Emotional hungers you may not even be aware of can drive you to make choices and behave based on emotional need instead of what’s actually best for you. This kind of emotionally-driven behavior has natural consequences, most of them unwanted. To turn this around, there are some constructive steps you can take.

Emotional Hunger
You already do some things to take care of yourself. You look before crossing the street, you eat, you sleep, and you wear more clothing when it’s colder and less when it’s warmer. That’s great – as far as it goes. But taking care of yourself in the face of emotional hungers requires a different kind of strategy because these needs arise, not from a physical, bodily base, but from an emotional one.

Emotional hungers that go unattended can cause a wide variety of symptoms and lead to all kinds of negative outcome. You know how this works with your eating patterns: go without food long enough and you feel weak, tired, cloudy-headed, negative, depressed, confused, irritable and so on.

In the same way, unmet emotional hungers have similar negative consequences. Feeling fearful, anxious, ashamed, unmotivated, insecure, aggressive or depressed are just some of them. It’s a simple truth we too often overlook: just as we all need nutritious, healthy food every day, so we need good emotional nutrition™ every day.

Too many of us are emotionally hungry – even emotionally starved. Our strategies for plodding on anyway may be creative, but ultimately they are doomed. We over eat, or starve. We sleep too much or not at all. We’re highly reactive emotionally or absolutely dead to any feeling at all. Eventually we’re overstressed, overworking, under producing, over consuming, leading boring lives or taking senseless risks and depending on wide variety of substances – legal and otherwise- to manage. Failing to deal with emotional needs can even lead to physical illnesses.

How can this be? How can emotional hungers that we may not even be aware of – but that are going without nourishment - lead to so many negative consequences, including some that are physical?

How Emotional States Become Physical Ones
First, not being aware of such hungers lessens their impact not in the least! It’s a commonly accepted that some 95% of our emotional lives are unconscious and that these unconscious goings-on drive us both to do things we don’t want to do or prevent us from doing things we want to do!

That biological pathways of our emotional selves not only exist, but how they affect every part of us was scientifically demonstrated by Dr. Candace Pert, PhD., former professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University. She established that our subjective self constantly creates information molecules that control our health and physiology. In other words, our emotional selves ceaselessly produce physical and emotional changes! What that means, is that everything from headaches to gall stones to autoimmune disorders, motivation or relationship problems, self-sabotage – all of these negative outcomes can result from our emotional state.

As Dr. Pert proved, “the molecules of emotion color our perception and hence our creation of reality… they are the biochemical links between our awareness, our thoughts and emotions and our physical well-being.”

That said, we can’t just will ourselves to change it. We can’t just force ourselves to shift from an emotionally hungry state into a well-nourished one. We may have the desire to be secure, relaxed, stable, confident and energetic - to base our life choices on what’s likely to produce the best outcome. But our physiology will not be convinced. When was the last time you just decided to make new biochemical links so you would no longer run your life from the unconscious needs that produce self- sabotage?

How can we do this, then? How can we go from being emotionally undernourished, malnourished or even starving to abundantly well-nourished? How can we change something that sounds as immutable as our biochemical links?

Emotional Nutrients™
The answer to this question was revealed to me in over 40 years of working with people in private practice, workshops and seminars around the world. My background as an R.N. a Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst, and a clinical nutritionist enabled me to assist people to create this physiological shift. They were able to do this by altering their emotional diet. They accomplished this by taking in and ‘digesting’ certain key emotional diet components that provided what they needed to be well-nourished emotionally. It’s the same basic process as taking in certain basic nutritional components (protein, vitamins, enzymes, etc.).

These were delivered in two ways. One was through teaching people how to give these essential messages to themselves. The other involved educating them in how to give them to another via their social relationships.

How, we may ask, is it possible that a message we may give ourselves or take in from another can nourish us emotionally to the extent that it can change our emotional state, our physiology and biochemistry? The short answer is that every single one of the 50 to 70 trillion cells in our bodies is always busy adapting to our environment.

“Well”, you may think, “I can’t command my cells.” And yet the truth is our brains are doing exactly that all of the time, as cellular biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD., demonstrated. In fact he discovered the exact ways such messages control our biology and that they can even run our genes.

It turns out we’re giving ourselves and each other such messages all the time. In other words we’re already instructing our bodies with various emotional messages – and some of these communications are commanding our bodies to create discomfort, dysfunction and illness!

That’s why it’s so important that we keep ourselves emotionally well nourished – that we keep ourselves in a state of positive emotional sustenance. Part of the benefit certainly is about feeling good, feeling our core selves developing, our individuality blooming in a positive way. And changing the environmental signals that elicit the behavior of our cells results in better physical health too.

But there’s a social benefit too. Our relationships improve since we’re no longer relating from an emotionally needy place, plus we’re full enough emotionally to offer emotional nourishment to others.

Scientific studies have repeatedly demonstrated that when we receive emotional support, we are less ill less often and our illnesses when they do occur are less severe. Further, studies have confirmed that those who are already ill survive longer. (For example, women with breast cancer and people with malignant melanoma who received weekly emotional support lived longer, people undergoing surgery who had positive emotional preparation had more successful outcomes.)

Indeed, as we give emotional nutrients™ time to work, small and large changes begin to take hold in a process that is no more magical than taking in a essential nutrients in your food diet. And the results are no less profound!

Author's Bio: 

Pamela Levin, R.N., is a Teaching and Supervising Transactional Analyst in private practice 40+ years. Her professional work has focused on healthy emotional development - what it is and how to support it. She is teaching a series of 10 one-hour weekly online classes, The Emotional Development 101 starting Sept. 12, 2011. Go to www.emotionaldevelopment101.com for details.