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    The view of the internal Organs as physical- mental-emotional spheres of influence is one of the most important aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Central to this is the concept of Qi as a matter- energy that gives rise to physical or mental and emotional phenomena at the same time. Thus, in Chinese Medicine, body, mind and emotions are an integrated whole with no beginning or end, in which the Internal Organs are the major sphere of influence.

    For example, the “Kidneys” correspond to the actual kidney organ on an anatomical level, to the energies associated with the Kidneys on an energetic level, to the brain and thinking on a mental level, and to fear on an emotional level. All these levels simultaneously interact with each other.

    Western Medicine
    This is one of the differences between TCM Chinese and Western Medicine. While Western Medicine also recognizes the interaction between body and emotions, it does so in a completely different way than TCM. In Western Medicine, the brain is at the top of the body-mind pyramid. The emotions affect the limbic system within the brain, nerve impulses travel down the hypothalamus, through to the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve centres, finally reaching the internal organs. Thus a nerve im pulse, triggered off by an emotional upset, is transmitted to the relevant organ.

    The view of Chinese Medicine is entirely dif ferent. The body-mind is not a pyramid, but a circle of interaction between the Internal Organs and their emotional aspects.

    Whereas Western Medicine tends to consider the influence of emotions on the organs as having a secondary or excitatory role rather than being a primary cau factor of disease, Chines Medicine sees the emotions as an in tegral and inseparable part of the sphere of action of the Internal Organs.

    TCM emotion interaction

    The interaction of body and mind in Chinese Medicine is also expressed in the three “Treasures” Essence-Qi-Mind. Essence is the material basis of Qi and Mind forming the foundation for a happy and balanced mental and emotional life.

    It is important to put the role of the emotions in perspective. First of all, emotions are a natural part of human existence and no human being ever escapes being sad, angry or worried sometimes. The emotions only become causes of disease when they are particularly intense and, most of all, when they are prolonged over a long period of time, especially when they are not expressed or acknowledged. Everyone is angry sometimes, but if someone harbours anger towards another person for years, this emotion becomes a cause of disease.

    Secondly, Chinese Medicine is only concerned with the emotions when these are either the cause of disease, or when they themselves are the presenting symptoms. In other words, Chinese Medicine neither ignores the emotions as causes of disease, nor places too much emphasis on them to the exclusion of other causes.

    Since the body and mind form an integrated and inseparable unit, the emotions can not only cause a disharmony, but they can also be caused by it. For example, a state of fear and anxiety over a long period of time may cause the Kidneys to become deficient; on the other hand, if the Kidneys become deficient through, say, having too many children too close together, this may cause a state of fear and anxiety.

    It is important, in practice, to be able to distinguish these two cases, as we should be able to advise and guide the patient. Patients are often reassured to know that their emotional state has a physical basis, or vice versa, that their disturbing physical symp toms are, caused by their emotions. If we can make this distinction, then we can treat the disharmony properly and advise the patient accordingly.

    Seven emotions

    Seven emotions are usually considered in TCM, but this need not be inter preted too restrictively. The seven emotions are broad headings under which many other emotions can be included. This will be clarified and expanded on when discussing the emotions individually.

    The seven emotions are:

  • Anger
  • Joy
  • Worry
  • Pensiveness
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Shock

  • Each of the emotions has a particular effect on Qi and affects a certain organ:
  • Anger makes Qi rise and affects the Liver
  • Joy slows Qi down and affects the Heart
  • Worry and Pensiveness knot Qi and affect the Spleen (Worry also affects the Lungs)
  • Sadness dissolves Qi and affects the Lungs
  • Fear makes Qi descend and affects the Kidneys
  • Shock scatters Qi and affects the Kidneys and Heart

  • Most of the emotions can, over a long period give rise to fire.There is a saying in TCM: “The five emotions can turn into Fire”. This is because most of the emotions can cause stagnation of Qi and when Qi is com pressed in this way over a period of time it creates Fire, just as the temperature of a gas increases when its pressure is increased.

    For this reason, when someone has suffered from emotional problems for a long time, there often are signs of Heat, which may be in the Liver, Heart, Lungs or Kidneys (Empty-Heat). This often shows on the tongue which becomes red or dark red and dry, and possibly has a red and swollen tip.

    Finally, it should be mentioned here that in cases of severe and long-standing emotional pro blems, acupuncture or Chinese herbs alone may not be enough, and the patient may need the help and support of a skilled psychotherapist or counsellor.


    The Fundation of Chinese Medicine – A compresinve Text for Acupuncturist and Herbalists, by Givanni Maciocia, ISBN 0-443-03980-1


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