Oriental Medicine and acupuncture can provide a holistic treatment protocol for emotional imbalances. Within Oriental Medicine, the different organ systems are associated with particular emotions and mental abilities. The main ones are listed below. These are the negative aspects, as medical help is rarely sought for the positive aspects, which do not generally manifest in illness.
Liver (gan) - anger, frustration, resentment, bitterness, and stress
Spleen (pi) - worry, over thinking (racing mind), pensiveness
Lung (fei) - sadness, grief, loss
Heart (xin) - joy, sadness, grief
Kidneys (shen) - fear, fright
One must remember that with each of these emotions, there is an associated positive emotion, which provides balance. Thus, with grief there is joy, with anger there is happiness, with resentment there is tranquility, etc. This is reflected in what is known as the Tai Ji or Yin/Yang symbol, which implies that balance is never fixed and is always adjusting, just like life.
In our society, there are a lot problems associated with liver imbalance. We live in a fast, stressful society where almost everyone at one time or another will display some sort of liver imbalance. The beauty of Oriental Medicine lies in its ability to identify and treat these imbalances long before they become problematic or chronic from a Western Medicine viewpoint.
To give you an example, the main function of the liver is to maintain the free flow of Qi throughout the body’s systems in order to aid the other organs in carrying out their tasks. Long-term stress impedes the circulation of Qi, or the body’s ability to flow smoothly. This inhibition will affect different individuals in a variety of different ways.
Chest pain can occur when the Qi circulation in the chest becomes obstructed and if left untreated, the heart and lung Qi become obstructed. Since Qi is the motive force for blood movement, long term Qi stagnation will cause blood stagnation of the heart blood. This is a cause of heart disease. Acupuncture helps move Qi stagnation in the chest long before any visible heart symptoms appear. Of course this is not the only cause of chest pain. The investigation of, and treatment by Western methods, are very valuable and sometimes essential.
The spleen is the main organ of digestion in Oriental Medicine. Not only does the spleen digest food and drink, turning them into nutrients, it also digests ideas and thoughts. Excessive dwelling on thoughts, having the same thoughts going over and over through your head would indicate a spleen imbalance. Eating lots of starchy foods (potatoes, pasta), and overly sweet food inhibits clear thinking. If you have a job that involves a great deal of mental tasks, then it is important to support this with a diet that promotes clear thinking. This is especially important since over-studying and excess mental work taxes the spleen. If your diet does not support the spleen, illness and poor general well-being will result. For example, college students need to support their spleen for the rigors of academic life.
The lungs and heart are strongly connected because they are both located in the chest cavity (known as the upper burner in Oriental Medicine). Emotional imbalances that affect the lungs will in turn affect the heart, and vice versa. Sadness includes the emotion of regret, as when someone regrets a certain action or decision in the past and the mind continually returns to that time. The lungs are particularly affected by bereavement or grief, and this is a time to support the lungs along with the rest of the body as a person goes through the grieving process. It is appropriate to grieve to free the Qi, in fact if you do not grieve, this can contribute to the development of illness as the sadness is locked inside. In all of Oriental Medicine, the emphasis is on maintaining the balance within the body/mind complex that prevents disease.
The kidneys are very important in Oriental Medicine as they are the root of all the Yin/Yang energies of the body. The kidneys hold the house of will. Strong kidneys result in consistent will power and the ability to complete tasks and progress in life. The kidneys are affected by fear and fright and long-term fear can damage and consume kidney Qi. This can be cause of bed wetting in children, as the kidneys control the lower orifices of the body. Fear can also cause insomnia. Thus people who are hyper-vigilant or sleep very lightly often have an underlying fear. This may be the result of an emotional event somewhere in their life that scared them to their core. Waking in the night with difficulty returning to sleep may be tied to an event that occurred in the past and manifested as great fear.