Feeling is Healing

by Steve Ryals

From my perspective, our emotional wounds don't live in our minds. So healing our minds, as Dr. Eve Woods teaches on her show Healing Your Mind, Body, and Spirit, from September 19, 2006 titled "Rewrite Your Internal Script," does not actually get at the core issue. I find this idea - that somehow we can heal our minds with our thoughts, and that this will take care of the dis-ease that often permeates our lives - to be an all too common misconception.

Feelling is Healing by Steve Ryals

Our emotions don't live in our minds, they live in our bodies. Trauma is locked into cellular memory with adrenaline. No matter how many times we attempt to change our minds or alter our thinking, the trauma lives on in our cells. That's why some form of body centered therapy is often crucial in moving the energy that becomes blocked when trauma becomes locked away in cellular memory. Though we can't talk our way into healing these memories, we can feel ourselves whole. Through learning some basic tools of emotional literacy, and being willing in a safe place to let these blocked feelings move through us, we can truly heal these dramas and begin to live the life of our dreams.

Feeling is healing. I understand that this statement, feeling is healing, can be easily misconstrued as simplistic or even dangerous. My reply is that, in my experience, beliefs that feeling our emotions is dangerous are disingenuous at best and downright harmful at worst. Let me explain. When we are young, before our abstract reasoning and full intellectual capacities begin fully to develop, around the time of adolescence, we live fully expressed in our bodies.

Think of a young child around three or four. If given the chance, they will run around exploring everything in their environment. They want to pick up every rock, smell every flower, meet every person, hug every dog, pet every cat and generally soak in every possible experience. If they fall down and scrape their knee, they may cry as though they've just lost their best friend. Give them a hug and a kiss, perhaps kiss their boo-boo, and within moments they'll be off exploring their world again. When they're happy they're ecstatic, dancing around the room and shouting with glee. When they're angry, they express it with every fiber of their being, at least until they're forced to shut it down.

As children enter school and begin the acculturation process, they're taught that many of their feelings aren't appropriate to express the way they've been doing since they were born. They are told to be quiet, sit down in rows and pay attention. If they continue to express their natural exuberance, they are told they're misbehaving and ordered to stop or be punished. Children live in their bodies, so when they're told that their feelings aren't appropriate it is as though they are being told that they are not appropriate. They commonly interpret this "make-wrong" or shaming as meaning that there is something wrong with them at their core, even broken.

Many of us begin to believe there is something fundamentally wrong with us, that something is broken. There is a profound cognitive disconnect between our direct experience and what we are being told by our parents, teachers and the larger culture. Where are our minds come into play, is that we invent stories to explain this cognitive disconnect. Our minds are very creative, and most of us come up with one variation or another of the story that somehow we're not good enough. Because, of course, if we were good enough, we wouldn't be told that who we are, especially including our feelings, needed to be different.

Herein lies the essential difference between what many people teach and what I teach. We can change our stories all we want to, and there are literally thousands of books that purport to help us do just that. However, our stories live in our minds and our emotional wounds within our bodies. Emotional wounds are essentially powerful feelings that have been "stuffed" and not allowed to move through our bodies. The truth is that any feeling fully felt shifts. Until that feeling is felt, until that energy is allowed to move through our bodies, it stays stuck. Over the years, this energy accumulates until it begins to create dis-ease in the form of stress and other modern ailments.

It is commonly said that if you change your thinking it will change your life. Countless books have been written on the subject, and countless more are published every year. I have friends who have dozens or even hundreds of such books. If you really knew me, you'd know that I, too, have read dozens of these books. Some of them had a huge impact on me, though I still spent decades trying to understand (think) my way out of my emotional wounds. It didn't work. It wasn't until I began to do emotional release work in a safe and nurturing environment that I began to notice a lasting change. Eventually, as I released more and more of my blocked emotions, my addictive behavior began to fall away and finally, over six years ago now; I was able to stop drinking. Letting go of alcohol is a personal triumph for me and a powerful vindication that doing this work is both safe and effective.

I am not advocating that people just go out and let it rip with their emotions. I emphasize emotional literacy and creating a safe space in which to feel emotions in healthy and respectful ways. There are whole books written on the subject, with more coming out all the time. My book, Drunk with Wonder: Awakening to the God Within, is one resource. There are additional resources listed in the back of my book as well as on the Drunk with Wonder website and in these monthly newsletters. I also recommend doing an Internet search under "emotional release work."

Steve Ryals, author of Drunk with Wonder: Awakening to the God Within went from homeless and shooting drugs in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district at 17 to graduating from UC Berkeley on the Dean’s List six years later.

Drunk with Wonder was written, edited and designed with almost no help from fossil fuels. Steve is proud to say that Drunk with Wonder is printed on 60# Thor Offset acid-free, recycled paper with soy-based ink. Drunk with Wonder is the culmination of years of research and decades of personal experience.It's been hailed as where "Conversations with God meets What the Bleep Do we Know?"

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