Chinese Medicine and Emotions

Whether you like it or not humans are emotional. We get angry. We get sad. We get scared. We get lusty. We get greedy. We get happy.

The list goes on. Of course since humans haven’t really changed in a few thousand years, concepts and ideas that were held true thousands of years ago are just as real today.

One of these is the view of the emotions in Chinese Medical Theory. We have five major organs: Heart, Kidney, Lung, Spleen, and Liver. We also have five major emotions each of which corresponds to a specific organ: Joy, Fear, Sadness, Worry, and Anger each respectively. Each of these emotions also has a counter part that is thought of as better: Peace, Faith, Courage, Patience, and Kindness respectively. The thing is, we have more emotions than this.

There are as many emotions as there are shades and hues of colors. The ancient Chinese texts even identify more emotions other than the main five. They are said to be severe levels of the condition. Things like: Panic is worse than Fear; Ecstasy is worse than Joy; Rage is worse than Anger; Grief is worse than Sadness; Anxiety is worse than Worry. The reason why they identified these emotions is because if you purposely indulge in them or if you get lost in any of these emotions, you can severely impair you body’s functions.

According to the ancient Chinese texts: Anger lifts the qi, Fear disperses the qi, Worry knots the qi, Joy settles the qi, and Sadness dissolves the qi. Getting too angry damages the function of the Liver. Always being afraid damages the function of the Kidney. Always being too happy impairs the functions of the Heart and makes a person complacent. Worrying about everything makes the Spleen weak and unable to digest food (this is a huge problem). Crying too much because you’re sad all the time drastically limits the capabilities of the Lung.

So logically, you just shouldn’t feel right? You should just go through life always the same. Never feeling, enjoying, trying, indulging, loving, suffering, or emoting, you know like a Vulcan. Please. We are humans. We need to feel even if it hurts. Emotions are good, they are normal. They are part of what it means to be human and a whole person.

I know what you’re thinking: “so if I get angry does that mean my liver is going to shut down and go into failure?” No, that is not correct. However always being angry is a pathological condition, even Western Medicine will tell you that.

As I said before, we have a lot more emotions than just these. In fact, most if not all are mixes of the main five emotions as laid out by the ancient texts. I am going to do my best to do that right now.

Let’s start off with Joy and the Heart. Compassion is a manifestation of Joy that wants to see someone else be happy. Happiness is incidental Joy. Love is Joy that has found a pure form of reliability. Obsession is Love that is corrupted by Worry. Hate is Love that has been corrupted by Anger. Each of these will have an impact on your Heart both the literal organ and the mental faculties associated with it.

Let’s move onto the Liver and its emotion of Anger. Anger is actually very important. It is not a negative emotion per se; by negative I mean that you shouldn’t try to eradicate it. Anger lets us know that we have been wronged, that we have not gotten what is justly due to us. There is however more to the emotions of the Liver than just Anger. There is Anger’s big brother, Rage. Rage is Anger that is more of an outward physical manifestation of surprisingly Love that has been corrupted with Anger to make Hate and that is devoid of Compassion. Wrath is merely the physical act of carrying out the Rage. Melancholy or Depression is Anger that has mixed with Sadness and for some reason cannot get to the surface and get out. If it doesn’t get out eventually, Depression will evolve into probably Rage and become manifest as violence to self or to someone else.

In the case of the Spleen and all of its emotions, there are some very interesting things happening. Basically, every emotion that can be associated with the Spleen is a focused form of Worry. For example, Pensiveness is a form of Worry that prevents action. Anxiety is similar, but there is also a component of Fear and Sadness in Anxiety. Worry itself is more direct; it’s more of a concern regarding a possible outcome. Patience by contrast, is almost the absence of Worry; it’s almost a come-what-may attitude. Patience will actually strengthen the Spleen and improve digestion. By contrast Greed is an emotional response which lies in the belief that there is never enough. So when we Worry about never having enough we become Greedy and seek to not only have enough but to also have everything.

The emotions of the Lung are actually quite simple. The main emotion is of course Sadness with Grief becoming the longer and more protracted form. The virtuous emotions of Courage, Valor, and Perseverance are the flip side of Sadness. These three emotions are also fantastic at eliminating the main emotion of the Kidney—Fear.

Courage is action in the face of Fear. Valor is Courage in battle. Perseverance is Courage against impossible odds stretched out over time. So what exactly builds up Courage? Faith. Without Faith you cannot have Courage. Faith is the belief that everything will be fine without any actual evidence of the belief. Fear is the belief that everything will fail regardless of evidence of the contrary.

But what about phobias? These are Fear that has an identifiable face. Such as a spider, fire, water, closed spaces, etc. Phobias are also irrational, but once a person gains some sort of Faith (it does not need to pertain to any religion) then the phobia becomes less of a problem. Then the emotion of Trust can come forward and deeper relationships are possible.

While I’m on the subject of relationships, let’s talk about the emotion of Lust. Lust is a Kidney emotion with some Heart stuff added in. Lust will usually rise in a person that is Fearful of a real romantic relationship, because they lack Trust or Faith that they are actually worthy of receiving Love or even compassion from their partner. Thus the innate need to mate overrides and Lust is born. Without Trust you cannot have Love.

What about Peace? Peace is the emotion that is felt when all other emotions and functions are in balance. When you are not one way or another then you are at Peace, and everything is in Harmony. The problem is, most of the time this is a static condition. Static conditions are impossible in nature, and something in life will come to change and upset the Harmony of emotions thus destroying Peace.

Thus how to maintain Peace and Harmony in an ever changing and evolving world? Well, it’s okay to feel any emotion. There are no positive or negative emotions. If we didn’t need these feelings we wouldn’t have them. Nature (or God if you prefer) does not create anything without a purpose to it. So, before you decide arbitrarily what emotions you like and what ones you don’t first consider why they exist, and how each can be of benefit or detriment. Once that question can be answered in full depth for yourself, then emotional issues will become meaningless.