Inside Out, Pixar's newest movie, delves into the brain and processes of our emotional lives. While it is obviously quite fictional (we don't actually have tiny people in our heads, according to science) there is a lot of truth to the situations that Riley and her gang of emotions get into.
As massage therapists, we know that emotions can have a huge impact on your body. One of the most obvious ways that your emotions manifest in your muscles is when you use your muscles to hold back emotions that you either don't want to, or feel uncomfortable expressing. In the movie Inside Out, Joy tells Sadness to stay inside of her circle and not touch any of the memories in Riley's mind.
When we want to keep our own sadness pent up, we don't quite have the ability to go inside of our heads and draw a chalk line to keep Sadness where we think she belongs, so we usually clench our muscles in the front of our necks and often clench our jaw muscles as well. Constantly biting back our feelings and not saying what needs said can lead to chronic tightness in those areas as well as headaches and various throat and jaw problems.
No one is very good at stopping Anger in Inside Out, but in real life, many people are pros. Anger often manifests most in the jaw, and sometimes the back of the neck. Fear can clench up stomach and diaphragm, Disgust... well that usually just wrinkles the nose.
Everyone is different of course, we've seen clients hold nervousness in their hamstrings or elsewhere in the body. Keeping your emotions pent up can leave your body a mess, so learning to express yourself in a healthy way can lead to more than just mental health. Is your massage therapist always working the same area that has no real physical reason to be tight? Maybe you need to talk to someone, have a good cry, or dance all night. As you know, massage therapists aren't psychiatrists, but we do know bodies, and we know that constant clenching will do you no good. Maybe watch Inside Out again and feel all the feels.
-Breanna Kinman, LMT