One of the things I tried to help people understand during my years as a massage therapist is what it meant to have a chronically tight muscle. I felt it was pertinent to understand that while the brain could send the signal to flex or tighten, there wasn’t a signal to relax or release. For the muscle fiber, a neutral state came from the absence of a signal to contract. Kind of like turning a light switch on and off.
The problem many of us experience with our physical body is that after time, that overused muscle won’t return to its original length on its own. It’s new resting state is not fully relaxed but slightly contracted. And since your body is all about circulation, envision the muscle fiber as a screen where the size of the holes are
reduced. It becomes more dense, less porous, and less flexible.
In my years as a coach, I have come to see the similarities when we compare our emotional and physical states. When we are hit with an intense emotion, let’s say fear, we react in whatever way we have conditioned ourselves to react. But what happens when the stimulus stops? What is the path we take back to the neutral state and how quickly can we get there?
Let’s say our computer crashes and we lose our work. We might lose it emotionally and go on a rant. All our stress responses are activated, and we storm about in a full-blown tantrum. Five minutes go by, and the stimulus has passed, but we are still pissed. We might even stay in that state for the rest of the day. Repeat these same patterns and we begin to see ourselves as easily triggered. But is there another way?
Identifying our chronic emotional patterns is the first step to being able to create the ability to recover. We can take some cues from what recovery looks like for our muscles. Physical recovery includes taking time to stretch and using our breath to gently draw the muscles back to their original length.
Going back to the emotional model, taking the pause to recalibrate our emotions using deep breathing will also have a guaranteed positive effect on our mental state.
Massage and other hands-on techniques can help our physical bodies. A trained practitioner can not only identify and treat the compromised muscles, but also the chronic patterns that are causing us the most grief so we can, as an example, try to move and do things differently.
With your emotional patterns, the same logic applies. Working with someone who can unravel and unpack the problem areas you have created over time is invaluable. A trained practitioner can also identify those patterns and give you strategies to help you avoid or deal with your chronic emotional states.
There are many undesirable effects of choosing to NOT deal with the inevitable compromises your body and mind must make when you don’t attend to the strain and stress on your muscular AND emotional systems.
You can go through life injury ridden, with compromised health, looking like a crotchety mess and with pain as your constant companion. Or not.
You can also go through life at the mercy of your emotions. Always in a mist of whatever that negative feeling is that seems to be just below the surface. Always feeling triggered. Always dealing with the aftermath. Or not.
It is your life. Make it a great one!