emotions and health

Emotions in Chinese Medicine

This page looks at how the Traditional Chinese Medicine approach can help mental or emotional health problems, these may vary in severity but all prevent you from having a happy, contented life. The Chinese believe that disturbed emotions are behind most physical problems and that includes stress which affects many of us.

Chinese medicine stresses the potential damaging effect of excess or long-term emotional states on the health of the body. This means that there is a link between physical symptoms such as tiredness or loose bowels and an altered emotional state. People can be surprised to realise how much their mental state is altering as their physical symptoms improve.

Read more about the value of Qigong and Meditation.

The quotations about the effect of emotions come from an article in Acupuncture Today :

Chapter 39 of the Su Wen details the specific types of damage each emotion can cause in its target organ. The specific organ targeted by each emotion is listed in chapter five of the Su Wen, which states, "Excess anger damages the Liver; excess joy damages the Heart; excessive pensiveness damages the Spleen; excess sorrow damages the Lung; excess fear damages the Kidneys." The Nei Jing does not specify target organs for anxiety (you) and fright (jing), but these emotions are generally believed to affect the Lungs and Kidneys, respectively.

BUT the article stresses that

"... while different emotions can gravitate to different organs and damage them, all emotions originate in the Heart and ultimately cause some damage to it. According to this theory, the Heart not only gives rise to anger, but will be injured by anger; it can give rise to sadness and be injured by sadness. The same can be said about fear, pensiveness and the rest of the Seven Emotions. Because they all originate with the Heart, the Heart is ultimately damaged by them. For this reason, treatment of emotional problems must always include the Heart."

Capitalisation of organ names is my own to show that they are considered differently in Chinese Medicine.

Advice from the classics

Chinese medicine is a valuable source of ideas to help keep the body and mind healthy. Here is something that may help those who are feeling stressed or depressed. These are based on material from the excellent book on psycho-emotional aspects of Chinese medicine by Elisa Rossi.

Stress was defined by Seyle in 1976 as a non-specific response of the organism to every demand... The Chinese term for stress means literally a rope at full tension, it leaves no room for movement.   Emotions in Traditional Chinese Medicine are not exclusively considered as disorders of the mind as they are in the West. Emotions cause and are caused by disruptions to qi and other substances in the body. So it is not a surprise that IBS or a frozen shoulder can be seen with depression or headaches with anxiety.

If you can make the smallest shift in your evaluation of a situation, the ability to change will open up. The meditative aspect of qigong can help you to open a path to change.

The Chinese symbol for change depicts a lizard which changes colour as the light changes, from dark to light or vice versa. This represents change from yin to yang or vice versa. These energetic opposites define different states whether they are dark and light, hot and cold, calm and anxious - recognising the opposites allows the possibility of change in ourselves and in the world, living and non-living.

Capitalisation of organ names is used to show that they are considered differently in Chinese Medicine.