Emotional "Holding"

To anyone familiar with bodywork, the idea that emotional memory and trauma is held in the body is not new. I have done so much bodywork, healing, meditation, movement therapy, and process-oriented work, however, that I forget this is generally an unusual idea in the population at large.

I knew that I had had many experiences as a youngster that were hurtful to me. I was fortunate, in that as soon as I arrived in NYC, new friends told me “go get your body worked on” and I did. Over the past two and half decades, I have been the grateful recipient of sessions of many disciplines where I was guided to release both emotional and physical energy. The aftermath was that I always felt freer, in both ways, to go forward in my life. Often, the “mental programming” that was a residue of old experiences simply stopped after such sessions as well.

Perhaps because I had a lot to let go of, I have spent more time doing this than others. I think it has been and is an essential ingredient in getting the body to stay open, healthy and free, because “life happens” and we don’t always have time in the moment to know what is going to “cling” to us and later, get in our way. Working with someone who does medical massage is wonderful, but working with someone who views massage (or shiatsu, or acupuncture or Rolfing, etc.) as a healing modality is even better. Those that do bodywork specifically to facilitate the release of trauma, and who are trained to handle that effectively, do a tremendous service, most especially to those who use their bodies to earn a living singing.

When the body “holds” energy, it means that the area is blocked. Bodies work best when they are encouraged to move fully and freely. That encourages the breathing to be the same — free and full. This is what allows us to be alive through our senses — as we process the physical world through what we see, hear, feel, smell and taste, and to understand the emotional reactions we have to those stimuli. What we think about what we experience is also important, but it is not, as we in the West are taught to believe, the only valid catalog of information that humans can obtain. The intellect is just part of the equation of knowing that we are alive. Holding energy in the body is not something one does on purpose, and therefore it isn’t something you can simply decide not to do. In the places where energy is held, it isn’t moving, and consciousness itself can go to sleep there.

Blocked parts of the body are deadened. You don’t know that you can’t feel them. You don’t know you don’t have much sensation or awareness there……it never occurs to you. Blocked parts of the body lack more than awareness, they often lack circulation and therefore, they cannot be contacted through deliberate effort. People who do activities that work the full range of movement in all the muscle of the body (swimmers, gymnasts, professional dancers) can develop the ability to feel and move even the muscles deep within the body, along the bones. Yogis claim to be able to feel organs as well as other inner areas that are not generally “felt” by most ordinary people. There is no limit to what you can feel and experience in and through the body. This is true in the voice as well. The voice is a hologram of the body, if we can allow it to be.

Our culture deadens us through constant sitting, through bombardment of the senses and through other things that pull us away from what we truly feel, as both emotion and sensation. All of us are deadened by the painful experiences that life brings starting when we are kids, but continuing throughout life. Perhaps, if you are a librarian, that isn’t so awful (although I’m not so sure), but if you are a singer, it is a catastrophe.

Singing training which works to free the external muscles that are visible to the eye and can be touched is important, and all valid teaching begins there. Training for professionals, however, must eventually affect the deepest inner musculature of the throat, pharynx and larynx, breaking the patterns there that are habitual and which were set into place through our auditory feedback before the age of 2. Vocal training of this nature is transformational and allows the entire voice to become liberated. It is NOT about making a certain set of sounds for resonance purposes alone, regardless of how that is accomplished. It IS about discovering an entirely new set of vocal parameters, most of which cannot be imagined but emerge as completely spontaneous expressions. If there is trauma, and if it is “stored” in those muscles, in the soft tissue, in the very cells of the body itself, it is broken apart and released through the stimulation of movement and breathing. Emotional release comes with it, whether one likes it or not.

To some this may seem like superstitious nonsense, but if you have not had this kind of bodywork, and you do not understand the theories behind it (both Eastern and Western) then you have no basis upon which to judge. This is personal, subjective experiential work. It cannot be “proven” like a geometry theorem, but it is absolutely real.

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4 thoughts on “Emotional "Holding"”

  1. These are profound teachings, Jeanie. I think that for those who practice deep listening, amazing paths open if you are in a position to trust what is being offered.

    Having experienced physical and emotional trauma on a cellular level, I know that it takes courage, faith, and support to let those traumas fly away.

    I hope that every singer, dancer, artist, creative person is fortunate enough to find a teacher as well-educated and wise as you are.

  2. Well said! I totally agree.. Jeannie is the BEST Vocal Technician our era has to offer! Such words of wisdom indeed.

  3. Thank you for this post. I have recently been having body work, and there absolutely is an emotional component! During body work, certain parts of my body, ones that I never would have guessed to be an issue, have led to a release of deep grief and sadness. I felt like I needed to cry a river. Later, I had a hard time remembering some of the problematic thoughts that had come up during that session, as if they simply weren’t an issue anymore. It is amazing. It is best if one is open to whatever will surface.

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