Emotion, Pain and Your Body

Here’s the Problem…

“Our emotional selves were intended to evolve and grow like
our bodies and minds do. But, just as the firm collar that
stabilizes a young sapling will eventually
 strangle the
adult tree if not removed, emotional constraints

intended to protect us when we were young,
as well as
 the painful emotional residue
from early life trauma,
 can severely
restrict us, preventing us

from ever evolving
 our fullest.”

Richard Pavek, SHEN’s Developer 

   Research has shown us that the body reacts to emotional pain such as fear, grief, shaming, etc., the same way it does to physical pain, by contracting. Pain and abuse, whether physical or emotional, trigger an automatic physical contraction called the Auto-Contractile Pain Reflex (ACPR), an involuntary spasm that temporarily tightens or immobilizes an area in your body, and is your body’s protective way of minimizing potential tissue damage. This involuntary contractive response is often called the ‘splinting reflex’ because it helps protect surrounding soft tissues from a broken bone’s sharp edges.

     If, however, an experience is severe or continues for an extended time, this involuntary reflex – ACPR, is held as a physio-emotional contraction within your body. Subsequent hurtful traumatic experiences result in multiple layers of contraction visible as tension which distorts our natural appearance and hampers our mobility. Over time, our minds may or may not consciously remember those painful incidents, but our bodies always do. 

   These internally-trapped involuntary contractions affect not only our physical health and appearance, but they also become the emotional filters through which we experience life, therefore determining how we feel about and react to present situations. Often responsible for many conditions labeled ‘psycho-somatic,’ these internalized contractive responses hold the memories of emotionally charged events, as well as the evaluations and judgments we made about ourselves and life during those painful experiences. 

   Most of us carry wounds today from earlier experiences. Many of us have had physical trauma such as accidents, injuries, or surgery, suffered from traumatic births, painful childhoods, lost loved ones or have had abusive relationships. 

   Many of us have worked very hard to understand the past events that shape our current responses to life, only to find that learning the origin of our feelings does not usually free us from them. Inevitably, we still have to deal with old emotional reactions that keep being triggered. We are all familiar with finding ourselves or others being “out of control” – “exploding in a fit of rage” – “in the grip of fear” – “numbing out” – “overwhelmed by grief” or “reacting just like my parents did.” 

Honest self-reflection reveals that for most of us, our usual reaction patterns and responses to life are, at their core, a series of well-worn defense mechanisms that have long outlived their usefulness.

   Until and unless the original underlying emotions are completed and released, these habitual defensive reactions continue to function as the dominant factor in how we relate, how we feel, how we choose to live our lives now, and how we prepare for the future. It is these buried, trapped, incomplete emotional episodes, birthed in our past and still held in our bodies, which drive us to think, say, feel and/or do things we later deeply regret. 

    Interestingly, much of what appears to be dysfunctional behavior is actually our inner self attempting to exacerbate our painful emotions in intense attempts to throw off these damaging internal contractions, and heal.

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   We know that these deeply stored contractions adversely affect the muscles, organs, nerves, glands and tissues at the specific sites where the emotional trauma was experienced, and that these contractions often lead to the onset of functional physical disorders. 

  For example, feelings of shame and low self worth have been frequently found to be a fundamental component in prostate, feminine and menstrual difficulties as well as sexual dysfunction. Long term fear or anger has been linked to stomach and digestive problems as well as insomnia and eating disorders. Retained grief is known to constrict the area around the chest and is often a significant factor in many respiratory conditions, heart problems, and some chronic headaches and migraines as constriction at the vagus nerve and/or the baroreceptors interferes with blood flow to and from the head. 

  In fact, studies have shown that a high percentage of patients in cardiac units suffered major grief six months to a year prior to having their heart attack. The immune system is also affected by grief as contractions around the heart can suppress the activity of the thymus gland needed to activate the T-cells. 

  Until recently, how this happens was not clear, but we now recognize that unreleased contractions in the body significantly impede blood flow, thus interfering with normal metabolic functions such as cells receiving nutrients and releasing waste products. 

   SHEN Therapy offers an elegant solution to Fritz Perls’ theory that emotions have a life cycle with a beginning, an experiential climax and a natural ending. But when not fully completed, these suppressed contractive emotions remain active inside us sub-consciously affecting everything we think, say and do. 

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   Certified SHEN Therapists are skilled at dissolving these physio-emotional contractions held in the body at sites of old or recent trauma. They do this by directing the naturally occurring biofield flux, or ch’i energy flowing between their hands (pronounced “chee” and often spelled chi or qi), which relaxes internalized tension, lifting the painful emotion to the surface where it is safely completed, and then dissipates. These non-invasive, precise and powerful hands-on SHEN techniques have been developed, tested and refined over decades of clinical research and professional practice. 

   You can experience SHEN in a private appointment with a Certified SHEN Therapist or Supervised SHEN Intern, or in a SHEN Personal Empowerment Workshop environment.

— Please read on for information about SHEN Workshops, private intensives and training leading to certification as a SHEN Therapist.

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