The connection between our mind and body has long been recognised. It is well represented in contemporary language, with expressions such as ‘having a gut feeling’, ‘being left breathless’ and ‘wearing our heart on our sleeve’. Yet this connection can be more far-reaching than many may assume. For example, did you know that you could create some damage inside your stomach (i.e. start developing an ulcer) with just a few hours of intense stress?
Our brain is the place where our emotions take form. But when an emotion is too strong, the brain discharges some of its energy into our body. Every organ can act as a recipient of this emotional energy discharged by the brain, causing a psychosomatic response. A common example is someone developing diarrhoea just before an important presentation. There are, however, important differences among organs. Also, every person has a ‘weak link’, a part of their body that is more vulnerable than others and becomes the main target of stress.
Jean-Pierre Barral, a world-renowned French Osteopath, has spent decades drawing correlations from many thousands of clinical cases. He published his findings in a very insightful book called ‘Understanding the Messages of your Body: How to Interpret Physical and Emotional Signals to Achieve Optimal Health’. Barral states that small annoyances usually primarily affect the gallbladder and solar plexus. Other key observations he makes include:
- the sensitivity of the stomach to social/relational stress (e.g. conflict with a work colleague)
- the sensitivity of the liver to stress about one’s deep self (e.g. identity issues)
- the predisposition of the pancreas and the spleen to react to intense, intolerable emotional states, such as the accidental death of a loved one
- the intestine is one of the organs most prone to psychosomatic reactions.
As a result of intense and/or repetitive emotional discharge, organs can become progressively stressed, distressed and diseased. As an Osteopath, I’m often amazed by the level of tension and restriction I feel deep in the body of someone who is chronically stressed. Stress, in its various forms, has a very real effect on our tissues and can, over time, make us sick. Manual therapy such as Osteopathy can help release the tissue memory of stress – in the form of tensions and restrictions – and help restore health.
But prevention is always better than cure, and there are very effective techniques, such as meditation, to gain some level of control over our emotional state and thus protect our body from the deleterious effects of stress.
Originally written by Nicolas Roost for LiveBeingFit (www.livebeingfit.com)