Can you remember the last time you got butterflies in your stomach? Maybe it was because you saw someone you loved or maybe you were watching a movie where something terrible was about to happen. Regardless of the trigger, there was a sensation that arose from the very core of your body, namely your gut. This feeling is sometimes referred to as intuition or a “gut feeling” and has been experienced by all of us at one time or another.
The strangest part of this “butterfly” phenomenon is that it isn’t felt in the head, the area of the body receiving the stimulus through eyes and ears. There are not normally thoughts around the experience either. Your head doesn’t actually feel the emotion; instead, the guts of your body are at the center of the experience.
The digestive system, in all of its complexity, is also in charge of metabolizing something much deeper — our emotions.
With this simple example, we can better understand how the gut is responsible for more than only the metabolization of food. The digestive system, in all of its complexity, is also in charge of metabolizing something much deeper — our emotions. Experiencing and metabolizing these emotions, whether they be good or bad, is a KEY to our overall health.
When we don’t allow our gut the freedom metabolize our emotions, health often begins to decline. This decline manifests itself in many forms to include weight gain, weight loss, sickness or depression. Even the healthiest diet on the planet will be unable to fix these health issues if we are not first metabolizing our emotions at their core.
As a means of self-preservation, we often bottle up our feelings and tuck them out of sight so that they don’t interfere with our relationships or interactions with others. We have learned to repress these emotions because, somewhere along the line we learned it is unacceptable to show our true feelings, fearing that it will make us look weak or that fewer people will like us if we show up in a certain way. Over time, many of us forget how to be angry or upset, so we just become “nice”. If we are nice all the time then everyone will like us, right?
These patterns can start when we are very young and carry into our adulthood, no matter how innocent they were at their origins.
Let me illustrate further with a story…
When Sally was a young girl, she was very social. She loved playing and telling stories to her friends. Her friends loved Sally and she loved making them smile with her jokes. One day in class, Sally was telling a joke to one of her friend’s during the teacher’s lesson. The teacher scolded Sally for the interruption and told her that she would be held for detention after school as a results of her rudeness. She was very upset about the situation. When she told her mother about it, her mom said she had no right to be upset. Sally had been bad and she wasn’t allowed to be upset with her teacher. Her mother sided with the teacher and Sally was placed in detention for the remainder of the week.
Sally learned a few valuable lessons that day. First, she learned that it was not okay to talk when others were talking (probably a good lesson). Second, she learned that her emotion of anger towards the teacher was NOT okay. If she was going to be loved by her mother and her teacher she ought to obey and stop talking during class. Instead of feeling or metabolizing her anger, she bottled it up and stored it away in her body deciding she could never feel upset like this again if she wanted to be loved.
Now, of course we understand why Sally was scolded and we know there was justification for her discipline. What we rarely recognize, however, is that Sally was told that it was WRONG to be upset. Why is that?
If someone wanted you to justify why you didn’t like mosquito bites, it would confuse you, wouldn’t it? Why would you have to justify that feeling to anyone? They itch terribly and make annoying sounds in your ear. They are plain irritating, nothing more! You feel the way you feel about mosquitos, and that is that. So why then, do we feel the need to justify our reasons for feeling sad, hurt, angry or upset. These feelings, although uncomfortable, are your way of navigating the world and there is no shame in that. The same can be said for feelings of sexuality, joy or excitement. When we have to constantly justify these feelings to the world in order to feel loved or accepted, it festers in our cells and alters our hormones. It leads to poor digestion, unwanted weight gain and fatigue. It’s exhausting to hold on to these emotions and your body has ways of expressing that.
The beauty in this lesson, is that we have the power to change, to grow and to feel again. Sally, although she was hurt, can give herself permission to be upset with her teacher (and her mom), even as an adult. She is ALLOWED to be angry. The best part is, as soon as she does, that anger will eventually dissipate and create more space in her body and her heart for love and purpose.
So, now it’s your turn. What have you neglected to feel? What emotions have you not yet metabolized and how are they interfering with your health? Tapping into these emotions is not easy (believe me I know!), but it just might be the missing piece of your health plan.
To feeling what you need to feel…