Matthew Hogg BSc (Hons) mFNTP mNNA mABH mABNLP
Registered Nutritional Therapist, Hypnotherapist & NLP Practitioner
When we refer to Energy Psychology, at least here at EiR Psychology, we are talking about practices and techniques which draw on spirituality and the 'energy body' with its chakras and meridians. We'll briefly explain what these are (for the uninitated) as we go along and discuss how energy psychology can positively influence our physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Energy psychology can take many forms and draws heavily on the philosophies and religions of the Far East, although other cultures and even modern science also contribute. As Lynne McTaggart expertly investigated and described in her seminal book The Field, even modern scientific studies have shown that everything and everyone is connected and intertwined. All the molecules in our bodies constantly communicate with each other, connecting mind and body inseparably, but McTaggart and the researchers she interviewed found it goes much deeper and further than this. They explained that our thoughts and emotions are as real as the device you're reading this on, and through our thoughts and emotions we are able to influence the world around us.
Our thoughts and emotions have measurable effects on electromagnetic fields (EMFs) and most likely energy fields science is not yet able to understand or measure; what might be called 'subtle energy'. Ancient cultures understood this millennia ago through their spiritual practices and our modern world has increasingly lost touch with this knowledge. However, there is a whole world of energy psychology to explore that we simply can't do justice to in this one article; but we'll do our best to look at some basics and examples.
Definition of Energy Psychology
The Association For Comprehensive Energy Psychology (ACEP) defines energy psychology (EP) like this:
"Energy psychology (EP) is a collection of mind-body approaches for understanding and improving human functioning. EP focuses on the relationship between thoughts, emotions, sensations, and behaviors, and known bioenergy systems (such as meridians and the biofield)."
Note: the 'biofield' refers to the electromagnetic fields produced by individual atoms, cells, molecules and the body as a whole as we discussed above with the work of McTaggart.
So, EP as we shall now refer to it, is a collection of approaches, techniques and therapies that utilize the mind-body connection to provide therapeutic effects, whether a person (or patient) is suffering from a mental or physical illness. In fact the duality of mental or physical is basically done away with in EP - as it should be - given the scientific evidence that all illness has both mental and physical components.
Depression for example, has been shown to produce physiological changes throughout the entire body, not just the brain as traditionalists would still have you believe. And which comes first, the depression or the physiological changes? It's widely accepted now, for example, that the gut-brain axis is hugely influential. So if you have an unhealthy gut you are more than likely to experience changes in your mood and behavior. A great layman's resource for this is the book Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) by Natasha Campbell-McBride.
Chakras, Meridians and the Biofield
As mentioned above, it's worth taking time to explain what chakras, energy meridians and the biofield are since these are what EP approaches are predominantly based on:
Chakras are concentrated energy centers at specific locations throughout the body. Chakra is a Sanskrit word meaning “wheel” or “disk” as chakras are spinning wheels of energy or light. Chakras have the loving responsibility of taking in, incorporating and emanating energy to keep us functioning at optimal levels of health and wellbeing. When a chakra is not functioning properly or has become 'blocked', we are more prone to experience illness. Our wellbeing on all levels can affect and is affected by our chakras. If we are feeling depressed, then we may not be taking in the maximum amount of energy for our needs. If we fail to provide our bodies with the proper food and nutrients, then we may take in less energy than required, for example. If we “block” negative emotions such as anger, etc., or do not speak our truth, we may be unconsciously impeding our healthy energy flow. EP techniques often focus on unblocking and optimizing the functioning of chakras to promote healing and good health.
While chakras are the energy centers, meridians can be considered the equivalent of veins and arteries of the circulatory system in the energy body. They are channels, or highways if you like, through which subtle energy (Qi - in Traditional Chinese Medicine) flows, accessing all parts of the body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), meridians can be mapped throughout the body; they flow within the body and not on the surface, and meridians exist in corresponding pairs. Each meridian has many points along its path where it is particularly conducive to positive manipulation using therapies like acupuncture and acupressure. Just as chakras can become blocked or function poorly, so too can meridians through which energy from the chakras flows; it's thus imperative that both are clear and your subtle energy is allowed to flow freely if you are to attain, or maintain, optimum wellness and wellbeing.
As we've discussed, even science is looking into EP and the biofield. The following is what one 2015 study located on the medical research database PubMed summarized the biofield as:
"The biofield or biological field, a complex organizing energy field engaged in the generation, maintenance, and regulation of biological homeodynamics, is a useful concept that provides the rudiments of a scientific foundation for energy medicine and thereby advances the research and practice of it." (Biofield Science and Healing: History, Terminology, and Concepts)
Examples of Energy Psychology
The list of approaches and therapies that fall in the EP field is large and growing as science begins to understand that it's not some "hippy nonsense" or such like; demonstrated well by the serious research of the subject which the study above exemplifies.
You will find detailed discussion of specific EP approaches elsewhere on EiR Psychology so here we'll simply list some well-known examples:
- Qi Gong
- Bowen Technique
- Alexander Technique
- Spiritual Healing
- Crystal Healing
- Indian Head Massage
- Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
As stated, these are just a few examples of EP which focus on manipulating the chakras, meridians and biofield in a therapeutic manner to ensure the free flow of energy (Qi) throughout the body in healing, or in maintaining optimum health and wellbeing. You will find many more examples on EiR Psychology and across the web. It is important to find one that best suits your needs and circumstances, so make sure to do your research.
Energy Psychology and Invisible Illness
As we are especially interested in how positive psychology can help those affected by environmental / invisible illness here at EiR Psychology, let's discuss the benefits of energy psychology (EP). As you can see from the short example list of EP approaches available above, you have a lot of choice when it comes to EP! One of the benefits of EP is that many techniques can be practiced at home for free. We would advise however that you first visit a professional EP practitioner, whether an acupuncturist, reiki master or other expert, to make the most of EP.
Some of you may be skeptical at first and we understand that, this writer was also in that position as a teenager. However, having used many EP techniques over the years he can now whole-heartedly atest to their ability to reduce pain (e.g. fibromyalgia), increase energy (e.g. ME/CFS), improve mood and sleep (e.g. depression / anxiety), and produce a general and exhilirating sense of wellbeing that other medical treatments and therapies simply can't.
Energy psychology is a very broad field with many approaches and therapies under its unmrella, but all focus on the same principles to bring about healing and happiness. With serious researchers now also taking an active interest in the subject it's only a matter of time until we see EP becoming more scientifically-accepted, evidence-based and integrated with conventional medicine. For now, it's already out there for those in the know to use to their benefit, of which there are so many.
McTaggart L (2008) The Field Harper Perennial
Campbell-McBride N (2010) Gut and Psychology Syndrome Medinform Publishing