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The Emotions in Chinese Medicine

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

The internal organs are related to the emotions. A prolonged imbalance in any of these organs can affect our emotions, but did you know our emotions could also affect the state of our organs and overall health? Let’s take a deeper look into this and find the ways to convert the energy of our ongoing emotions into something positive in our life… at least until we learn how to control them.

The Nei Jing cites seven most important emotions (Qi-Qing) which are elation (ecstasy, joy), anger, sadness, grief, worry, fear, and fright. The Chinese consider these emotions as internal causes of diseases just as any external factor if they become either excessive or insufficient for an extended period or when they arise “very suddenly with great force” creating imbalance and illness. They consider emotions as prominent “atmospheric phenomena of the human landscape” and an important component to a healthy life (“The Web” (1947)).

Joy - Heart

Anger - Liver

Sadness - Lungs

Worry - Spleen

Fear - Kidneys

Any emotion in excess can create a pattern of disharmony. Yes, any emotions including being extremely happy or too joyful. The Chinese believe that sudden joy is like shock in our body, causing disharmony. Too much joy can cause a depletion of the Heart Qi (The Yellow's Emperor's (1995)). Inappropriate reactions, self-destructive passions, emotional responses that don't go according to the situation, habitual automatic responses to some life events are all signs that the person has lost the “capacity for harmonious reactivity” (“The Web” (1947)).

It is easy to take this information out of context. Don’t think being temporarily too happy for something good that happened or worry about someone is going to create an imbalance in our body. Not at all. The emotions don’t necessarily cause disease, unless they are “severe, continuous, or abruptly occurring emotional stimuli” (“Chinese Acupuncture” (1987)). The key here is to be mindful of our emotions and to have control over them. In other words, “the emotions become causes of disease when we do not 'possess them' but they 'possess' us” (“The Foundations” (1989)).

To avoid disharmonies and possible illnesses, we have the power to transform the energy of these excessive emotions into virtues by connecting with their five Spirits. What do spirits have to do with this? In TCM, every organ is connected to a spirit or aspect of our Mind (Shen). Being mindful of these emotions and self-reflecting on them with a genuine effort to make this transformation is essential.

Considering the Controlling Sequence of the Five Elements, we could say that fear counteracts joy, joy counteracts worry/sadness, sadness counteracts anger, anger counteracts pensiveness, and finally pensiveness counteracts fear (“The Foundations” (1989)). Being mindful of the sensations that each emotion brings into our being makes it easier to identify and control. Give it a try.

“Quietness has nothing to do with the lack of an emotion,

it is just to be back to your center”

(The Seven Emotions” (1996)).

Live mindfully in the now, with a quiet mind and a grateful heart, and a balanced healthy life will follow naturally.


Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Foreign Languages Press, 1987

The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text

Giovanni Maciocia

Churchill Livingstone, 1989

The Seven Emotions

Claude Larre and Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee

Monkey Press (1996)

The Yellow's Emperor's Classic of Medicine

Maoshing Ni, PhD

Shambhala Publications, Inc,1995

The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine

Ted J. Kaptchuk, OMD

McGraw Hill Books, 1947

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