by Reya Kost, PsyD

As a therapist, one of my favorite ways of exploring a charged emotional experience with a client is to ask “where do you feel it in your body?”  It is a fascinating exploration when you add questions like what color is it? Does it have texture or temperature? Do you notice any movement?  I believe this technique helps to conceptualize emotion as something more than just an abstract concept.  It brings to awareness the fact that we, as humans, have a multi-faceted experience of emotion.

Sigmund Freud first discussed the subconscious mind and suggested that when we repress emotion and/or trauma it later emerges as physical and mental illness.  More recently, famed neuroscientist, Candace Pert, PhD said that your body IS your subconscious mind.  Her work illustrated how emotion is generated in cells all over the body, not just in the brain.  She used the term bodymind to explain that there simply was not separation between mind, emotional experience, and the body.  Dr. Pert supported Freud’s theory when she explained that unexpressed emotions are stored in the cells where they are generated, which can cause physical illness.

Researchers in Finland have recently mapped the experience of emotion in the body and provided a fantastic visual reference for the ideas Dr. Pert discussed.  The graphic below is specific body maps for various emotions.

[Research paper: doi: 10.1073/pnas.1321664111 – “Bodily maps of emotions”. Open access.]

It stands to reason then, that processing past experiences is vitally important as it allows that stored information to be expressed and released.  Also critical to sustained well-being is learning to express and tolerate emotions as they occur…being in tune with your body and learning how it communicates allows us to work through emotions as they happen and avoid build-up or storage that will cause problems down the road.

If you are interested in learning more about how the body communicates, join us for a workshop! Learn more about our workshops.