Last month, I wrote about “The Six Evils” which is how Traditional Chinese Medicine classifies the external causes of disease. Today I’m going to talk about the internal causes of illness which are called the “Seven Emotions” and are Anger, Fear, Shock, Grief, Joy, Pensiveness and Worry. These emotions are considered the major internal sources of disease in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Remember how you felt when you fell in love? When you were unjustly accused of wrongdoing? When some jerk took your parking space and smirked at you from the window? Yes? Then I don’t have to convince you that emotions have a huge effect on our bodies. Think about how your chest and stomach tighten when you are upset or how your heart beats faster and adrenaline rushes through your veins when you are angry or afraid.
Emotional responses can cause a cascade of chemical reactions in the body stimulating some organ systems and shutting down others. It is normal and healthy to have emotional responses. However, when the reactions are severe and/or prolonged, they can injure your organs and make you more vulnerable to disease.
In Chinese Medicine, the Seven Emotions are each associated with an organ. Therefore, it follows that if you have a strong negative emotion, the organ associated with that emotion will be affected.
Below, I have listed the Seven Emotions and their associated organs.
1. Anger – Liver
2. Fear – Kidneys
3. Fright/Shock (acute condition) – Kidneys/Heart
4. Joy – Heart
5. Pensiveness (excessive thinking and mental stimulation.) – Spleen
6. Worry – Spleen/Lungs
7. Grief – Lungs
For example, prolonged grief will affect your lungs. The reverse is also true – if you have a long term physical problem, let’s use your lungs again, you will be affected emotionally and you may experience feelings of sadness. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Here’s another example: if you carry a lot of anger with you for a long time, it will begin to affect the health of your liver and cause an imbalance. Also, if you have chronic liver disease, you might develop a shorter temper, have trouble tolerating frustration, and even become depressed.
This ancient concept of the Seven Emotions illustrates the importance of holistic treatment of disease because our bodies are not isolated parts. The WHOLE person needs to be treated. A disease or physical problem affects the rest of the body and the mind. Healing includes treating all the psychological, physical and spiritual imbalances.
Jennifer Dubowsky, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. Dubowsky earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from University of Illinois in Chicago and her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, Colorado. During her studies, she completed an internship at the Sino-Japanese Friendship Hospital in Beijing, China. Dubowsky has researched and written articles on Chinese medicine and has given talks on the topic. She maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese medicine at Acupuncture Blog Chicago. Adventures in Chinese Medicine is her first book. You can find her at www.tcm007.com.
*Image of “laptop error” via Shutterstock