Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Express Yourself!

I had a patient today who reminded me of the importance of expressing one's emotions. When you don't express what you feel in some way, the Qi gets blocked or weakened. Depending on what your are suppressing, the emotion has to go somewhere and often goes to a place related to that emotion and its relative organ.

For example, my patient's emotion was a kind of sadness, but more feeling broken-hearted. The sense organ of the Heart is the tongue. My patient's symptom was related to her tongue. She had suppressed this emotion for many years and this symptom appeared a few years later. From a yogic perspective, the throat chakra (of which the tongue is a part) is related to self expression, using your voice, sending your voice outward. Because she was unwilling to express her broken-heartedness, energy got stuck and caused symptoms in her tongue-- the vehicle of speech!

Other emotions might show up in different places. Suppression of anger or frustration might manifest as headaches or tight neck and shoulders or teeth grinding/TMJ. These all relate to the Liver. The emotion of the Liver is anger, and the related frustration, unfulfilled desires as well as stress in general. Suppression of these emotions stagnates the Liver Qi. One of the Liver's jobs is to create a smooth flow of Qi through the body. If the Liver is stagnant, that will eventually affect every other organ. This is why there are so many stress related conditions these days. People aren't able to handle their stress and they eventually become symptomatic. And then they land on my table...

But back to emotions.

The Lungs are related to grief and sadness. When sadness or grief are prolonged, they will damage the Lung Qi and a person might have a harder time fighting off colds, flu and respiratory infections. They may find themselves plagued with chronic bronchitis or recurring bouts of pneumonia.

The Kidneys are related to fear and fright. People who have been exposed to fear for long term often have weak Kidney energy. For example, a child with an alcoholic parent, someone who was raped and can't move beyond the fear, someone in an abusive relationship, someone who grew up in a war zone. These people might be prone to symptoms such as lower back pain or weakness, urinary frequency, trouble staying asleep, knee problems, ear problems (infections, poor hearing, tinnitus).

The Spleen is related to overthinking, obsessing, worrying. These people might have chronic digestive problems, loose stools, low appetite, low energy. Have you known someone who gets stomachaches when they worry? That is the Spleen.

Lastly, the Heart feels all the emotions, but its specific emotion is Joy, more of the overexcitement moving toward mania type of joy. The Heart is also often affected by anxiety and nervousness. When these are unexpressed you might have palpitations, mental restlessness, trouble sleeping, tongue problems.

Emotions are an important part of being human. We experience all of these emotions at one time or another and it is fine to do so. When you experience a loss it is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel angry or worried or scared. The problem is when we get stuck in these emotions and can't move past them; that is when they go inside to cause us harm.

So express yourself! Write about it. Talk about it. Process your emotions and let them go. Your body will thank you.


  1. I've been experiencing some anxiety lately and wondered if there are ways we can help ourselves outside of our acupuncture sessions... maybe things we can eat or avoid eating to help.

  2. Food suggestions are difficult without knowing your TCM diagnosis, but generally avoiding spicy foods that may aggravate heat, like chai spices, black pepper, wasabi, cayenne, things like that.

    Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a tapping technique that can help nip anxiety in the bud in the moment and is relatively simple. There is a nice explanation of it on www.mercola.com.

    Another option is visualization, where you visualize how your anxiety "looks" and then use your mind to change it. For example, does it have a color, texture or temperature when you feel it? Any distinguishing qualities when you experience the anxiety? Is it in a particular part of your body? Then use your imagination to change it and release it from your body. Something fiery could be doused with a cold shower. A lead ball could be scooped out and thrown over a cliff.

    On July 5th my radio show, Eastern Wisdom for Western Health will be all about this. You can tune in by going to www.voiceamerica.com and clicking on the Health and Wellness channel. My show is listed on Tuesdays at 11am Pacific time.

    I hope that helps!