One thing I’ve learned in the last while is the most accurate reflection of our truth is not found within our mind, or heart, but in our autonomic nervous system; the system of our body which rests outside voluntary control.
Meaning, it cannot lie.
It is our nervous system which communicates emotions to our entire body. Ongoing suppressed emotions like anger, stress, fear, frustration etc cause overload to our nervous system, creating imbalance and chaos which, if left unchecked, leaves us in a state of fight-or-flight mode where we remain until we choose to deal with these emotions.
For me, the suppression of emotions has always manifested as fibromyalgia. Studies show women who suffer trauma or abuse in their childhood are 65 times more likely to develop fibromyalgia, citing abuse as the leading cause. It’s often classed as a mystery illness; as in, doctors cannot find an actual cause, nor a cure. Which makes perfect sense, if you look at fibro not as a physical disease, but the physical response of the nervous system to negative emotion.
It doesn’t matter that I am now no longer in a situation of abuse or trauma, my body’s response to ongoing stress or negative emotion is still the same.
It doesn’t matter how clean I eat, whether I exercise, get enough sunshine or sleep or how much self-care I allow myself in a physical sense; if my life is unbalanced in an emotional sense – whether that’s too much stress, a situation that is causing a negative emotional response, a relationship in my life that is no longer healthy, whatever – my nervous system will always respond with chronic pain because it cannot differentiate the different types of stress, only that the negative emotions in my life today mirror the same negative emotions in my childhood, therefore the response of the nervous system is the same even if the circumstances are not.
It doesn’t matter what I tell my heart and mind – that I’ve got this under control, that I can manage, that I’m not that stressed, that a relationship in my life is healthy even though I know it compromises my values or boundaries or the person I choose to be. My nervous system knows better. And whenever I have a fibromyalgia flare-up, I know I need to examine what it is in my life that does not belong there or does not align with my authentic self.
It’s easy to want to resent our nervous system when we suffer these flare-ups. Instead, we need to learn to listen to what our body is trying to tell us. We need to learn to identify the stress, or the suppressed emotion, or what it is in our life that is causing misalignment. And once identified, work through those emotions, or take action to change the things in our lives we know have no place there.
The nervous system is a gift, if we can learn to surrender to its wisdom and honour its place in our journey to healing and wholeness.