Knowing how to thoughtfully respond to upsetting emotions means you get to be the driver, and to steer away from intensifying them, when necessary, to instead mindfully choosing an optimal response. Tuning in and understanding how the communication networks of your logic-mind and body-mind are designed to work together for optimal results, builds this powerful knowledge base and connections that, like other relationships, must be nourished to thrive.
The language of the body – emotion!
Whereas the language of the logic-mind is verbal and consists of words, the language of the body-mind consists of sensory emotions, or neurotransmitters. In the words of neuroscientist Dr. Candace Pert in Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, “It is through ‘molecules of emotion’ that our brain, glands and immune system are in constant communication.”
That’s a statement that was controversial for many decades (centuries?), as Dr. Pert notes in her book. Most all our learning, even the field of psychology, taught us to regard logic as a superior force, and emotion as a nuisance.
In its operation, however, the human body is prewired to receive, process and transmit all essential communications, chemically and electrically. No training is necessary to learn the language of the body. It’s universal. Emotion is the first language you learned. You came wired to know the language of emotions and sensations as an infant.
This information lets babies know when they’re hungry, thirsty, too hot or cold; typically, babies respond by making noises, and then crying, to get the needed attention from their mother or caregiver. Thus, an infant’s “true” mother tongue, you may say, is not verbal, rather listening and responding these biofeedback messages from its body.
The body is fully equipped with amazing capabilities! They must be cultivated, however. “Use it or lose it” is a governing principle of life, a directive that shapes most every aspect of our human nature, mental, emotional, physical. Western culture, overall, conditioned our parents, and their parents, and thus us as well, to disregard or disconnect from sensory-emotion cues overall, and to adopt certain emotion-taboos as defenses instead.
The directive of the subconscious — health and happiness!
As a human being, you are wired to seek happiness, to feel good about yourself and life. Even though you’re simultaneously wired to move away from pain, it’s imperative to learn to strengthen your capacity to feel upsetting emotions, without unnecessarily activating your body’s survival reactions. Your happiness depends on this! When you do, you strengthen and grow your capacity to wisely protect your happiness, in this case, by discerning between healthy fears and discomforts (that are opportunities for growth), and needless suffering (that causes harm).
All growth involves pain. No pain, no gain is another governing principle of human life, and thus, a directive of the subconscious or body-mind.
As you grow and develop, there are key things to understand and learn to apply about how your logic mind and body-mind work together. For example, you need to make friends with growth-promoting pain, and realize it is impossible to eliminate pain from the experience of life. Without the discomfort of challenges, humans atrophy. We need them to grow and thrive.
Growth always causes some level of discomfort; learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable allows us to get out of stuck comfort zones. With practice, like the person who at first resists workouts at the gym, successful persons learn to get comfortable what is uncomfortable, and make new habits a lifestyle, noting the benefits.
The wise-self holding the reins of logic-mind!
Fear and discomfort are essential aspects of growth and understanding. Your subconscious mind relies on your learned interpretations, however. In early childhood, and since, you learned to believe things that have since limited your growth, and produced toxic thoughts. This early conditioning needs to be changed. Only you can do it, and the most effective way is one that also grows a compassionate understanding of yourself (and thus others). It is not easy to change and shift out of this early fear-based programming.
Limiting beliefs and toxic thinking literally scare your body into unnecessarily activating your survival response. It is our learned response to fear that can take over the direction or processes of our body’s autonomic nervous system to put our survival system and defensive programming in control. In other words, your body mind not only understand your verbal communications, it also listens carefully 24/7 to what you say and your inner self-talk, and activates emotion states of your body accordingly. In fact, it responds to what you think and say as if they are commands!
This is good news. It means that if it is learned, it can be unlearned, thanks to our brain’s amazing capacity for change, or plasticity, throughout life.In short, you’re wired to be drawn to pleasant sensations – and simultaneously to move away from pain and discomfort.
Designed to work together to keep all systems in optimal balance (not unlike a perpetual juggling act), your mind and body automatically stop working together, however, whenever your survival response is activated. In survival mode, the primary mission of the body mind, or subconscious, shifts away from teamwork to being on guard to protect you from a potential threat or attack for the purpose of physical survival.
What makes this happen? Intense fear, an avoidance of fear that becomes a fear of feeling fear that blocks growth and causes a dependency on quick fix pleasure and comfort zones.
In truth, the avoidance of legitimate pain is a primary cause of most suffering. And legitimate pain is any pain that has validity on its own merits; it makes sense. For example, it makes sense to feel disappointed when an expectation was unmet, or to feel sad when a beloved person passes away. Legitimate pain is a potential source of greater meaning or connection to our self, another person or life around us.
The necessary balance between oxytocin (love and safety) and cortisol (fear and growth)!
While your body communicates to you in language of emotions and sensations, it totally understands your verbal communications. In fact, every cell of your body listens in carefully 24/7 to the verbal language when you speak and your inner self-talk. For this reason, ideally, it’s good to become fluent in both languages. This access optimizes your chances for happiness and success.
In contrast, when you do not feel safe, you do not feel loved, and vice versa. Your body lets you know you do not feel safe and loved by releasing higher levels of cortisol.
As an infant and small child you were dependent on others to take care of your essential needs to survive. However, your ability to cry and call out to others was a power you were entrusted with from the first breath. Human babies are wired to let the world know, with their voice, that they exist, and they critically depend on some level of care and loving attention from at least one human being, to survive. You were born knowing you needed to connect to your mother, or one person in the world around you to survive.
What you were not aware of as an infant is that the emotions and sensations of pain and discomfort that upset you were, in truth, your friends; they were action signals from your body prompting you to cry out for attention, and thus also, to form a relationship with your mother or caregiver.
You did not yet have the ability to articulate verbally what you wanted or needed, this would come later, however, you did have your ability to use your voice to cry or scream, and so on, in order to let others know or at least try to guess what caused you discomfort – or what delighted and pleased you. You used your voice to coo or babble to express your happiness when something delighted or pleased you, made you feel safe and loved, comforted and secure.
Conceivably, you were more tuned into this language as an infant and toddler, before you learned to use the language of words. Like many, you learned to forget or ignore the vital messages coming from the sensory language your physical body speaks.
Emotions are molecules of energy that move the human body’s autonomic nervous system in one of two overall directions, either safety and love or anxiety and fear. In other words, they either keep the body energized to remain in overall feel-good (love-based) emotions or overall feel-bad (fear-based) emotions. When you feel safe, you feel loved, and vice versa, when you feel loved, you feel safe, and when you do your body releases higher levels of the love and safety hormone, oxytocin, to let you know that you do. This hormone has a healthful nourishing effect on the cell of your body.