The Language of Symptoms Pt. 1: Body Talk

November 30th, 2014





Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

– Carl Jung



Mini Me’s



© Moving Pictures/New Line Cinema

© Moving Pictures/New Line Cinema



In therapeutic systems based upon energy-consciousness models like shiatsu, acupuncture and some forms of healing, the physical body is seen as the symbolic form of the mind and spirit. It is the physical expression that best matches, challenges and communicates with our state of consciousness. This suggests that we have several sub-conscious levels of ourselves that are influencing and reflecting us all the time.



Our communicating consciousness


We have discussed many times in the Monday Conscious Health blog how the unconscious is always trying to become conscious. In some cases it does this through the manifestation of symptoms. Symptoms can serve to focus our awareness on areas of our self we need to develop, understand and act upon.


There are many systems that attempt to catalogue the symbolic meaning of different body areas and the symptoms we may experience with them. Learning this language can help us in understanding what our body-mind is trying to communicate about us. Let us now have a look at a few commonly experienced problem areas and what we can learn about ourselves from them.



The neck and throat area


The neck is the bridge between the visceral consciousness locked in the cells of the body and the conscious mind of intellectual awareness. The traffic of consciousness can get blocked up on the ‘bridge’ of the neck. In traditional Chinese medicine this area contains many members of the Window of the Sky point group which are responsible for re-establishing the body-mind connection.


The neck and throat area in particular are the seat of expression – where find our unique voice. Blocked expression such as the internalisation or fear can cause us to censor ourselves when when we need to speak and can end up as chronic neck tension and pain, throat infections, or sudden hoarseness of the voice.



The thyroid gland in particular is affected by this dynamic and we have already dedicated a three-part series on this area alone (click here , here and here for more on the thyroid gland).



Message from our emerging awareness:


  • What am I not respecting or expressing about myself? Why do I not think my opinion/voice is worth being heard? What am I fearful of exposing to others?
  • What do I really want?
  • What am I ignoring or devaluing that is important to me?




The shoulders


Called ‘should-ers’ by Marion Rosen (founder of the Rosen Method) the shoulders reflect our relationship with the burden of responsibility; its connection to conflict, power and integrity; along with the potential for the unfettered expression of joy, openness and strength.


Specifically, the right shoulder relates (in its negative manifestation) to powerlessness, frustration and anger. Positively, it concerns our ability to set clear boundaries, learning to say ‘no’ and valuing our own worth and integrity.


The left shoulder relates to the heart and emotional expression. Do we follow the siren song of our longing or do we crush our own spirit through the excuses of responsibility, guilt and duty?



dragging heart




Message from our emerging awareness:


  • Learn to recognise when others overstep our boundaries or disrespect us and develop the courage to set limits or just say no.
  • Why are we allowing ourselves to do something we actually do not want or even need to do? Why do we assume the responsibility is always ours? Learn to delegate and share responsibility.
  • Identify the areas (people, relationships, situations) that drain our energy and assess whether they need to be in our life anymore.




The upper back and chest


This is the heart level of the body and reflects our emotional intelligence, openness or repression. Physically, it connects our breath and posture. A collapsing in of the chest not only has the potential to weaken lung function but reflects a censorship of emotional connection.


The most common reason for this is an attempt to avoid emotional pain. Similarly, chronic pain and tension between the shoulder blades indicates a storage of unexpressed or unprocessed emotions that gather behind the heart region.


Think of this area as our emotional backpack that we store repressed emotional energy to be dealt with later. Sometimes later never comes and the energy finds work to do in deeper and more destructive ways within the organ system itself. More about those levels next week.


Back diagnosis


Message from our emerging awareness:


  • Respect the validity of how we feel. Don’t be afraid to feel.
  • Trust our intuition
  • Consciously, clearly and compassionately express what we think and feel to others
  • Let go of past hurts and sadness. It is only us that suffers from holding on to them.



The solar plexus, stomach and mid back areas


Emotionally this horizontal zone of the body is, in its negative expression, connected to anxiety states. Think of worrying about something without action to resolve it as a kind of poor digestive ability. Thoughts and emotions cannot be broken down, sorted and used effectively. Instead, they churn around without being digested and we feel stuck, anxious and powerless to do anything.


Pain and tension in the abdominal muscles, particularly in the solar plexus area along with an inability to breathe deeply and a tendency towards nausea and stomach pain are the common outcomes of sustained anxiety states.


In traditional Chinese medicine it relates to the Earth element which is feminine in nature and therefore has an additional aspect for women through control of female hormones, the breasts, fertility and the menstrual cycle.



Message from our emerging awareness: 


  • Trust in our own resourcefulness. We are not victims. We can change our situation.
  • Enlist help where needed but also watch out for a tendency to selfishness and resentment.
  • Don’t procrastinate. Do it now.
  • 1



The low back and hips


This area is central to the power of the body. It is the centre of balance along with confidence and sexual and creative power. A sense of powerlessness and the frustration that comes from it is symbolised as inflexibility, pain and inflammation in the hips.


The low back is the ‘battery pack’ area of our body and the lumbar and sacral spine supports and balances our weight between the opposing forces of downward moving gravity and upward moving earth energy.


Common problems in this area like lumbar pain, lumbago, and so-called ‘slipped disk’ can be the result of physical exhaustion, taking on too much responsibility and chronic fear/survival issues dominating our life.


Feelings of inadequacy and performance anxiety (including sexual performance and confidence) combined with survival stresses (economy problems, health and relationship issues) become the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’.


For men, it influences sexual potency, their relationship with their own masculinity and the prostate gland.




Message from our emerging awareness


  • Stop doing so much and allow more time to just be
  • Rest the physical body. Less outgoing and more incoming energy
  • Do not get stuck in negativity or hopelessness. Change our situation before it causes us harm.




Legs, ankles and feet


Unsurprisingly these are what hold us up under pressure. To buckle at the knees is to succumb to wear and tear and the pressure from it. Like the hips, the knees can be a symbol of frustration or taking our energy too much for granted and not respecting our limits.


The ankles symbolise both our will and drive along with our grounding in the here and now. Ankle problems and accidents often occur when our mind is elsewhere and we are disconnected from the earth or ourselves.  It is easy to trip up when we have our head in the clouds


The foot arches also hold us up and relate to confidence in our own ability. They are ruled by the Water element in traditional Chinese medicine and the emotion of fear. What are we running from?



Message from our emerging awareness


  • Trust. A suspicious, closed nature will find us isolated, alone and at odds with the world. We first need to trust in our own ability and that, like water, we will always find a way.
  • What are we afraid of?
  • Learn to develop supportive networks so we do not become isolated and powerless. We do not have to do everything ourselves.



Deep in conversation


Well that’s enough body talk for now. Next week we will go a little deeper and look at some emotional and behavioural perspectives behind common diseases and health issues.


After all health and disease in not ‘out there’ somewhere. It is something we co-create and communicate within ourselves. It is not about blame or guilt however. From the perspective of conscious health, within any given problem lies the seeds of its solution and the potential to grow wiser and more aware from the experience.




Till we are all aware that Monday is not a symptom of anything but our attitude towards it.



I could add “Let go of our dysfunctional relationship to our mother” to this list but that would be another blog – or book – in itself.




© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:



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