Emotional honesty and the neuroscience connection
Biological research of emotions was once excluded from mainstream science as emotions were not considered measurable. In more recent years scientists have begun to pay greater attention, and gain a better understanding of what emotion actually is – leading to a theory explaining the biochemistry of emotion.
Neuroscientist, Candace Pert, provided pioneering research to establish the biomolecular foundation for our emotions. She discovered how our bodies contain a network of information carried by neuropeptides and receptors. It is these biochemicals that Pert calls ‘the physiological substrates of emotion, the molecular underpinnings of what we experience as feelings, sensations, thoughts, drives, perhaps even spirit or soul’ (Pert, 1997, p130).
Pert describes in her book Molecules of Emotion (1997) how a moment of clarity (her big ‘aha!’) led to a realisation that emotions originated in both body and brain simultaneously which in turn led her to understand their significance in creating a healthy or diseased state. Pert believes that ‘all emotions are healthy, because emotions are what unite the mind and the body’:
“Anger, fear, and sadness, the so-called negative emotions, are as healthy as peace, courage and joy. To repress these emotions and not let them flow freely is to set up a dis-integrity in the system, causing it to act at cross-purposes rather than as a unified whole. The stress this creates, which takes the form of blockages and insufficient flow of peptide signals to maintain function at the cellular level, is what sets up the weakened conditions that can lead to disease. All honest emotions are positive emotions.” (ibid, pp192–193)
Freeing these emotional blockages is at the heart of the therapeutic encounter for many people who come into therapy wanting to feel better. We become constrained from an early age into not expressing these perceived negative emotions then wonder why we feel trapped by this physical holding in.
Again and again while reading Pert I remember what I already knew once long ago, ‘It’s OK to feel – it’s what we’re designed to do’, and it moves me a fraction closer to emotional integration.
Reference: Caroline Pert, Molecules of Emotion (1997)
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About Anne Marie Allen
Psychotherapy can help in allowing you the space to explore issues and begin to make sense of emotional and mental distress. It offers support during times of crisis, but psychotherapy is also useful for those who need help for what is less easy to define or grasp: for people who aren’t quite sure how to voice what is happening but would like to talk it through with someone.
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