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The Hunger Project Bolen Report
Ohm Society
Emotions and Health Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy This chapter is designed to allow you to become more familiar with, and clear about, your emotions. Nothing could be more important for your health than the unimpeded expression of emotion. Unfortunately, this is not something our culture promotes. The result is that unexpressed emotions express their energy in the living systems of the body, frequently disrupting those systems.

Every doctor is familiar with the "cancer personality," that person down in room 204 of General Hospital with a new diagnosis of some sort of cancer. "The nicest person in the world," say his friends and relatives. "This should not have happened to him!"

It is only now being recognized that most arthritis is caused by, at least in part, repressed emotions, and that the changes which happen with joints and discs are accelerated by, and perhaps initiated by, repressed emotions.

The mind acts on the body in whatever way is necessary to divert your attention from the emotions it considers unacceptable. These emotions are repressed out of consciousness. The result is pain and dysfunction in any of the organ systems of the body. Any repression of emotion presents a health hazard to the body.

Emotions are expressions of thoughts manifested in the body. Obviously, crying and laughing are emotions, as are depression and elation, sadness and ecstasy, anxiety and bliss. Some emotions, you think of as good — those that provide release of tension, pleasure, or escape from pain. Other emotions, you consider bad — those that hold tension in place and create pain.

Good emotions derive from adding to your reality something or someone which you believe will bring pleasure, or by letting go of something or someone you believe has brought you pain. This is called "happiness" and "relief" respectively.

Bad emotions are related to adding to your reality something or someone you believe will bring you pain or discomfort or by letting go of something or someone you believe has brought pleasure or comfort to your life. This is called "dread" and "grief" respectively.

Happiness, relief, dread and grief are the only true emotions. Anger, which is commonly thought of as an emotion, is actually a projection of responsibility. True emotions, when experienced, lead to a state of peace. Anger, when experienced, leads to a state of agitation.

It is important to consider the situations in your life in order to make contact with your emotions because — and this is important — by living in the modern world, you have lost track of how you feel — you have lost track of your emotional life. The only variable here is how much you have lost track of your emotional life, not whether or not you have — because you have. No one has escaped this fate. Men, generally, are further away from their emotions than women. However, considering how lost everyone is, the difference between the predicaments of men and women is almost insignificant.

I am not recommending that you learn to wear your emotions on your shirt sleeve, and put it on other people like some kind of holy water. Your emotions are your own, and sharing them should be done only with people with whom it is appropriate to share them. Like an exclusive party, this sharing is by invitation only.

You have no one to thank or to blame for your emotions. They all are yours, caused and owned by you and by no one else. Nevertheless, they are related to the way you handle the comings and goings in your life. When good things come happiness is natural. If you do not feel it, you are blocking an essential part of who you are. When good things go from your life, sadness is natural. If you suppress the experience of this sadness, it will show up in other ways — pain in your body, loss of sleep, altered behavior, or impaired judgment, for example. When bad things come to your life, dread is natural. If you do not experience this dread, you cannot be appropriate and handle your life in the best way. When bad things go from your life, relief is natural. If you do not experience that relief, you are left with the tension related to the item which is now gone.

Therefore, there is a certain value to experiencing the emotion appropriate to any situation, as that situation appears. However, there is a big problem here. That problem is unconsciousness. Your emotions have become, partially at least, unconscious. The appropriate question relates to how to make unconscious emotions conscious.

Any experience which exists in your reality has some degree of permission from you to exist. Otherwise, it could not exist in your reality, for you created that reality, and all things come and go only with your permission. On the other hand, some experiences come with such great strength that they require very small permission from you to exist. If I send you a new Porsche Carrera, even though you may be a person not given to laughing and dancing in the street, you may have some difficulty suppressing just such a celebration. If the one you love most in the world dies, even though you may have an image of yourself as a very tough person, you will weep for this loss.

So, for an emotion to be expressed requires some degree of strength of experience combined with some degree of permission from you. You have an emotion, experienced or unexperienced, to every event of life, regardless of how seemingly trivial.


Happiness is the emotional response to the coming of things or people into your life from which or from whom you expect pleasure. This is so plain and obvious as to need no further discussion.


Grief is the emotion associated with letting go of someone or something which you believe has brought pleasure to your life. For our purposes in this website, we will consider the letting go of people, even though the same principles apply to things like a wrecked car or a burned-down home.

Grief is natural to the loss of someone you believe has brought pleasure to your life. Grief is healthy and leads to new beginnings. New beginnings full of joy and expectation are possible only when you have made peace with the past.

Making peace with the past constitutes letting go of someone who once was in your life. However, letting go of someone is made impossible by the failure to have acknowledged. Prolonged grief is certain evidence of the failure to have acknowledged. When someone passes from your life and is no longer around you, that person exists in the past, even if that person is still alive and living on the other side of town. When someone is in the past, it is necessary to let go of that person in order to get on with your life. Letting go in the absence of acknowledgment is not possible.

The purpose of this section of the book is to review the last ten years of your life in a search for prolonged grief. This is not as simple as it seems. A common chain of events goes like this:

  1. someone disappears from your life (death, breakup of a relationship),
  2. you experience an acute grief reaction,
  3. you complete the relationship with a negative acknowledgment,
  4. you renew your life with your grief in a state of unconsciousness.

Grief exists in a state of unconsciousness when you have not acknowledged the perfection of a relationship. Perfection in relationship includes the fact that it ended. If, in your experience, it "should have" gone on, you are not in touch with the perfection of the relationship, and your grief exists in a prolonged and perhaps unconsciousness condition.

Prolonged unconscious grief has the effect of limiting the possibilities of your life. Reality must show up consistent with the stand you have taken about the nature of people, the victim-stance, which in that system explains circum-stance, the "condition around." Prolonged unconscious grief also binds the amount of vital life energy necessary to maintain the grief in a state of unconsciousness.


Relief is the emotion appropriately experienced when letting go of something or someone you believe has brought you pain. Like all emotions, it is acceptable to have it, and it has its appropriate time and place for expression. Relief often comes in combination with grief. For example, if someone you love dearly, with whom you also have struggle and conflict, dies or otherwise disappears from your life, the appropriate emotions are grief and relief. Many a married person is, at this moment, daydreaming of the sudden and unexpected death of his or her spouse, wishing for the relief that death would bring without the price tag of responsibility for ending the relationship. If it were to happen, there would be grief, relief, and a psuedo-emotion: guilt.

Relationships without some degree of struggle and conflict are very unusual, almost nonexistent. Therefore, some degree of relief is expected with the end of almost any relationship. Now comes the problem: rarely is that relief experienced and what takes its place is guilt and shame. Where relief should exist, guilt and shame actually do exist. This guilt and shame blend in with the grief which is appropriate to the loss which has happened and prolongs that grief in an unnatural way. The experience of relief at the death of a person or the dissolution of a relationship is inadmissible to consciousness — it makes you look bad to yourself, because you wished for that death in your daydreams.

There is a deeper, more pervasive lie going on here: that relationship with people you love is supposed to be free of struggle and conflict. To admit relief to yourself at the end of a relationship would be to admit that the relationship was not free of struggle and conflict. Struggle and conflict are uncomfortable experiences, and you do your best to eliminate uncomfortable experiences from your awareness. The result: relationship becomes a pretense. You pretend that you have no struggle or conflict with a person, and you do your best not to give away the presence of that struggle and conflict in your behavior or the things you say.

So the advantage of admitting and experiencing relief at the end of a relationship is that authenticity is reintroduced into the relationship, even if the relationship is over forever in terms of interacting with each other. Authenticity is one of the qualities which allows for completion in relationship: the experience that nothing is left over which should be dealt with.

The alternative to admitting the presence of struggle and conflict and resolving issues openly is deadening to relationship. You may look good for a while, but when the relationship is absolutely dead, it looks as good in your life as a dead horse would look in your living room.

Here is the natural flow of experiential transformation: the experience of relief is made conscious and more fully owned _ greater authenticity in current relationships _ awareness of the presence of struggle and conflict in present relationships follows naturally — open and fair conflict resolution begins to have a chance — the experience of love and intimacy becomes more possible.


Dread is that emotional experience appropriate to the situation of adding something or someone to your reality which you believe brings you, or will bring you, pain or discomfort. The definition of the word dread is: anticipation of pain and/or discomfort.

Dread is a normal and useful emotion as long as it remains fixed on the potential danger for which it is designed. Dread moves you toward taking precautions against danger. If, while driving, you see a large truck approaching through your rear-view mirror and that truck is swerving from right to left without regard for other vehicles, dread is the normal emotion to that situation. It moves you to take action — to remove your vehicle and thus your body as well, from the possibility of pain and discomfort. Dread in such a situation may even save your life.

If you are considering working with a person in a job situation and experience dread when you interview with that person, you had best heed this emotion. If you are thinking of marriage to a person and dread keeps coming up, you should pay attention to that experience.

The kind of toughness we have developed, to allow us to continue functioning in a world in which people killing people is an accepted form of conflict resolution, makes us unable to acknowledge the presence of dread. When dread is unacknowledged, it presses itself forward for recognition and in such a situation can grow out of proportion to the situation and become paralyzing.

Franklin Roosevelt said at the beginning of World War II, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." That was not the truth, but it called forth toughness and repressed for some the experience of dread. Since you are not going to war in day to day life, it is not to your advantage to repress dread. Rather, acknowledge its presence, and take it into account. It means something. It can be very useful in living your life successfully, but only when it is recognized and acknowledged. Properly integrated into your life, dread can save you from disaster.

The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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