Oct 9, 2012 by MICHAEL JAWER and MARC MICOZZI
What Is Your Emotional Type?
The Flow of Feeling
Different people process their feelings in different ways--your emotional style is a fundamental aspect of who you are. It affects more than just your outlook on life; it can affect your very well-being. Many chronic ailments are not the result of germs or genes but are rooted in our emotional biology. The link between emotional type and health explains why modern medicine--which views treatment as "one size fits all" --often fails to successfully treat chronic pain and illness.
Examining the interplay of emotions, chronic illness and pain, and treatment success, Michael Jawer and Dr. Marc Micozzi reveal how chronic conditions are intrinsically linked to certain emotional types and how these ailments are best treated by choosing a healing therapy in line with your type. Explaining the emotional ties behind the 12 most common chronic illnesses--asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, hypertension, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, post-traumatic stress disorder, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ulcers --the authors have created an easy assessment survey that allows you to identify your emotional type as well as the ailments you are susceptible to. Extending this connection between mind and body, they assess 7 alternative healing therapies --acupuncture, hypnosis, biofeedback, meditation, yoga, guided imagery and relaxation techniques--and indicate which methods work best for each emotional type.
The Energy of Emotions
That our feelings are dynamic and energetic is easy to demonstrate. Just envision a time you became frustrated or angry and impulsively struck a wall or some piece of furniture. Or consider how drained one can become when worrying about a loved one if that person’s health takes a turn for the worse. Take the energy released from crying, or by a good belly laugh, or that liberated during sexual activity. The amount of energy involved can be immense.
We might picture one of our greatest feelings -- joy -- as a radiation of happy energy, out into the world, and one of our worst feelings -- despair -- as an inhibition of energy as the individual recedes into him or herself. That sense of movement is reflected in the word "emotion" itself, which comes from the Latin emovere, meaning "to move from" or "to move out of." Such movement is characterized by actual changes in activity within our bodies. Changes in the body's chemical profile...changes in the organs...changes in the degree of muscle contractions...and changes in our neural circuitry. In sum, change connotes movement, and movement connotes energy.
While we use calories to measure the intake and expenditure of physical energy, there is no currently accepted "scientific" way to delineate emotional energy. However, an attempt to capture it linguistically has been attempted by many cultures and philosophies, centrally tied to concepts of health and healing. The Hindus call embodied energy prana, the Chinese know it as qi. Freud found something he termed the libido and, around the same time as Freud, a French philosopher named Henri Bergson called it √©lan vitale, or "life force." Whatever we choose to call it, it seems to protect people from the debilitating effects of stress.
Consider the proposition that feelings are like water. Picture any given feeling as a flow of clear, cold water, rippling through the body, in continuous motion.
In people whose boundaries are thinner, that flow is quicker and more direct. In people who have thicker boundaries, the flow is slower and less direct. Remember, though, that each one of us is psychosomatic -- that is, our minds and our bodies are effectively one. Given the differences inherent in boundary type, we can imagine that the stream of feeling will meander different places, and cause different effects, from person to person. In one person, it may pool in a particular locale or ripple over into a tributary. In another person, it may cascade freely. In a third person, the flow may be dammed up.
An especially thin boundary person will seem to be highly sensitive, reactive, even "flighty" because his or her feelings flow quickly through the organism. An especially thick boundary person will, in contrast, appear aloof, imperturbable, even "dull" because his or her feelings proceed more slowly. And while some feelings are wont to register in our awareness, others -- the more intensive or threatening kind -- can be shunted aside, repressed or denied.
THE BOUNDARY CONCEPT
* Find Your Boundary Type *
Because we are bounded within our bodies, we are enabled to have distinct minds and personalities. The Boundary concept, developed by Ernest Hartmann, MD, of Tufts University, is an especially useful way of looking at personality differences -- and understanding why one person may develop a chronic illness that is distinctly different than another.
Boundaries are more than a measure of introversion or extroversion, openness or closed-mindedness, agreeableness or hostility, or any other personality trait. Boundaries are a way to assess the characteristic way a person views her/himself and the way s/he operates in the world based on how that person handles the energy of feelings. To what extent are stimuli "let in" or "kept out"? How are a person’s feelings processed internally? Boundaries are a fresh and unique way of evaluating how we function.
According to Hartmann, each of us can be characterized on a spectrum of boundaries from "thick" to "thin." In his words:
There are people who strike us as very solid and well organized; they keep everything in its place. They are well defended. They seem rigid, even armored; we sometimes speak of them as "thick-skinned." Such people, in my view, have very thick boundaries. At the other extreme are people who are especially sensitive, open, or vulnerable. In their minds, things are relatively fluid...Such people have particularly thin boundaries....I propose thick and thin boundaries as a broad way of looking at individual differences.
Hartmann first came to his conception in an interesting way. In the 1980s, he was studying people who have nightmares and noticed that they could also readily recall other vivid or colorful dreams even if they didn’t qualify as nightmares. These people seemed to him especially "sensitive," "vulnerable," or "imaginative," in contrast with other people who came across as more "solid," "stoic," or "persevering." He suspected that there are real brain and body differences between thin and thick boundary people, and he developed a questionnaire to gain more insight.
Since the 1980s, at least 5,000 people have taken Hartmann’s Boundary Questionnaire (BQ) and more than 100 published papers have referenced it. The scores on the BQ are distributed across the spectrum of boundaries in a Bell-shaped curve. Women tend to score significantly thinner than men, and older people tend to score somewhat thicker than younger people.
Thick and Thin Boundaries
Evidence shows that thin boundary people are highly sensitive in a variety of ways and from an early age:
- - They react more strongly than do other individuals to sensory stimuli and can become agitated due to bright lights, loud sounds, particular aromas, tastes or textures.
- - They respond more strongly to physical and emotional pain in themselves as well as in others.
- - They can become stressed or fatigued due to an overload of sensory or emotional input.
- - They’re more allergic and their immune systems are seemingly more reactive.
- And they were more deeply affected -- or recall being more deeply affected -- by events during childhood.
In a nutshell, highly thin boundary people are like walking antennae, whose entire bodies and brains seem primed to notice what’s going on in their environment and internalize it. The chronic illnesses they develop will reflect this "hyper" style of feeling.
Thick boundary people, on the other hand, are fairly described as stolid, rigid, implacable or thick skinned:
- - They tend to brush aside emotional upset in favor of simply "handling" the situation and maintaining a calm demeanor.
- - In practice, they suppress or deny strong feelings. They may experience an ongoing sense of ennui, of emptiness and detachment.
- - Experiments show, however, that thick boundary people don’t actually feel their feelings any less. Bodily indicators (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure, blood flow, hand temperature, muscle tension) betray their considerable agitation despite surface claims of being unruffled.
In sum, highly thick boundary people don’t take in nearly as much in their environment and they are much slower to recognize what they’re feeling. However, they are affected just as much as thin boundary people by what’s happening within. The differences will ultimately manifest in different types of chronic illness.
Your Emotional Type: Key to the Therapies That Will Work for You
is available at major book stores. Visit the website youremotionaltype.com for further details.
Michael A. Jawer, an emotion researcher and writer based in Washington, DC, has been investigating the mind-body basis of personality and health for 15 years.
Marc S. Micozzi, MD, PhD, a national leader in the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), is adjunct professor of physiology and biophysics at the Georgetown University School of Medicine.