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How Emotions Get "Stuck" in Your Pelvis

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

Our bodies are fascinating - a huge interplay of organs, tissues, fluids; all communicating and working together to give us this incredible exerpience of life. But how does the body stay in such tight communication? And what happens when we don't use the unique language of our body to process the complexity of what we feel? And how does ALL that relate to the pelvis?!


Let's get into it!


Every Thought You Have Causes a Reaction in The Body

Your body has a variety of messenger systems. The mechanical system - sensory receptors throughout your muscular-skeletal system. The electrical system - impulses from your brain and nervous system. And the chemical system - microscopic structures and compounds from your endocrine/hormonal system.


When it comes to your perception of reality, all of these systems work together to give you a clear picture of what's going on. And the way you feel about that reality is also expressed through theses systems.


Every single thought that you have is translated from the brain and carried out through the physical body. This is why when you think of something embarrassing, you may get hot and sweaty. Or similarly if you think of a person you're attracted to, your heart might start to race.


Every thought creates some sort of physical response, whether consciously noticeable or not. This is because the brain and the body are inextricably connected. The brain exists to serve the body and the body receives and interperts everything before the brain.


Because of this, even when we think we are "over" something, it is not uncommon for the body to still be holding emotions that need to be witnessed and processed. Western society has conditioned us to believe that logic and reason are all we need. But the reality is that the body remembers far past what the mind can access. And the language of the body is movement - breath, sound, flow, tantrum. Not thought and reason.


Sympathetic Overdrive

When the body feels threatened, it sends the necessary messengers, both electrical and chemical, to carry out a physical response. That looks like increasing heart rate (to increase circulation), directing blood to the limbs (in the event that you need to fight or run), dilating your pupils (to let more light in so you can be more aware), and so on. This is known as the Sympathetic Response, or the Fight or Flight Response. If you feel threatened for any reason, this response is triggered, whether it's consciously noticeable or not.


We evolved with this system to serve us. It allowed us to identify danger and get away, thus increasing our chances of survival as a species. But the level of stress we live with today is far more intense than the stress our ancestors dealt with, not necessarily in magnitude but in frequency and consistency.


Instead of, say 1 or 2, big bouts of fear daily that may have come from hunting and gathering, we are waking our bodies out of sync with the sun, committing to 9-5s that are soul draining, pushing ourselves to meet ever-evolving social and societal standards, and adding the pressure of family, success, and connection all being tied to the perception of our worth. The stress can range from mild to severe, but it is non-stop.


Because of this, so many of us living in western society, operate in what's known as sympathetic overdrive. This is when the fear response is triggered over and over again without enough time to recover and adequately enter a state of rest and relaxation (which is known as the Parasympathetic Response).


This is so common because our perception systems are sensitive. And although we may not be facing physical danger on a daily basis, repetitive stress (such that we begin to see it as normal or baseline) has become a way of life for many of us. And in the language of the body, fear from running from a predator and fear from missing a deadline are translated the same way.


We are living in a state of do, perform, achieve. There is very little room for rest, receive, and just be. And our bodies feel it - often times most noticeable by a lack of sensation and awareness.


Your Pelvis is a First Responder

With that said, let's look at how the pelvis fits into all this.


The pelvis, because of its location in the body and role in core control (ready more about that here), is one of the first parts of the body to respond when your body experiences a perceived threat.


When this response is triggered, the pelvic floor preemptively engages. This is so that if you do need to run or fight, your core is prepped and ready to go. This is an involuntary protective mechanism that is meant to serve us. But just like anything else, when unbalanced, it no longer serves.


It is very common for people to have overactive pelvic floors as a result of constant gripping from fear. And the reason is so nuanced is because 1) there are a variety of emotions that fall under the category "fear" and 2) everyone's baseline and perception of that fear is different.


Some common emotions that fall under this category include:


- Shame (fear that you are doing something wrong)

- Doubt (fear that [the thing you want] won't happen)

- Unfulfillment (fear from going your whole live without being fully expressed)

- Low self worth (fear that you are not [good/pretty/smart/etc] enough)

- Needing to people please (fear that you will upset someone)

- Diluting your expression (fear of being seen/judged)


Each of these experienced can be processed as fear in the body and results in a tightening of the pelvic floor. When we are aware of this process, we can tune in and create a pathway for the emotion and tension to move through the body. But when we are not intentional, the emotion and the tension get "stuck."


In this context, getting stuck refers to the moment when tension enters the system and has no path to be released. Over time, the tension accumulates and has the potential to cause physical symptoms.


These symptoms can include: - numbness

- rigidity

- hypersensitivity

- unspecific pain

- chronic pain


Symptoms resulting from emotional/energetic holding often persist even with physical treatment. This is because the root cause of the symptom is not physical itself. It comes from something much deeper that can't be "fixed" with stretching and strengthening. It needs to be witnessed, felt, and released.


It is important to note that each of us exerpeiences these emotions differently, and thus will hold emotional tension differently. We all have unique experiences and understandings of life. This is why it is paramount that we each understand the unique language of our own bodies. It is not enough to follow cookie cutter advice. We need to have the skills to notice, "what does this feel like in my body... is my body perceiving fear... what do *I* need in order to feel safe?"


Emotions & Your Pelvis: Specific Examples

Let's look at some pelvic specific scenarios to illustrate how this fear can potentially get "stuck" at the pelvis.


Sex (TW: purity culture)

B grew up in a home that taught that sex was bad and to be avoided until marriage. The first time B had sex, they were afraid of getting caught so their muscles tensed and stayed tensed. Sex wasn’t necessarily painful, but B began to internalize shame. Now, B notices that when they have partner sex, they want to feel relaxed and they want to be expressing more sensually, but B’s body literally feels stuck.


Periods (TW: period pain)

J has a demanding job. They consistently work long hours and go above and beyond even though this job doesn’t feel fully satisfying to them. J notices that their periods have been worse since starting. They view this as a major inconvenience and begin to resent this time of the month. J feel like their body is letting them down, but because J doesn’t take the time to rest and be with their body, the pain persists.

Pregnancy (TW: painful labor)

The media portrays labor as wildly painful. D is convinced that they can’t do it without an epidural. Every time D thinks about giving birth, their body contracts at the thought of it. When it comes time to give birth, D gets an epidural, but their body is still terrified. Labor ends up stalling and taking longer because D is in a constant state of perceiving “threat.”

Gender Expression (TW: transitioning without support)

Z does not identify with their gender assigned at birth. They have gone most of their life feeling a sense of body dysmorphia. They recently shared their desire to transition with their family. Z’s family is not supportive of this desire. As a result of the internal tension they feel, Z develops a non-specific pain in their abdomen/pelvis that worsens when the dysmorphia feels most evident.


These examples all illustrate a moment where fear came up but wasn't addressed or expressed with intention. Over time, the tissues stored the experience and influenced future experiences.


Also note that any example that falls outside of the context of a "pelvic-specific" example also has the capacity to influence the pelvic tissues. Any of the themes mentioned above, overlaid onto a "general life" experience can cause the same result (e.g. feeling unfulfilled creatively, feeling not-seen and not-heard in a relationship, feeling unexpressed in your friend group, etc.). There are many stories of people who resolved pelvic symptoms by addressing emotional blocks in seemingly unrelated areas of life!


The Body Wants to Serve

No matter what the context, your body is always doing its best to serve you. If you do not create a space for these emotions to be let go and released, the body will hold on to them. In the language of the body, that makes the most sense. The body says, "Not read to look? No problem, I'll hold it for later!"


This is why, when the body has held the emotional tension for too long, it will start to speak to you with physical symptoms. The body says, "Hmm, it's been awhile. I need to remind them that this is here *insert pain.*" And when we resist or resent the symptom, it often gets worse.


When you look at it through this lends, it is a bit easier to have compassion for your body. Every single symptom you ever experience is just your body trying to communicate with you. Your body is never trying to "get back at you" or "hate you." It is trying to get your attention.


I've heard it from a number of people - they decided to seek support at a time that their body was "screaming at them." This is such a common experience. It is such a refined skill to be able to listen to the whispers of your body instead of waiting for the screams.


So What Can You Do?

Healing stored emotions, especially those in your pelvis, requires patience and sensitivity. We always recommend working with someone when embarking on this healing journey. The bottom line for this work is simple: what impacts your body deserves the chance to be lovingly witnessed and held so that it can be expressed and released.


Pragmatically speaking, this process requires 3 things: awareness, safety, and embodiment tools.


Cultivating awareness invites you to become a curious observer. Not a judgmental or critical observer. But one who can step back, view their experience objectively, and simply *notice* what is happening. This requires you to see your experience with non-attachment and notice patterns without them *meaning* anything.


Once you're able to remove yourself from your experience, such that you can look at it curiously, you have to anchor safety in your body. Self-sourcing safety is the skill of being able to look at anything and meet it with a grounded sense of "this is okay. I am okay." Without safety in the body, the process of looking at any emotional tension can inadvertently cause more tension.


And lastly, once you can look at it all and feel safe doing so, you can begin to explore your emotional tension by offering a variety of embodiment tools. An embodiment tool is any practice that allows you to feel the original emotion and express it authentically through your body. Embodiment practices typically fall into one of the categories mentioned earlier - movement, sound, breath, tantrum, touch, etc. Em-BODY-ment is a sensation guided experience, not rational. It is not uncommon to find yourself doing something that you might deem "weird or silly" once you allow yourself to express. If your body is asking to express in that way, it's not weird at all. Your body knows exactly what it needs! This is a process of learning how to trust your body and surrender to the little whispers that say "hey, I want [this]... or maybe we can try [that]."


Beyond this, it is necessary to re-anchor safety and define a new paradigm. For many, tension held in the body is familiar, and therefore, safest (even if you can logically deduce that it does not serve). The process of emotional and somatic release can be reality-shifting so it's important to have all the necessary tools and support in place before diving in head first!


How We Can Help

The process of learning how to hear and honor the unique languge of your body is a life-long journey. If this concept feels new or overwhelming right now, I want to affirm that you are exactly where you need to be and there is no rush. Having the awareness to see it and the desire to evolve is already more than enough! If now feels like the right time to do the healing work in, we want to be a resource for you!


We advocate for self-healing and would definitely encourage you to explore what feels real and true in your body in your own time; however, this article is not meant to serve as medical advise or a how-to guide. We highly recommend working with a practitioner to help the process feel as smooth and clear as possible!


The Pelvic Empowerment Movement offers 1:1 coaching to help you grow in this way! If you're ready to start listening to the whispers of your body, honor the emotions that come through your pelvis, and release the tension that no longer serves, you can book a Pelvic Empowerment Coaching session below!


As always feel free to leave comment sharing your experience! And please share this post with others if you found it helpful!





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