One thing that always gets my goat is when people caution against “negative” emotions. I know from personal experience that expressing those so-called negative emotions is the key to tremendous healing. So imagine my surprise – and delight! – when I learned that something called Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy (EAET) has now been shown to reduce chronic pain. (See Can You Reshape Your Brain’s Response to Pain?)

This method is essentially what i figured out on my own 25 years ago to help my pain from years of Crohn’s disease. But the implications of this now being an accepted therapy for chronic pain are incredible. So in this episode of Leading with Health, I look at the research and talk about the role of emotional expression in relieving pain.

Additional resources mentioned in this episode include:

Highlights include:

5:26 – Adverse childhood experiences are linked to major epidemics of our time – obesity, heart disease, diabetes. Source: The Deepest Well

5:40 – JM: “There is definitely a connection between trauma – especially repeated trauma and the chronic stress it induces – and our health experiences later on in life. And pain is one of those.”

7:20 – “Once you’ve gone chronic, pain is the disease rather than the symptom. Chronic pain is now understood as something new … with its own biology and own mechanisms.” – Irene Tracey, Director of Oxford Nuffield Dept. of Clinical Neurosciences, Source: The Neuroscience of Pain

8:20 – JM: “You can’t numb out negative feelings without numbing out positive feelings … Just like you either have a sense of smell or you don’t. You can’t say I will only smell roses and never smell skunk.”

11:00 – “Difficult life experiences, adverse experiences in childhood are later predictors of chronic pain — widespread pain — years later” – Mark Lumley, psychologist at Wayne State University, who developed Emotional Awareness and Expression Therapy, Source: Can You Reshape Your Brain’s Response to Pain?)

13:45 – The transformative impact of having chronic pain go away.

14:45 – JM: “People don’t want to hear how emotional of an exploration this wound up being; they want to hear ‘what drug did you take?’ or ‘what exercise did you do?’ Something that’s a little more pat.”

15:30 – How a mixture of mindfulness and emotional expression ended the chronic pain legacy from my Crohn’s disease.

16:00 – JM: The secondary step people miss about mindfulness: “I think mindfulness was a way for me to focus on my body, to move away from the distractions so I could connect with the emotions and then express the emotions.”

17:00 – How emotions that are denied expression can lead to physical pain.

22:45 – JM: “Our society does not teach people how to be comfortable feeling their emotions so, when we feel fear, most of us have been taught to go into lock-down. Stop feeling it; run. And the minute we do that, everything we think about – all of our beliefs, all of our decisions, start stemming from that lock-down mode. And we see it as reality.”

23:15 – JM: Why people today are so polarized: “So we are creating a whole construct of belief systems to protect this fear response because we didn’t know how to handle that fear. To the point where we don’t even know it’s there. And if you point it out to us or come anywhere near it, we fight.”

25:40 – Why feeling your anger and expressing it won’t make you an angry person.

26:50 – JM: “Our healthcare system can’t provide what our society doesn’t understand, because our healthcare system is a microcosm of our society.”

Leading with Health is hosted by Jennifer Michelle. Jennifer has a Master’s in Public Health and Epidemiology and is a certified EMT. As President of Michelle Marketing Strategies, Jennifer specializes in healthcare marketing. She is on a mission to help women find their voice so they can create a stronger, more responsive healthcare system.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash.