by Ruth Donald
The premise upon which Specific Human Emotional Nexus (SHEN) Therapy rests is that suppressed emotional pain interferes with well-being at all levels of our human experience, contributing to many mental and physical disorders and difficulties in living. The focus of SHEN is, very specifically, to release the contractions that lock the energy of emotional pain in our bodies, so freeing the energy of the stuck emotion. It works primarily within the emotional context of the first five chakras, referring to the first four as emotion centers and the fifth as a center of expression.
The following is a basic summary of the essential functions of the first five chakras, interwoven with SHEN theory of emotion. In spite of the linear description, the functions of all the chakras are very interdependent and interactive, but it is beyond the scope of this article to explore the complex nature of their interrelationships.
The root chakra develops in our earliest infancy, when we have our first experience of ourselves in human form and our first experience of dependency on our caregivers to meet all of our most basic physical and emotional needs. The function of this first chakra extends beyond the immediate family, and is the vehicle for our connection with the whole of physical existence: the world of nature and all living things, including our fellow human beings and our personal ancestry. It is the center of our instinctive nature, our will to survive, and is the source of our physical energy and vitality.
Emotionally, the root chakra relates to our sense of belonging and safety in the physical world. Many live without this sense, and instead either experience pervading existential fear or the results of that same fear suppressed. The origins of such experience reach back to past life, in utero, and early childhood. Poverty; physical, emotional, and sexual abuse; life-threatening trauma, such as being a victim of rape or violence or having experienced the horrors of war; or being in a serious accident all result in root chakra issues.
The conscious or unconscious presence of terror makes the world feel like a very unsafe place in which it is hard to engage in life in a fulfilling and meaningful way. A person with high levels of fear is often prone to isolate or resistant to change. Low energy, coldness, and ungroundedness are common signs. The painful feelings may drive a compulsion to control situations and other people and/or attempts to create safety may lead to excess concern with the material world.
Terror in the energy field blocks the natural flow of energy, and may contribute to any of the following physical problems: anemia, spinal problems, broken bones, prostate cancer, hemorrhoids, bowel and bladder disorders, and sexual dysfunction. Although a disorder may be related primarily to one specific chakra, it is usually the case that there is a relationship with more than one. An open, clear root chakra is demonstrated by a strong physical presence, courage, patience, dependability, adaptability, and a strong sense of purpose.
The development of the second chakra in the child's early years brings with it the beginnings of a sense of "other," and the beginning of relationship rather than symbiosis. It is the time of an emerging, and as-yet fragile, separate identity. Children are very subject to the emotional atmosphere in which they find themselves and the messages, both verbal and non-verbal, that they receive from those around them. It's during these early years that the foundations of their personalities are formed.
When children receive love and respect; when their unique individual spirit is recognized and nurtured; when a safe space with clear boundaries is provided for them to explore themselves and their world; and when the adults who care for them are loving and responsible and able to meet their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs; they grow up with a strong sense of self and of their own worth.
In the absence of these, and especially if children experience emotional, sexual, or physical abuse, they feel undeserving, a lack of a sense of their unique individual selves and of self-worth. They have a deep sense of shame, reflected in the often unconscious thought, "There's something wrong with me," or feel inappropriate guilt, as if everything is their fault. They most likely feel confused, needy, abandoned, have unclear boundaries, lack creativity, are likely to participate in codependent relationships, and have a hard time creating success in any aspect of life as a result of a poor self-image and low self-worth. Alternately, they may be highly successful externally to compensate for painful inner feelings of lack.
The blockage of energy flow at this level, caused by the energy of shame or guilt in the field, often shows up physically as bulimia, low back pain, impaired assimilation, irritable bowel syndrome, menstrual disorders, reproductive system disorders, and sexual dysfunction.
An open, clear second chakra is demonstrated by a deep sense of a unique individual self: self-worth, clear boundaries, a sense of self as a creative and sexual being, full aliveness emotionally, warmth, and empathy.
The development of the mental body and the third chakra mark the emergence of the intellect, reason, and will. The solar plexus is often described as the seat of the personality. When this level of children's progress is supported and they have a strong foundation in their physical and emotional being (first and second chakras); when they are encouraged to assert themselves, to stand up for themselves, to initiate action, to be responsible for their own actions, and to explore their own particular areas of interest, the energy at this level is balanced and strong.
If, instead, children's initiative is thwarted, the energy of their natural impulse to assert themselves may turn into anger or fear. These unresolved emotions underlie what later may show up as lack of motivation and will, anger management difficulties, power issues, passivity, and fearfulness about living in the world (as differentiated from survival fears at the root chakra).
These emotions may eventually lead to digestive disorders in the midsection of the body, such as ulcers, gastritis, heartburn, liver/gall bladder, and spleen/pancreas problems Tension in the diaphragm, which causes difficulty breathing and anorexia, has a relationship to solar plexus issues.
People with open, balanced solar plexus chakras have strong, healthy egos, speak and initiate action with confidence, function easily and successfully in the world, and have strong wills and the ability to stand up for themselves.
The heart chakra is the center of love, and how that love is experienced and expressed depends largely on the condition of the other centers. For example, without the good foundation of a healthy second chakra and the innate sense of self-worth that is contained therein, "love" is likely to reflect itself in codependent relationships.
The painful emotions associated with this center are grief, hurt, and sadness. These responses to loss and being treated with less than love and respect, when given space with a compassionate attitude, will naturally heal. However, closing the heart and denying these emotions leads to an inability to feel the expansiveness of love, understanding, forgiveness, joy and harmony, and results instead in bitterness, loneliness, and lack of ability to really feel, give, or receive love.
Physically, unresolved grief, hurt, and sadness may show up in the body as heart, lung, circulatory, and immune disorders. Research indicates that sixty percent of cardiac patients suffered a major loss six months to a year prior to an attack.
A person with open, balanced energy at the heart level is loving, forgiving, and content.
The throat chakra is the first of the upper chakras, which relate to our more evolved transpersonal functions. The throat governs creative, artistic expression and communication. A closed throat chakra is described in The Women's Book of Healing by Diane Stein as a "universal ailment" and a bane to healing.
When our throat centers are closed, it is difficult to say what needs to be said, to hear and act on our inner guidance, or to be creative or inspired. Disorders at the physical level show up in disorders of the thyroid and parathyroid, sore throats, swollen glands, and laryngitis.
What and how we "express" reflects the condition of the other chakras. Persons with open, balanced energy at the throat have the ability to communicate with integrity, and have access to their creativity and inner guidance.
If one has progressed through all the developmental stages of the chakras in an affirming and supportive environment, it is likely that one will have a good foundation of positive experience from which to progress in life. However, most people find that they experience places within themselves where they are less than happy. Their wounds show up as physical illness, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationships that don't work, anger management difficulties, unhappiness, lack of fulfillment, despair, compulsive eating, chronic tension, and self-sabotage in its many forms.
SHEN theory holds that the origin of emotional experience in our bodies is site-specific: i.e. terror at the root chakra; shame and guilt at the second chakra; fear and anger at the solar plexus; grief, hurt, and sadness at the heart chakra. The positive feeling potential at each level: safety and belonging at the root, self-worth at the second chakra, personal power at the solar plexus, love at the heart center, and clear creative self-expression with integrity at the throat.
SHEN therapy's very specific purpose is to release the stuck emotional energy that lies at the root of the above issues. It is a safe and gentle hands-on energy field therapy, a process with a unique understanding of emotional somatology as it relates to a very specific map of the patterns of energy flow in the body. The practitioner works within this framework to assist the release of suppressed emotion from the client's energy field.
The atmosphere of a SHEN session is mindful and focused on the client's feeling state. Practitioners attune to, and are guided by, the client's process as it wants to unfold. Their hands are placed lightly on the client's clothed body with the intention of accelerating the flow in that place where the stuck emotion wants to release, and the client is coached to stay receptive to his/her own internal process.
The focus of SHEN is very specific, and it is common for a person receiving SHEN to experience increased emotional awareness; heightened dream activity; memories and insights; release of painful, bottled-up feelings; a growing sense of emotional well-being and strength; and the ability to make life-affirming changes.
Ruth Donald is a Certified SHEN Practitioner. She also facilitates personal growth classes and workshops and is pleased to answer any questions you have. Please call (206) 365-5595.