It is healthy and natural to experience our emotions. It is when we suppress them or are overwhelmed by them that we get into trouble. I have treated many patients whose physical symptoms started with an excess of and inability to cope with one or more of the 5 Emotions. Unless we can identify and treat that underlying emotional imbalance the physical symptoms often keep returning.
5 Element Acupuncture assigns an emotion to each Element and its corresponding organs and meridians. The emotion of Fire is joy, Earth is sympathy, Metal is grief, Water is fear and Wood is anger. These 5 emotions and their many variations shape our behavior and relationships.
I frequently treat patients who are coping with a loss in their lives causing overwhelming grief. The Metal Element corresponds with grief and the organ and meridian of the lung. In Chinese Medicine the Lung controls the Wei (defensive) Qi that protects the body from attacks of pathogenic qi like viruses and bacterias. These patients frequently experience repeated upper respiratory infections and multiple complications of a compromised immune system.
Just treating the grieving patient with bronchitis using herbs and points that expel pathogens is not enough. It is necessary to recognize the underlying emotional cause. I might treat this condition with a point like Spleen 16, Abdoman Sorrow. It eases the sense of loss and fills the emptiness with the nurturing spirit of the mother Earth, the Spleen’s related element.
Another point could be Lung 9, Very Great Abyss. This is chosen when a person is in a very dark place, no light can be perceived. It provides the energy to breath out the old and allow in the new.
When dealing with grief breathing is a helpful focus. Long deep breathing excercises done daily and combined with the movement of a gentle style of yoga help to release the stagnation of unexpressed grief.
Another emotion I commonly treat is anxiety. We live in anxious times, people are worried about everything from climate change to job loss to loneliness. Earth’s related emotion is sympathy which when in excess is expressed as overthinking, obsessing and worrying. Worry disrupts Earth’s meridians the Spleen and Stomach, people’s stomachs are in a knot, qi rebels and causes hyperacidity or gets stuck and causes constipation.
The chemicals of anxiety create an overly sensitive nervous system resulting in insomnia, headaches, panic attacks and musculo-skeletal pain. Acupuncture can help calm the nervous system and balance the excess of stimulating neurotransmitters. But the symptoms started with an energetic imbalance on the emotional level where the spirit is injured and effective treatment must address this.
Governing Vessel 20, 100 Meetings, might be chosen. This point at the crown of the head reconnects one with the wisdom and experience of our elders within. Another point is Conception Vessel 14, Great Deficiency, used when there is fear, confusion and panic. It calms and revitalizes the body, mind and spirit and relaxes the system by putting the governing energy of the Heart back in control.
Daily meditation helps anxiety. Focusing on the breath and letting go of each thought as it arises reminds us that we are not our thoughts and we don’t have to be controlled by them.
Emotions are just energy, they can be balanced and deepen our experience of life. They can also derail our lives and keep us from being the best we can be. Acupuncture can be used to balance our emotional energy and keep us in touch with who we truly are.