More pervasive emotional issues tend to be felt all over the body

I notice how my mind associates certain sensations with certain thoughts, in order to give these thoughts a sense of substance, reality, and truth, and this also gives a sense of meaning to the sensations.

The more we recognize this pattern and learn to differentiate the sensations with the thoughts, the less charge these thoughts tend to have. The sense of substance and truth in them tends to go out.

I also notice that the mind creates physical contractions in the body, and these – in turn – allows for a stable access to sensations that lend a sense of solidity and reality to certain thoughts. In order to believe and have emotional issues, we need sensations, and in order to have reliable access to these sensations, the body contracts.

If the issue comes and goes, the contractions tend to come and go. If it’s a more stable issue, the contractions tend to be more stable as well.

This is how identifications, beliefs, hangups, emotional issues, and traumas are created. This is how our mind creates all of these, and they are really just different name on the same dynamic.

There is one pattern here I have noticed for a long time: The more pervasive and central the emotional issue, the more I feel those sensations all over the body.

A more limited and peripheral issue may be connected with contractions in a certain part of the body – solar plexus, center of belly, throat, face, and so on.

And a more pervasive issue is often associated with stable sensations all over the body.

When I work on something, and I notice it’s connected with all-over sensations, it’s a good hint that this is a more central issue, that it’s from early in life (sometimes infancy), and that there is a strong and familiar identification with this issue. It has become the water we swim in.

We can still work on it as we do with any other emotional issue. It just means it’s worth focusing on and prioritizing since it may be pervasive. There may be a good deal of branches to explore. And when we find some resolution for it, we’ll likely see the effects in most or all areas of our life.

Fear of going into core issues

Many of us circle around some of the core issues in our life. We are happy to look at the more peripheral ones, and they can be important and can lead into or be intertwined with some of the more core ones. And yet, it’s difficult for many of us to go deeply into the more central issues – the ones that often are from early childhood, have to do with our parents, and impact our life in ways we know and may not be aware of yet.

Why is that? What’s the fear about?

The wisdom of the fear

This fear is natural and understandable. It’s very common, and there is nothing inherently wrong with it.

Whatever the fear is about, it’s there to protect us. It comes from a desire to keep us safe, and it comes from love.

And there is some wisdom in the fear. It protects us from going headfirst into deep issues or traumas that we may not know how to deal with. Through hesitation, it invites us to first gain some experience and willingness, and approach it with appropriate caution and consideration.

Exploring the fear and the stories behind

If or when there is a fear of going into an issue, it’s often wise to explore this fear first.

What is it about? What do I fear would happen if I go into the issue? What’s the worst that can happen?

Do I fear I won’t know how to deal with it? That I’ll get stuck in it? Overwhelmed? That it would be too much for me?

Do I fear that the central issue the fear is protecting is impossible to deal with or resolve? That I cannot heal from it? That it’s hopeless?

Do I fear I will lose something familiar to me, and I won’t know how to live free from it?

Do I fear I will have to make changes in my life (work, relationships etc.) if the issue is not here anymore, and that these changes may be difficult or scary?

What apparent benefits does the issue give me? Do I fear losing these?

Is the issue fuzzy to me and I don’t know where to start? Or that it’s no point in starting if I am not very clear on what it is?

Exploring the fear – dialog and befriending

As I often write about, we can also explore the fear in dialog and also through befriending it.

We can even use heart-centered practices with the fearful parts of us, like tonglen or ho’oponopno. This helps us shift our relationship with the fearful sides of us.

Support in exploring the issue

There is wisdom in this type of fear. The main one is, as mentioned above, that we won’t know how to deal with what comes up when we go into the issue.

That’s why it’s helpful for any of us to have the assistance of someone skilled, kind, and we trust. They can guide us and support us through the process, and help us move through it and out on the other side.

How we approach it

As I mentioned, addressing – and honoring – the fear of going into the issue is an important preliminary step.

We can also use approaches to work on the issue that tend to be gentle and effective. For me, these include heart-centered practices, dialog with subpersonalities, inquiry, body-centered approaches (TRE), and energy healing.

Firmness and willingness

When it comes to exploring these central issues, we often need a gentle firmness with ourselves. A firmness in resolving to see the process through and maintaining our center as best we can while in the process.

Perhaps the most important factor is readiness and willingness. We cannot manufacture these, but we can be aware of their importance and find it in ourselves. A part of us is already ready and willing to work through the issue and come out on the other side. This is an important ally.

In a more general sense, we tend to find this willingness when we realize that the suffering of keeping the issue is greater than the suffering of finding healing for it. Taking a written and detailed inventory of the suffering the issue has created for us, throughout our life, can be very helpful here to bring the message home. We can also do this in dialog with a facilitator since this creates a container that may make it easier.

A natural process

So the fear is natural and there is some wisdom in it. It prevents us from going into something we may not know how to deal with. We can listen to what it has to say, befriend it, and examine the fears behind it. We can find the support of an experienced guide. And over time, and by looking at the effects of the unhealed isse in our life, we can eventually find a genuine willingness to heal the issue all the way through.

How do I know what to work on?

How do I chose what emotional issues or identifications to explore?

When it comes to emotional issues, I usually work on whatever is coming up in daily life. Or any issues I can find related to my parents. Or universal human issues. Or whatever I have written down in the past to work on.

When it comes to identifications, apart from emotional issues, I usually explore the most basic ones. For instance, that I am a human, man, a me, an I, a doer, an observer, consciousness, awakeness, what content of experience happens within and as, and other basic assumptions about me and reality. I especially look for the ones I normally wouldn’t question.

Central vs peripheral issues

I saw someone ask: is this a core issue for me?

What is a core issue?

For me, I think of them as central issues. Issues that are central to who I take myself to be. Issues that have a general impact on my daily life. Issues that are often tied into many other issues – they are networked, have branches, roots and so on. And they are often universal. Shared by many or most humans and ingrained in our culture one way or another.

Some examples of typical core issues in our culture: Fear of rejection. Low self-worth. Define ourselves by our actions and accomplishments.

In contrast, peripheral issues are less central to who I take myself to be. It has less of a general impact on my daily life and tends to be triggered only in specific situations. And they appear more isolated and less tied in with other issues. Although if we explore them, they often lead to more central issues.

Of course, the separation into central and peripheral issues is mind-made and imagined. It’s fuzzy. It’s a matter of definition. It’s there just as a general guide. Sometimes helpful, sometimes less so.

For me, the distinction is mostly helpful in prioritizing what to work on. I’ll generally choose to work on more central issues, although sometimes it’s important to work on the more peripheral ones as well.

I should also mention that if I notice I am reluctant to work on one of my own issues, and it’s difficult for me to do so when I finally get to it, it’s more likely to be a central issue. The peripheral ones are usually easier and more enjoyable to work on. So if it’s a central issue for me, I may get someone else to facilitate me in inquiring into it, or do Vortex Healing for it.

This is also why we often end up working a lot on our peripheral issues and put off working on the central ones. It’s easier to work on what’s less central to who I take myself to be. And that’s another reason why being aware of this (mind-made) difference between central and peripheral issues can be helpful.

Which category do I tend to work on? Perhaps I need to acknowledge my fear of working on the more central issues? Perhaps it will be easier for me if I ask for help to work on them?

So what about the initial question: is this a core issue for me? Only you will know. But if it’s central to who you take yourself to be, colors your daily life, seem tied into other issues, and it’s difficult for you to get to know or work, then it may be a central issue. If so, and you want to explore it, it may be good to ask for assistance.

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Mother and father issues

When asked about what our depression, or anxiety, or troublesome behavioral pattern is connected with, most of us will answer with immediate triggers. It has to do with our work situation, or the world situation, or current relationships.

And yet, as Freud pointed out and has become a bit of a cliche, the real answer is often in childhood. 

We may not feel ready to go directly there. Sometimes, it can be helpful to explore more peripheral or immediate issues. We get to learn and trust the process, and we get to see that it’s safe to meet it and that it can heal.

We get to see that we can learn to meet what comes up with presence, kindness, patience, respect, and gentle curiosity. We see that we can find healing for our relationship with it and how much relief is found here. And we may get to see that the issue itself can find healing and resolve. 

And yet, it’s good to relatively quickly explore if the issue does have roots in our childhood. After getting to know how the issue is experienced here and now, one of my favorite questions in inquiry is “what’s your earliest memory of feeling that way?”. It often brings the client (which sometimes is myself) right back to early situations that tell us something about how the pattern was initially formed. We get to see that it – whether it’s anxiety, depression, a compulsion, or something else – made sense in that situation and was a way of coping with a difficult situation. It was the best we could do in that situation as a child. 

We find understanding and empathy for ourselves, and perhaps even for the issue itself. We see it came from wishing to protect ourselves. And we are in a position to address the biographical roots of the issue, and that may allow for a more thorough, effective, and efficient healing.

Efficiency isn’t neccesarily a priority in a healing process, but we do have limited resources – in terms of time, money, and attention – so it is good to keep at least half an eye on efficiency.

I should also add that by addressing more peripheral and immediate issues, we do actually address parts of the the more central issues. The core issues are expressed in these peripheral and immediate issues. So by working on these peripheral issues, we do make inroads in the core ones. We prepare the ground for addressing them more head on, and it makes it easier – for many reasons – to address the core issues more head on.

We learn about the process, we learn to trust it’s safe to meet our emotional issues, we learn they can find healing, and we do – indirectly and in parts – address the core issues and find some healing for them. 

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