Our earthly bodies experience a lot during our lifetime- from childhood growth all the way into the aging process. We don’t always have control over the things that happen to us, but we do know that our bodies are always doing their best to keep us safe and able to move forward. Sometimes we go through unpleasant events or traumas, and even after we feel that we have mentally moved on, our bodies may disagree! Our physical selves do a great job of storing energy (events, memories, fears, etc…) in various places, walling it off to keep it from spreading throughout the entire system. These emotional imprints or pockets of stress are what we call “energy cysts”, and releasing them is one of the focuses of CranioSacral Therapy. These cysts can hang out in our bodies for many years, even decades, and we may not even be aware of their presence. After all, we are pretty good at dealing with the small bumps and bruises of life, but often times, we reach a tipping point where we can no longer compensate for the growing amount of energy cysts. Physical pain or disease is sometimes caused by the presence of an energy cyst, which is affecting the flow of energy throughout the body. Over time, our physical structure, especially our skeletal alignment and muscular tension, shifts in response to these cysts, and we often don’t notice these micro-compensations. Until they start to cause us pain or discomfort, of course!
You can think of this in terms of a beautiful river; you always have a river of energy flowing through you. This dynamic vibration allows you to exist, move, communicate, and interact with life. But if there is a large stone or rock in that river, you will get an area of turbulence around it, potentially throwing off the otherwise-smooth flow. Energy cysts are the rocks and stones in our bodily river, and their presence can cause ripples or disturbances, which can translate to physical pain, illness, or a nagging feeling of discomfort.
According to the laws of thermodynamics, energy cannot be created nor destroyed. Thus, when we experience a physical trauma, like a car accident for example, the energy of that accident is absorbed by the body. And this penetration of chaotic energy causes the formation of a localized “ball” that the body has to figure out what to do with. If you’re healthy, balanced, and vital, usually your body can quickly release this ball of energy, but in many cases, our bodies start to compress it into a smaller and smaller area, to reduce the negative impacts to surrounding tissues. This eventually becomes an energy cyst, a roadblock in the busy highway of your body’s energy system.
It’s completely normal and expected for all of us to form these cysts over time. After all, our emotions carry tremendous energy, especially in the wake of a physically traumatic event, and we usually don’t have the tools to process them completely. So, they hang out in our tissues as energy cysts, until they can properly get our attention to revisit them and perhaps finally resolve and release them. This phenomenon was first discovered in the 1970’s with scientific research done by John E. Upledger, an osteopathic physician and Zvi Karni, a biophysicist. They realized that the body often retains the emotional imprint of both physical trauma and the intense feelings associated with it. Dr. Upledger went on to formalize the practice of CranioSacral Therapy, and the technique to release these energy cysts, sometimes called SomatoEmotional Release, which we’ll talk more about in our next blog!
You don’t necessarily have to have had experienced a “traditional” trauma to have energy cysts in your body. Each person is unique, and each person’s path through life is unique, and it’s not uncommon to store emotions from things like your birth experience, falling on the school playground, catching a really bad flu in college, or falling off your mountain bike last weekend. No matter what you go through in this life, if you have strong emotions about a physical event that you cannot process or fully experience in your body, you could potentially create an energy cyst. You don’t have to fight in a war, survive abuse or torture, or have a tragic death in the family for your body to recognize a trauma, and try to wall it off to keep you safe!
It’s been said that our bodies can tell stories, and certainly in the practice of my work, that seems to hold true. Significant life events can leave residues in the tissues, and sometimes just the action of putting your attention there, within the healing space provided by a qualified therapist, can release a deep well of feelings and memories. Our bodies are incredible and complex and so intricately tied to our emotional and spiritual experiences, that oftentimes it takes an “alternative” modality like CranioSacral to fully work through an event. For many people, simple talk therapy won’t cut it, because it doesn’t address the physical, energetic component of trauma.
Next week, we will delve deeper into this concept of energy cysts, and how we can release them in a healthy and loving way. In the meantime, I invite you to pay closer attention to your areas of pain or discomfort in your body, and what they may be trying to tell you!