Article published in Santé intégrative n°24, november/december 2011.

Our emotions are our own worst inner enemies. They can make us sick, but can they heal us as well?

What is an emotion according to Chinese medicine? What is the relationship between emotions and good health?

Reins grossesseEmotion is an intense psychical disturbance. It is what people feel as a result of their perception of their own inner reality.

According to Chinese medicine, the 5 Emotions (Wu Zhi) reflect the energy (Qi) of the 5 Organs (Wu Zang), which correspond to the 5 Elements (Wu Xing). Emotions are considered to be a very subtle form of energy. The word "emotion" comes from the Latin word "emovere," which means "to move." Anger is the emotion of Liver. It corresponds to Wood element and the color green, as in the expression "green with envy." Joy is the emotion of Heart. It corresponds to Fire element and the color red. In China, the bride wears red, a color that brings happiness and prosperity. Pensiveness, worrying, and obsession are the emotions of Spleen. They correspond to Earth element and the color yellow. Excessive pensiveness lends a pale, yellowish tint to the complexion, like Earth. Grief and sadness are the emotions of Lung. They correspond to Metal element and the color white. In Asia, mourners wear white, not black, as in the West. Fear is the emotion of Kidneys. It corresponds to Water element and the color black. Terror can make one urinate involuntarily, and urine is the fluid of the Kidneys.The production, transformation and circulation of the 5 Emotions through the meridian network require that the 5 Organs energy that governs them be regulated according to the generating cycle (Sheng) and the controlling cycle (Ke). The 5 Emotions are healthy if they are physiologically well regulated. They become unhealthy when they are excessive or repeated. The 7 Emotions (qi qing) are anger, joy, pensiveness, grief, sadness, fear, and fright. There is no linear relationship between an emotion and an Organ. For example, anger, which is normally associated with Liver, can also attack Stomach; violent anger can cause one to vomit blood.

The root of the Spirit of the Five Organs « Ben Shen »

In Chinese medicine, therefore, there is no separation between Mind and Body, for the simple reason that emotions and spirit corresponding to each of the 5 Organs are but the expression of their physiological activity, which governs our health: their harmonious functioning is, therefore, a prerequisite for our emotional balance

According to Chinese medicine, the Spirit, or Mind, is called the Shen. Each of the 5 Organs is animated by its own Spirit, which is sensitive to the emotion that corresponds to that Organ. Generally speaking, the Shen-Spirit is the manifestation of the overall vitality of the internal Organs, and is expressed by brightness of the eyes (the eyes are the windows to the soul), by clarity of thought and coherent language. "Whatever is well conceived is clearly said, and the words to say it flow with ease." Quote from Nicolas Boileau, "L'Art Poétique," 1674). A bright complexion, upright behavior, and harmonious attitudes. These are all reflections of Sheng Ming, which is the "luminous radiance" of the Spirit of the internal Organs. Each of the 5 Organs is animated by its own Spirit, which is sensitive to or influenced by the emotion to which it corresponds.

  • The spirit of Heart is Shen. It governs consciousness, cognitive cerebral functions, thought, and emotional memory.
  • The spirit of Liver is Hun. During our lives, Hun is nourished and anchored by Liver blood. It governs spirituality, imagination, sleeping and waking phases, dreams, and the subconscious. After death, it leaves the physical body and ascends to heaven, or is reincarnated in another bodily form.
  • The spirit of Spleen is Yi. It governs creative thinking, logic and reasoning, the ability to comprehend, for concentrated thought in order to learn, to study, and to memorize (short-term memory).
  • The spirit of Lung is Po. It gives the body its ability to feel, hear, see, touch, and perceive the outside world. It governs the instinctive, sensory aspect of the autonomic nervous system. During pregnancy, it plays a crucial role in embryogenesis.
  • The spirit of Kidneys is Zhi. It provides the courage and determination to reach a goal, the will to live, the capacity for self-realization. "Resiliency," or psychological endurance in the face of suffering, is a very elaborate form of Zhi. A person who is spirited, who can take life's challenges in stride, is said to have "strong kidneys."

In Chinese medicine, therefore, there is no separation between Mind and Body, for the simple reason that emotions and spirit corresponding to each of the 5 Organs are but the expression of their physiological activity, which governs our health: their harmonious functioning is, therefore, a prerequisite for our emotional balance. However, the interpretation of emotions depends on memories, perceptions, experiences, how one was raised, cultural and social conditioning, which together make up the patient's "beliefs." These are often subjective and deeply buried in his or her subconscious, where they have become his or her "reality."

How emotions can make us ill ?

Intense, long-lasting emotional pressure will cause your Liver energy to stagnate, which will weaken Spleen's energy which will no longer be able to transform food or drinks, which will cause food to stagnate in Stomach and leads to production of phlegm in the form of obesity. Stagnation of Liver energy leads to blood stasis, then to blood heat stagnation, then to toxic fire. Thus the 6 Stagnations mechanisms are responsible for the overall imbalance of the 5 internal energy Organs, resulting in physical, psychological and emotional disorders, whose most frequent symptoms seen in clinical practice include fatigue, insomnia, weakened immune defenses, and digestive disorders.

How emotions can help us overcome illness ?

Reins grossesseRecovering from emotional suffering is a matter of choice and responsibility, allowing us to seek the path to our own inner freedom. This path involves several stages: Understanding that suffering has meaning. Letting go of the past is necessary if you want to live in the present and project yourself into the future. Reject harmful beliefs that you did not choose, but which are imposed by your culture, tradition or family. Increasing your self-esteem begins by accepting yourself for who you are, so that you will be able to love and respect yourself. In accepting otherness, your identity will be born. Self-respect breeds tolerance for others. Self-esteem is the step towards self-confidence that gives you the courage to refuse to be the scapegoat of others' guilt, the courage to let yourself be vulnerable so that you can improve yourself, the courage to no longer depend on the judgment or opinion of others. Detachment is that place of inner freedom that gives us the ability to act with authenticity.

Traveling the road of life is a never-ending process of transformation in terms of energy, emotion, and spirit. Suffering is our best master if we are to learn to renounce the arrogance of Ego and choose the path of humility, so that we can conquer self-love and achieve compassion. Compassion is that universal love, mixed with empathy, kindness, and tolerance, which gives a greater sense of meaning to life.