my favorite artists, Phyllis Hyman, a beautiful, young, and gifted vocalist, who actually died from a broken heart, that said a lot to me about how much emotions can affect the body, especially the emotions tied to depression.
I had been in the office of one of the few chiropractors that I would recommend, and I saw a bottle that said in bold letters, “ANGER.” I approached the bottle, because I had never seen “bottled anger” before, and I could hardly believe my eyes. The label on this bottle further stated that the Liver was the organ affected by anger. This natural supplement was supposed to help in counteracting the damage anger causes to the liver.
My chiropractor stated that I didn’t need any of that. He said it was a crutch, yet I was curious. You see, I was having a problem with my liver…and, I was angry. At that time in my life, I was a very angry person. People that know me now can’t believe it, and are amazed when I tell them what a hellcat I was back then.
My job was tedious, monotonous; a bore-fest. My employer was the post office; a place that puts on a nice face for their public P.R. campaigns, but is a nightmare to work for behind the walls of their postal storefronts.
There was no internal customer service. The managers were nepotiously appointed, and were not communicators, nor well trained in employee interactions. They were petty and vindictive, and constantly violated major employment laws, like family leave. I was constantly fighting them, in fact, as far as I was concerned, we were at war.
On top of that, I worked with people who were constantly trying to rip me to shreds because I was different. Ever since my father had retired from the military, and we moved to Florida, I had been in a constant battle over my identity; not for acceptance, but just for some basic respect. All during high school, I was attacked by African Americans because according to them, I wasn’t black enough.
Years later, it was still an issue as an adult, as one particular female came right out with her reasons for not liking me. According to her statement of jealousy as we both sat in front of the superintendent of my shift, who also happened to be African American; my skin was too light, my nose was too small and straight, my lips were too small and my hair was too long. Yet according to her next statement, she didn’t have to like me to work with me because she was a professional. And her “professionalism” was the very reason we were both seated in the superintendent’s office.
Another jealous woman attacked me because according to her, I wasn’t black enough because I wasn’t wearing the right colored underwear under my white pants. According to this nasty woman and her cliché, “black people wear black underwear under white pants.” My offense was so dastardly. How dare I wear white underwear under white pants?
After her first attempt to humiliate me failed; I refused to be swayed or influenced by her or her consorts, and did not acquiesce with my attire; they stepped up their efforts. They actually enlisted every female on my shift, whether white, black, Latino or Asian. They told all the women to wear white pants on that Saturday. The plan was to demonstrate to me how ridiculous it was for someone black to wear white underwear under white pants. Can you believe that?
All the African American women were supposed to wear the white underwear, and bring a change with them. The white, Latino and Asian women wear supposed to wear black underwear under their white pants and bring a change with them as well. They’d show me.
The plan was in place. All the women except one Christian participated. I knew nothing of the plan until she told me about it the following Monday. Spoiler alert. The one thing missing from their well contrived plan was…me. Saturday was my regular day off.
I had missed “The Great Underwear-off,” the name I dubbed their ridiculous plan upon hearing about it on Monday. When my friend told me about it, I said, “Well, I’m both black and white; in fact I’m a 7 nationality mix. Guess I’m supposed to wear grey. Who cares anyway.”
Apparently they did. They had expended all that effort to humiliate me for nothing. Still, it didn’t deter them one bit. Once again, I was seated in the superintendent’s office, because this same nasty woman that initiated this nonsense had reported me for wearing, “obscene” clothing. That’s how far this insanity went. Is it any wonder that I was an angry person back then?
Furthermore, at the time I inquired about that “bottled anger,” I was also still hurting from my divorce. It was in that year of hell following the separation from my ex-husband, that the pain had started. I remember being so stressed, more than ever before.
I was suspended from work in one of several attempts by the management to terminate me, which they eventually did, albeit, illegally. The drastic change in my finances caused a forced change in my living situation, twice, with a two year old child in tow, and no child support.
When the pain started it was sharp. Crippling, actually. We were walking up the bridge over the intercoastal to get to the beach for fireworks on the Fourth of July. I was toting my son on my back when the pain hit, causing me to double over, nearly dropping my son, and clutching the bridge guard rail for support. Mom insisted I get it checked.
After a Cat Scan, Liver/Spleen test and an MRI, all the doctor could determine was that there was a mass on my liver. They even stuck the longest, largest needle I’ve ever seen into my liver to get a sample. Fortunately, it was benign. It was a mysterious cluster of cells just hanging around, reacting to my emotional distress. Whenever I got really angry or really stressed, I had very sharp pain.
The chiropractor I went to was spiritually gifted; so he fed my spirit first, and then used a laser he had built to feed light into my liver. After that, the pain dissipated. But it was the culmination of experiences like these that started me on the path to trying to find the connections to pain, especially once I became a therapist.
When I started searching, I couldn’t find any information until one day when I went to see my acupuncturist. After telling him my theory, the acupuncturist gave me the right key words to search for, and I located the information I had been searching for. In addition, I learned more about this theory of mine while in massage school. After searching this out, I realized that both good or happy emotions, as well as negative, angry emotions can affect your body and are variables of pain.
For instance, there was a woman that came in to one spa where I worked. She stated that she was always so stressed and that her muscles were very tight. She said that she could never seem to get rid of this tightness. She tried to relax while I was working on her, and I did release her muscles a bit in the short time she gave me to work on her.
However, I soon realized why she was so full of tension and stress. As soon as she came out of the massage, she went to the desk and began to complain to the receptionist. I had walked away for a minute, but when I came back, I did not interject into the conversation, because I wasn’t 100% sure that she was actually complaining. I got the details from the receptionist after she left. Her complaint? She claimed I had shorted her on the time. In actuality, I had given her additional time that I did not have to give.
Her complaint was that I had cut her short 5 minutes. However, she apparently was not aware that when you book a massage for say, 60 minutes; that time includes the time it takes for you to undress and dress again, as well as any consultation time prior to the massage.
I had not cheated her at all, but in fact, gave her five minutes above that time by not stopping five minutes before the end of the massage. But she was at the desk fretting and stressing and complaining over 5 minutes. This is why she was always “so tight.” This is why she carried so much stress…she was a control freak that was constantly complaining about everything. You could tell that she was this type of person because of how she expressed her expectations.
Another client, who apparently was aware that emotions can cause pain in the body; came to me asking me to eliminate the pain in her back which she said was caused by anger. She was still grieving, as she had lost her daughter a year previously. However, she was angry because her son-in-law refused to allow her to see her grandchildren.
As she explained this to me, she burst into tears, stating that I must think she was crazy. I assured her that she was not; in fact, she was closer to the truth of the matter and understanding than most of the clients I work on.
She said that she was a teacher, and taught kindergarten aged children. School was about to start, and she said that all this anger was stored in her back. She couldn’t start the school year and be around the children with all this anger in her. She needed me to release it, and I did.
She cried all during the session as a flood of wounded emotions came out of her in a Somatic release. When I was done releasing all that anger and grief from her body, she was smiling and laughing again.
For this reason, we need to look at our emotions as a source of the pain we feel even if we have sustained an injury; because much of this sort of pain is stored in the muscles. This stored pain can pull the muscles, tightening them and possibly misaligning the structure in such a way that would lead to injury if enough trauma occurred. Thus the effect of our emotions must be examined and incorporated into our efforts to find the source of our pain, because we can only fully, and naturally address our pain problems when we recognize the real causes.