Don’t Shut Down Your Emotions or Your Immune System Will Give Up!
- Out of Print But Still Available Used -
The principle of boosting the immune system by “riding the wild horse” (handling our emotions).
Living Beyond Fear : Coping with the Emotional Aspects of Life-Threatening Illness
by Jeanne Segal Ph.D.
Many of us, usually when we’re young, and for a variety of reasons, teach ourselves to numb and deaden our feelings, to only think about, rather than fully experience them. Distorting or turning off emotional awareness is a relatively easy thing for most of us to do. We simply tighten our muscles and hold our breath. And by deadening our bodies in this way, we bury emotions that cause us pain or discomfort. Therefore, it’s by focusing on the physical and emotional sensations in our bodies that we are able to recover these emotions and become mindful…
Let’s begin by exploring your breathing. Are you a person who breathes fully and deeply? To check this out put one hand on your stomach, and the other on your chest and take a deep breath now. How much does each hand move? Is it at least an inch? If your hands move only a little, or barely at all, don’t be surprised, or disappointed in yourself. Most adults have become shallow breathers, simply because we don’t take the time to notice how we breathe, or how this affects us. If you continue to pay attention, your breathing will progressively deepen over time…
You may find it helpful to imagine that as your breath goes in and out it carries the message :”permit the sensation ” or “allow the sensation “. You may want to notice if the feeling seems familiar – if you felt this way before? If it’s familiar, you may ask , How old is this sensation? Don’t analyze – just notice and immediately go back to focusing on your experience…
How the Ride the Wild Horse audio training evolved
The meditative exercise called Ride the Wild Horse has been in use for over 25 years. The process was first developed in the early 80s when I was working with cancer patients at UCLA. Our research found that those patients who were emotionally aware, comfortable with a wide range of emotions, and used this awareness in their decision-making process, managed to live significantly longer than those who disowned their emotions. While it seemed like a revelation at the time, it is now widely acknowledged that social and emotional health is a major contributor to a patient’s ability to overcome life-threatening health problems.
In developing a process for teaching patients how to recognize their emotional experience, several challenges became apparent:
- Words were inadequate tools for helping people discover their emotional experience. Physical feelings and bodily sensations were much better resources for tracking emotional experience.
- People often feared the emotional experience they were trying to connect with. So, in order to succeed, the learning process had to be paired with something very pleasant that both reduced and resolved their fear.
To overcome these challenges, relaxation became an important part of the process. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and elements of Vipassana meditation were integrated into the process. At a later date, when it was discovered that rapid stress reduction could be accomplished through sensory means, quick stress relief training was added.
The name, Ride The Wild Horse, was inspired by the beautiful and powerful image of a wild horse whose feral energy can be tamed, harnessed, and eventually befriended.
— Jeanne Segal, PhD