#12 Tissue Issues: How Biological Anniversaries Re-appear
This time we will be looking through the somatic and psychodynamic lenses at what I refer to as Tissue Issues. These are times when we may be taken by surprise by an emotional reaction that emerges 'out of nowhere', but upon closer examination it does have a context that is driving it. Our bodies come equiped with this emotional muscle memory capacity that remembers our history and saves it in a type of somatic calendar of our emotional intensity history, both good and traumatic. Parts of this tissue held version of history fades with time, but does not get lost and continues to inform us if we are ready to look.
One of the complicated aspects of tissue issues is they do not need or seek our permission to occur, which at times can leave us quite confused or disoriented in time and place. What is actually happening is we are re-experiencing a piece of our actual emotional history without knowing it. All of the emotions that originally came up, or if we would not let them come up at the time, it comes raging back. It may be the intensity of the feellings that can surprise us, especially if we were not willing or able to experience our reactions at the time the event took place. So our tissue can actually engineer a forced 'feelings do over' whether we are ready to or not. As these emotions re-emerge, there is the option to once again deflect, suppress or disengage emotionally, and there is also an opportunity presented to us by our 'big brain', which I consider our tissue to be, to participate in these emotions now that there has been some distance from the original events which could make it easier to risk, once we realize what is happening. It can feel less overwhelming and not such a threat to their own self regulation because of this distance.
When a significant emotional event happens in our lives, it happens in time, space and tissue all at the same time. We tend to register these first 2 contexts but often miss or avoid the 3rd one because it can be very intense and challenge our usual abilities to remain in control of ourselves including our emotions. Our tissue has remembered the emotional experience of the event and represents it to us on the actual anniversary date just as it was at the original time as a kind of emotional muscle memory including both our physical and emotional experiences.
Lets consider a grief scenario to provide an example of how this might unfold. It is well understood that the first year of life following the loss of a significant other is a tough year of firsts for the person experiencing the loss to have to go through. There is a the merging of the personal loss with the specific event that will now be changed because that person will no longer be present, so the rituals and routines that are familiar will also require an imposed change of this actual ritual. This kind of forced change is especially hard for some people to manage in the midst of their on-going grieving because it continues to happen over and over again at every special event in that first year. Many people will mark that first anniversary deliberately and re-engage those already felt emotions, often at a slightly less level of intensity. Some others can be caught off guard by these emotions just welling up until they realize that it is a tissue anniversary, or another opportunity to move through these emotions and can become a way of honoring the person who passed and finding the way those left behind can move forward into their new life, informed by the person who passed, and incorporating these new adjustments into new meaning making in their new life.
There is also another aspect to the storage of our emotions in our tissue that I refer to as tissue grief. While this can resemble the example above, it can also be extended by other biological elements like hormones. Because hormones tend to affect the whole organism both broadly and more narowly, tissue grief may need another level of appreciating when it is engaged. Take pregnant women for example, the impact of the surging of the various hormones in their body have differing effects at different times, but they are all driven in the tissue producing behavioural and dynamic outcomes. Tissue continue to vastly express our emotional landscape at critical times in our life. Getting familiar with how and when some of these unexpected events can occur can help us make sense out of things which at first glance do not make sense for both ourselves and our clients. Our willingness to hold space for the unexpected to invite us and our clients into the space of not knowing and become curious and explore teir present circumstance as well as their relatively recent history can increase their own confidance in trusting their tissue as an important part of their memory. I will leave you all there for now, treasuring your tissue memories.
Next time I will be looking at Infidelity and an Ispection model I use to work with couples facing this hurdle. I hope you found something in these thoughts that was useful and I hope you will join me for my next offering October 1st too. Ciao, David