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Since emotional expression is always tied to a specific flow of peptides in the body, the chronic suppression of emotions results in a massive disturbance of the psychosomatic network.
Every one of the zones, or systems, of the network—the neural, the hormonal, the gastrointestinal, and the immune—is set up to communicate with one another, via peptides and messenger-specific peptide receptors. Every second, a massive information exchange is occurring in your body. Imagine each of these messenger systems possessing a specific tone, humming a signature tune, rising and falling, waxing and waning, binding and unbinding, and if we could hear this body music with our ears, then the sum of these sounds would be the music that we call the emotions.
But it turns out that in addition to the classical neurotransmitters, all of the known peptides, the information molecules, can be found abundantly in the autonomic nervous system, distributed in subtly different intricate patterns all the way down both sides of your spine. It is these peptides and their receptors that make the dialogue between conscious and unconscious processes possible.
The entire lining of the intestines, from the esophagus through the large intestine, and including each of the seven sphincters, is lined with cells—nerve cells and other kinds of cells—that contain neuropeptides and receptors. It seems entirely possible to me that the density of receptors in the intestines may be why we feel our emotions in that part of the anatomy, often referring to them as “gut feelings.
There is a wealth of data showing that changes in the rate and depth of breathing produce changes in the quantity and kind of peptides that are released from the brain stem. And vice versa!
When stress prevents the molecules of emotion from flowing freely where needed, the largely autonomic processes that are regulated by peptide flow, such as breathing, blood flow, immunity, digestion, and elimination, collapse down to a few simple feedback loops and upset the normal healing response. Meditation, by allowing long-buried thoughts and feelings to surface, is a way of getting the peptides flowing again, returning the body, and the emotions, to health.
The immune system was potentially capable of both sending information to the brain via immunopeptides and of receiving information from the brain via neuropeptides (which hooked up with receptors on the immune cell surfaces).
Emotions are constantly regulating what we experience as “reality.” The decision about what sensory information travels to your brain and what gets filtered out depends on what signals the receptors are receiving from the peptides. There is a plethora of elegant neurophysiological data suggesting that the nervous system is not capable of taking in everything, but can only scan the outer world for material that it is prepared to find by virtue of its wiring hookups, its own internal patterns, and its past experience.
...neuropeptides can alter blood flow from one part of the body to another—the rate of blood flow is an important aspect of prioritizing and distributing the finite resources available to our body.
Emotional states or moods are produced by the various neuropeptide ligands, and what we experience as an emotion or a feeling is also a mechanism for activating a particular neuronal circuit—simultaneously throughout the brain and body—which generates a behavior involving the whole creature, with all the necessary physiological changes that behavior would require.