Have you ever wondered how emotions and traumas are stored in your body? Join us as we explore the fascinating connection between fascia, emotions, and healing. Discover the role of fascia in our physical and emotional well-being, the impact of trauma on interoceptive awareness (internal awareness of self), and effective ways to release emotions and facilitate healing.
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The Body’s Emotional Landscape
We know all too well how emotions have such an impact on our thoughts. But we also want to recognize how emotions have such a profound effect on our physical body. You may have heard that emotions and traumas are stored in our bodies. We will talk briefly about the science behind it and exactly what that means.
Our focus will be on the role of fascia in emotions and trauma, as well as interoceptive awareness, which connects to our internal self-awareness. Additionally, we’ll examine how trauma stored in the body can lead to various physical and emotional responses. Most importantly, we’ll learn how to heal and restore our body’s balance.
Let’s talk about the role of fascia in emotions. Our fascia is our three-dimensional network that surrounds everything in our body, from our muscles, joints, and bones to our nerves, lymph, and organs; it’s our connective tissue, the glue that holds everything together. Therefore, it is perhaps one of the most powerful systems in our body.
Trauma and stress can lead to a lot of physical changes in our bodies. Think about when we’re stressed; we might hold the tension in our neck and shoulders. If you’ve ever had jaw issues, such as TMJ, you may have noticed clenching and grinding due to ongoing stress.
In our bodies, chronic tension patterns can arise due to various factors. To better understand this, consider the concept of fascia, which should ideally possess both elasticity and the ability to generate tension, known as tensegrity. However, when we experience altered patterns over time, these changes can affect our fascial tissue.
Our tissue is meant to have elasticity, allowing free movement while also providing tension and structure. Imagine a scenario where our tissue undergoes an altered pattern for an extended period. Think of a rubber band with a knot in it. Even if we keep stretching the rubber band, the knot remains. In fascial tissue, we can develop patterns of restrictions, leading to potential issues like pain, dysfunction, and impaired movement.
Lastly, as it relates to fascia, fascia is our force transmission system, so when this system is altered through surgery, some type of adverse event, or injury, it can change how we move through the world. This can change our ability to move efficiently; it can affect our ability to move freely, and ultimately, this can greatly influence our emotions.
Interoception is our internal awareness of self. It gives our brain information about things like pain and temperature. Our interoceptors are mechanoreceptors located in the fascial tissue and primarily in the viscera. These interoceptors provide input to the insular cortex of our brain, where we can process emotional information.
It is estimated that we have up to seven times more interoceptors in our fascia than proprioceptors, which detect joint position and movement. Therefore, we can see the impact this will have on our emotions and our physical being.
When we have experienced trauma in our lives—and that could be unique to each of us and how we perceive what is traumatic—this can interrupt the interoceptive processing between our body and our brain.
We could become more hyper-vigilant. This could lead to becoming hyper-aware of your sensations. For example, in the case of chronic pain, which is associated with trauma, our brain is sensitized. It detects and senses pain, even when there is no tissue damage.
On the other hand, it can contribute to a hyperarousal state. In this state, we may feel numb, depressed, or stuck. Consequently, we can have a different interpretation of our bodily signals, where we might intentionally tune them out. For example, initiating signaling and repressing emotions can become the norm.
This signaling is influenced and can cause a different reaction for each person because we’re all unique. And so, in essence, this interruption can cause dysregulation in our nervous system, and it can cause us to be disconnected from our body in some way.
How do we release emotions and facilitate healing?
Your body is designed to heal itself, and please remember that you have this innate capacity to heal. When you are able to give your body what it needs and what it deserves, you can work through a very safe, gentle, and healing process.
As it relates to addressing the mind and the body—we often refer to that as mind-body because they are connected. Somatic therapy, which is a mind-body approach, can be very helpful.
The easiest way to think of it is to think about movement because we, as beings, are mostly non-verbal. Only seven percent of our communication is verbal, and the rest of it is non-verbal. This means that moving our bodies safely and gently is crucial for emotional health.
How we move can look different for every person, such as walking outside mindfully or doing specific vagus nerve exercises. I recommend checking out all of my vagus nerve exercises, as there are many options to choose from. You can also explore various somatic practices like trauma release therapy and pendulation to understand what’s happening in our body with a gentle curiosity.
For instance, if you are experiencing pain during meditation, you can consider being curious about the pain and how it feels. Can you dial the pain down or change it? If your hip feels tight in a position, can you manage it or explore it? It’s essential to address this mind-body approach gently and safely.
By understanding these bodily sensations, we can grasp the significance of our fascia. Our fascia plays a huge role in our emotional being. Therefore, moving our body in an authentic way that suits each individual, like dancing, animal flow, or walking, can be very effective in managing emotions. It’s important to note that somatic therapy is very different from talk therapy, but it’s not a matter of one being better than the other; they’re simply different approaches.
As we think about how our nervous system influences our emotions, movement emerges as a great way to address these influences.
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