I am thrilled to bring you this insightful interview with Penelope Young Andrade, LCSW, author of Emotional Medicine Rx. Check out the book review.
Penelope reminds us how important our bodies and emotions are. The “positive thinking” movement has turned us toward our thoughts and, many times, away from the signals our emotions and body send to us. Being whole, healed and integrated as a human means that we need to embrace all of the systems we have been blessed with.
What do you feel has caused people to turn away from body and emotions and toward analytical thoughts?
One answer is ignorance. People don’t understand how essential emotions are for well being. Amazingly, it’s only in the last fifty years that scientists have come to consider emotions a worthy topic of research. Previous attention was focused exclusively on rationality. Now that we have the emerging field of affective neuroscience, researchers are discovering that you can’t make a rational decision without emotion! Emotion is at the heart of healthy thinking and living.
Another answer is fear. People are afraid of emotion because they don’t know that emotions are orderly, time limited, and result in feeling good…fast! I tell people, set a timer; if you are still sad, mad or scared after 3 minutes, you’re likely up in your head, up in your sad, mad, scared story. Your body is not neurotic. It is designed to move through emotion in minutes and shift your biochemistry so that you feel resourced to take life saving, or life affirming action.
Here’s an example. Let’s suppose someone has just lost been fired from their job. Once the shock wears off they may feel sad, mad, scared or some combination of the three. If they allow themselves to be present, in their bodies, and cooperate with the brief movement of the appropriate grief, anger or fear this loss has triggered, they will end up with feelings of equanimity (after sadness) confidence (after anger) resourcefulness (after fear.) All of these good feelings provide energy and confidence to take action, to reach out to family and friends for support, to revise a resume, to look for a new job or to apply for unemployment.
On the other hand, if this just fired person keeps attention focused up in his or her head on the sad, infuriating, scary story of how they lost their job, they may end up anxious, depressed and immobilized. Now they may blame the sad, mad, scared emotions for their immobilization, but this is a mental problem…not an emotional problem. Embodied emotions are brief, time limited and result in action and good feelings. Focusing mentally on the terrible stories that triggered emotions can go on for hours, days, weeks or even a lifetime. The mind has a hard time letting go. The body is designed to let go of emotion quickly.
What are the consequences you see when people ignore signals from their body and their emotions?
Just for starters: physical illness, mental distress, unhappy relationships, obesity and/or anorexia, unfulfilling lives, loss of sex drive, loss of creativity. Brief embodied emotional flow is essential for healthy, happy and fulfilled living. When you suppress emotion, and refuse to acknowledge its presence in your experience that energy doesn’t go away just because you don’t want to feel it. It goes someplace else in your ‘bodymind’ and is likely to wreak havoc with your health.
One example people are likely familiar with is stomach distress and resultant eating issues. When you are stressed or angry or scared or sad, you may not feel like eating at all, or you may feel like gorging yourself. Using my Emotional Medicine can help you develop healthy relationships with your stomach, digestion and eating. The same goes for any physical or emotional upset. Emotional Medicine helps people work through the sad, mad, scared feelings that accompany chronic illness so that suppressed emotional responses aren’t making the illness worse.
What is the most important step readers can take to begin using “Emotional Medicine”?
Of course, I’d love for everyone to read my book! I know I can’t be a therapist for everybody, so I’ve taken great care in Emotional Medicine Rx, to gently, tenderly, clearly and humorously outline the 12 steps to emotional mastery and healing. My book is filled with action tips and step by step instructions.
While you’re waiting for the book to arrive or upload on Kindle, the most important step to take would be to make friends with your body. Begin checking in with how your body is doing, asking what it needs (food, water, movement, sunlight, loving touch, rest, play and/or allowing emotional experience moment by moment). One chapter in the book is entirely devoted to ideas and action tips to help you do this as well as what to do when you drop into your body and what’s there is numbness. (I’ll give you a big hint about what to do in that case: Numbness as a sensation is just as time limited as any other embodied experience.)
How can affirmations support “Emotional Medicine”?
Affirmations help set intentions, move energy, transform patterns of thinking and set the stage for profound healing. Affirmations can be supportive to Emotional Medicine in two ways. The first is to set an intention to welcome emotional experience. A few affirmations which would help with this are:
The second useful intersection of Emotional Medicine and affirmation comes after you’ve cooperated with the brief embodied movement of any emotion and find yourself feeling better. That is a great time to use affirmations such as:
Thank you so much for this opportunity to share Emotional Medicine with your readers. Letting people know that we have huge resources for health and happiness right beneath our noses in our own emotional experience is my life’s work, my soul’s purpose.
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