How does the body store emotions? Understand the fascia and its role in emotional healing.
In order to heal emotional trauma, we must understand how it manifests in the body as a physical disease and how the body is in communication with the emotional part of our brain.
As equally important as understanding our mental and emotional wellness is deepening our awareness and knowledge of the fascia: the body’s incredible network of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber, and muscle in place. If you’ve ever wondered where exactly your emotions go when left unprocessed and suppressed, learning about the fascia is profoundly enlightening.
When it comes to emotional release and aiding the body’s process of transmuting emotional suffering, fascia helps us see how our body is connected to our minds and vice versa. And, it shows us that bringing the body into the conversation (and the healing process) is essential.
This article will help you understand:
- What fascia is and its role in the body
- How fascia is connected to the mind
- How emotions get “trapped” in the body
- Why fascia is a crucial piece of emotional & trauma healing
The body’s connection to emotion
How exactly is the body involved with emotional experiences? When we experience an emotion, whether it be joy, sadness, or anger, there is a physiological response in our body. The emotion can be felt in the chest, stomach, and even the skin. However, if an emotion is not expressed, it becomes stagnant energy and is stored in the fascia. The next time you watch a sad movie and feel like crying, pay attention to how your body is part of the emoting process and especially pay attention to the potential physical pain of holding back that emotion (like a tightening in the chest or throat, or maybe even a headache, as an example).
Your body’s fascia is in communication with the emotional parts of the brain. You can think of the mind and body as one big interconnected network, so when something happens in “section A”, it is recognized in “section B” and beyond. We simply cannot view our emotions as a separate experience from the rest of our bodies. In the same way that a tree’s roots draw nutrients from the ground and deliver them to the leaves in need, the fascia works in harmony with the brain and corresponding emotions. To take the tree analogy further, if we want to fully understand the leaf, we must look at the entire tree. And in the same vein, to fully understand our emotional experiences, we must look at the entire environment in which they occur: the body.
An Overview of The Fascia
So, what is fascia? Fascia is a thin layer of connective tissue that runs from head to toe and surrounds muscles, bones, organs, and nerves. It is incredibly important for our emotional and physical health as it helps to provide structure, support, and protection to organs, muscles, and bones as well as facilitates movement between muscles and organs.
Some nitty-gritty details about fascia:
The fascia is made up of collagen fibers and elastin, which give it its flexibility and strength. It is divided into three main layers: the superficial fascia, the deep fascia, and the subserous fascia. The superficial fascia is located just below the skin and is made up of adipose tissue. The deep fascia is located beneath the superficial fascia and helps to support muscles and organs. The subserous fascia (also known as visceral fascia) is located beneath the deep fascia and helps to protect organs and internal structures. This deepest layer is believed to be the most likely area where emotional trauma is stored. When the subfascial layer is damaged, the body stores the trauma in the form of scar tissue, and that scar tissue can cause pain and tension in the area of the trauma.
How are emotions connected to the physical body?
Our fascia is also connected to our nervous system, which helps to regulate our emotional state. When we experience an emotion, signals are sent between the fascia and the emotional parts of our brain. Imagine this “communication” as a constantly in-motion two-way highway sending signals from the brain to different organs and from organs up to the brain, and on and on it goes. This is the intelligence of the body.
When the body experiences trauma, the nervous system responds by releasing chemicals called catecholamines. These chemicals are believed to be responsible for the body’s “fight or flight” response. This response can also be triggered by emotional stress, causing the body to tense up and become rigid. This is what causes the fascia to become tight, which in turn can cause physical pain, discomfort, and other health issues down the line.
In some cases, the trauma may be stored in the fascia for years before it is released. By releasing the tension in the fascia, the body can begin to release the stored trauma — we’ll talk more about releasing the tension (or Emotional Release) later on.
The main takeaway? The fascia is an incredibly important part of the body’s physiology and is involved in a multitude of functions as well. It aids in movement and flexibility, helps to regulate the body’s temperature, and protects the body from infection and injury — just to name a few.
As you can see, the fascia is integral to the body’s overall health and proper functioning — so you can imagine that if the fascia suffers or becomes damaged, many other organs, muscles, and crucial parts of the body will be impacted as well.
What this means for emotional health & healing
Understanding the fascia and its functions helps to explain 2 important components of emotional healing:
- Emotions are felt in the body as a part of healthy processing and emotional expression
- Physical disease can manifest as a result of suppression given that certain emotions have an affinity for specific parts of the body
Unfortunately, if we are constantly suppressing our emotions, the fascia can become tight and cause physical pain. This can lead to physical ailments such as chronic pain, headaches, digestive issues, auto-immune disorders, and beyond. This is why it is important to understand that emotional trauma can result in physical pain and that emotional healing is important to overall health and well-being, not just mental health!
The Good News
The good news is, understanding how emotions can become “trapped” in the body and how the fascia plays a role in this can help us to understand our emotional state and take steps towards healing. By addressing our emotions and their connection to the body, we can learn how to better process and release them, which can lead to improved physical and emotional health.
This is where the powerful healing mechanism of Emotional Release comes in. Emotional Release combines psychosomatics, bodywork, integral trauma facilitation, and visualization to help us access those emotions and release them from the fascia, the body, and beyond. This allows us to reconnect with our bodies and emotions and make sense of what might otherwise be chaotic and overwhelming.
A truly integrated and holistic approach to healing is one that places importance on the mind-body connection not just as an idea, but as a practice. Emotions are not just a mental experience, they are a fully interconnected mind-body-soul phenomenon. When we approach our health and wellness in this way, positive transformation is inevitable.
To learn more about fascia and emotional healing, check out this episode of the Heal Thy Self podcast. Looking for more personalized support? Check out ELM Health to book an Emotional Release session.