The ability to express emotion is one characteristic that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. Emotional expression is a natural physiological response to our external environment. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), emotions are closely related to the health of an individual. An imbalance or suppression of emotion can negatively impact our health. Research shows that 50-80% of conditions in modern medicine are tied to emotions. I would go further and say that MOST conditions are in some way affected or brought on by emotional stress of some degree.
Stress is a common underlying factor I see in my private practice for most of the patients I treat for various ailments. The range of conditions affected by stress or negative emotions is extensive. Conditions can range from insomnia or minor aches and pains up to more serious or terminal conditions such as cancer. It is very important for us to recognize and identify our thoughts and emotions and to be aware of the impact they have on our health. There are many forms of healthy emotional expression. Expression can take place as talking to someone, the physical expression of speaking your emotions, writing about your emotions, singing, dancing, drawing, painting, playing sports, running, making art, making love, practicing movement or exercise through tai chi, yoga or Qi gong. You might find that different forms of expressions are better suited to alleviate certain emotions than others. It is important to find what resonates most with you, as expression is a very personal thing, just like the emotion itself.
In TCM, balance is the foundation and key to health. This, of course, applies to emotional balance as well. If there is an emotion that is experienced for an extended period of time or in an extreme fashion it can manifest in the body and cause disease. TCM has 7 emotions that are closely related to the organ systems and the 5 elements. The 5 elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Wood and Water. Each element is associated with a paired organ system. When there is healthy and appropriate expression of emotion there is balance within the element and organ system. When there is extreme or prolonged emotion there is disharmony and imbalance in the element and organ system. An imbalance can present itself as a disease in the correlating organ system. Below is a chart that shows the relationship between the elements, emotions and organ systems.
Joy is closely connected with heart and small intestine and is a wonderful thing but when there is overexcitement or mania it shows an imbalance in our body.
Physical manifestations: may be heart palpitations, excessive laughter, insomnia, poor concentration and memory.
Excessive worry or over thinking affects the Spleen and Stomach and results in digestive system disorders.
Physical manifestations: constipation, diarrhea, IBS, appetite loss, bloating or gas
Grief is a natural emotion to experience with the loss of someone or something for a period of time but if grief remains unresolved it weakens the Lung and creates disharmony and disease.
Physical manifestations: lung conditions, irregular breathing, asthma, chronic cough or shortness of breath.
Fear is a normal human emotion, but if it is chronic it weakens the kidneys and causes disharmony in the whole body. Fright especially damages heart and kidneys.
Physical manifestations of fear: night sweating, poor memory, premature greying or hair loss and back pain, urinary problems, menstrual disorders or sexual disorders.
Physical manifestations of fright: insomnia, heart palpitations, poor concentration and memory or waking up suddenly at 5am
Too much anger weakens the Liver and is also related to the emotions of resentment, irritability and frustration.
Physical manifestations: painful menstruation, PMS, shortness of breath, dizziness, liver disease, UTI’s and headaches can appear.
“Years of love have been forgot, in the hatred of a minute” -Edgar Allan Poe
Emotions are the key elements that help us function and relate to others in everyday life. Emotions help us with:
Fear helps us recognize when we may be in danger and if we need to take measures to stay alive.
Studies show that when a person’s emotional connections are severed in the brain, one can not make even simple decisions. It is believed that is because the person doesn’t know how he will feel about those decisions.
Our own behavior as well as others behaviors.
If we feel uncomfortable in a particular setting or amongst certain people we tend to distance ourselves. Comparatively we can feel when someone likes us or if we feel safe and can relax. This protects our physical and mental health.
By verbally expressing our emotions and physically expressing our emotions, communication with others is more clear. Also listening to and looking at others while communicating allows us to understand how they are feeling and we can show appropriate compassion and offer advice. This helps unite people.
“When you smiled you had my undivided attention. When you laughed you had my urge to laugh with you. When you cried you had my urge to hold you. When you said you loved me, you had my heart forever.” -Argentinian Proverb
Finding balance across all of your emotions is very important. One of our favorite ways to do this is through meditation. Meditation induces a relaxed state of being which mellows out any extreme emotions to create a state of balance. It is a great technique to use everyday.
Always remember to stay calm and practice positivity, forgiveness, gratitude and emotional resilience!!
Fun Fact: Did you know that humans are the only species known to blush? Blushing is a behavior Darwin called “the most peculiar and the most human of all expressions.” We are still unsure as to why people blush. It is an involuntary physiological response and it reveals our innermost emotions. There is a common belief that blushing helps keep people honest and benefits the group as a whole.