I recently attended the Veterans and Trauma conference at The Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY (wonderful place, I highly recommend it). I listened to speakers from all different modalities (Western as well as Holistic) speak about different ways to treat trauma, as well as new research being done to help returning soldiers (and previous war veterans) cope with reintegration and PTSD.
One of the speakers, David Feinstein, Ph.D., spoke about Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) which is a mind/body technique that employs tapping on acupuncture points to help "rewire" the brain to release the fear or trauma that is trapped in the body. The body holds onto trauma (whether big or small) and can cause either big or small drains of energy that you may or may not be aware of. The idea is to tune into these traumas and tap on them so they are no longer sucking your energy and preventing you from moving forward in your life. The traumas can be big, like a rape or exposure to war, or small(er), like your parents divorce or a minor fender bender. Each of these events will impact you on some level if you never fully processed them when they originally happened.
During the session with Dr. Feinstein a woman got up who had a significant phobia that was a 10 on the 1-10 scale. After 1 round of tapping it dropped to a 5, after the 2nd round it was a 3, then after the 3rd round it was a zero. She was searching for the fear within her and could no longer feel it. While she was tapping on herself, we, in the audience, were tapping on ourselves and my personal issue went from a 6 to a 1. Even though as a group we were focusing on the woman with the phobia, we all received benefit. Interesting stuff.
This was not my first experience with EFT; I've been using it (with a coach) once or twice a month for the last couple of years. Over that time I've felt like my emotional life has improved more and more. The "baggage" I've carried around with me my whole life is releasing and I can move on with a little more freedom, less fear, less anger, more strength and more confidence. Interactions that would previously trigger me into rage or fear no longer have that power over me.
I like to use the image of a garbage can for how we deal with our "stuff": we all have garbage cans inside of us where we put emotions and memories that we don't want to deal with. If they aren't dealt with and processed, they have to go somewhere so we stuff them in The Can. Over time The Can fills and we keep stuffing more and more in there. At some point The Can overflows and you need clean up the mess. That mess can often show up as physical pain (neck, shoulders, migraine, lower back, sciatic, etc.) or other symptoms (insomnia, anxiety/depression, stomach upset or irregularity, chronic fatigue). It gets to the point where your body is screaming out for you to deal with your "stuff."
In terms of Chinese Medicine, that emotional baggage causes stagnation of Qi flow; often times this Qi has been stagnant and perhaps dormant (or deep lying) for many years or even decades. Emotions can cause all sorts of stagnation and imbalances that can wreak havoc in our lives, overtly as physical symptoms (as I mentioned earlier) or subtly as drains to our energy. It is like leaving your phone charger plugged into the wall even though there is no phone attached; these tiny drains over time wear you down. When you can "unplug" them you feel lighter and more energized and your related symptoms start to dissipate.
Undoing these triggers can take time, but if you suffer from any chronic conditions, it might be another way to help you feel better; the body and mind are connected after all.