OUT OF CONTROL EMOTIONALLY? SO’S YOUR BODY
O. Spurgeon English, then chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Temple University Medical School, wrote once of a long study of the relationship between mind, the emotions, and the body.
He said there are certain emotional centers in the brain linked to the entire body through the autonomic nervous system. He described charges of emotions that are relayed from the brain, down the spinal cord and through the autonomic nerves to the blood vessels, muscle tissues, mucous membranes, and skin.
Under emotional stress, he points out, all parts of the body can be subject to physical discomfort because of a change in blood nourishment, glandular function, or muscle tone.
You may have asked, “How can thoughts and feelings going through my mind cause pain in some part of my body far from my brain?” Dr. English explains: An emotion such as fear, he says, can cause the mouth to become dry. This means that the blood vessels have constricted and the blood supply and glandular activity have been reduced. This dryness will occur, for example, in someone who must make a speech and is afraid.
Laboratory tests show that under stress of emotion, the same decrease in glandular activity occurs in the mucous membrane and various parts of the digestive tract.
Not only does the blood supply change markedly, but secretions of various types increase or decrease in an abnormal manner. Changes in muscle tone in the digestive region can occur, causing painful cramps.
It has also been proved that emotional stress will increase the size of the blood vessels in the head, and this can produce pain because of the stretching of the tissues around the blood vessels and their pressure on the nerve endings.
Of the heart, Dr. English says:
“Without the presence of any heart disease whatever, psychosomatic patients are prone to increased heart rate, irregularities of rhythm, unusual sensation about the heart such as oppression, tightening, pain, and numbness sometimes accompanied by shortness of breath and the feeling of faintness and weakness, possibly giddiness. Along with this so-called ‘spell’ there may be a general ‘all-gone’ feeling, free perspiration, accompanied by a sinking sensation and the feeling as if the patient would fall in a heap.”
THE BODY PICKS UP UNSOLVED PROBLEMS
“For decades,” he says, “it has been known that a personality problem which cannot be solved by the mind itself is prone to be ‘turned over’ or ‘taken up’ by some other part of the body.
When an irritating friend or a troublesome family member cannot be coped with, the patient becomes ‘sick,’ he can’t ‘stomach’ it or it ‘gripes’ him. The physician knows that the cause of these gastrointestinal disturbances is emotional conflict. He knows it is the attitudes of generosity and responsibility struggling with an opposing wish to escape them.”
Dr. English then lists the emotions involved. Here they are:
Hatred, resentment, rage, frustration, ambition, self-centeredness, envy, jealousy, sorrow, love need, fear.
These are the emotions that describe reactions to someone or something that gets in your way. They are unpleasant and cause disturbing bodily changes.
“WORN, TIRED…ALMOST HELPLESS”
Two psychologists, Strecker and Appel, describe the relationship of emotions and bodily changes:
“If aroused to a high pitch, shame, distress, hate, envy, and jealousy all strike to the very core of our being. They leave us worn, tired, incapable, and almost helpless.
The blush of shame, the haggard countenance of distress, the consuming burning of jealousy and envy, and the facial and vocal expressions of hate are striking testimonials to the deteriorating effect of these emotions upon the body. We may jump with joy or droop with sorrow.”
THE EFFECTS OF HATRED
S. I. McMillen, a physical skillful in writing as well as in practicing medicine, speaks of the devastating effect of hatred:
“The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave. I can’t enjoy my work any more because he even controls my thoughts. My resentments produce too many stress hormones in my body, and I become fatigued after only a few hours of work. The work I formerly enjoyed is now drudgery.
Even vacations cease to give me pleasure. It may be a luxurious car that I drive along a lake fringed with the autumnal beauty of maple, oak, and birch. As far as my experience of pleasure is concerned, I might as well be driving a wagon in mud and rain.
The man I hate hounds me wherever I go. I can’t escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind. When the waiter serves me porterhouse steak with French fries, asparagus, crisp salad, and strawberry shortcake, smothered with ice cream, it might as well be stale bread and water. My teeth chew the food and I swallow it, but the man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it…
The man I hate may be many miles from my bedroom; but more cruel than any slave driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that my innerspring mattress becomes a rack of torture. The lowliest of the serfs can sleep, but not I. I really must acknowledge the fact that I am a slave to every man on whom I pour the vials of my wrath.”