Body-Emotions Connection: From the Five Elements Chinese Medicine Perspective

Recently, there is a word that keeps popping up in my life: “post-covid”. We are definitely stepping into this special stage with more and more challenges. Having seen a lot of clients who were bothered by insomnia, distress, anxiety etc, I’d like to take this chance to share some interesting knowledge about how we make use of five elements Chinese medicine theory to explain the connection between our body and emotions.

The theory of five elements is an ancient Chinese wisdom to understand the world. We categorise everything into these five elements based on their features. In the human body, each element has its represented organ and each organ controls a major emotion. Understanding the connection between our organs and emotions is the key to unlocking a fascinating pathway to build up more self-compassion when facing those “undesirable” emotions.

Features of the five elements in Chinese medicine

element

color

season

organ

emotion

Wood

green

spring

liver

anger

Fire

red

summer

heart

joy

Earth

yellow

later summer

spleen

worry

Metal

white/grey

autumn

lung

sorrow

Water

blue

winter

kidney

fear

We believe that each of these five key emotions (anger, joy, worry, sorrow and fear) has a base in our bodies: the connected organ.The emotion and the organ could constantly influence each other.

I wonder how you would feel when you see the words of these 5 emotions. Is there any disgust or discomfort when it comes to anger, sorrow and fear? Have you ever wondered why you would feel that way? I believe most of us don’t like these 3 emotions because somehow we think they are “bad emotions”. However, emotions themselves don’t have the standard of “good or bad”, they are JUST emotions. In Chinese medicine, we realise that emotions won’t cause any problems to our bodies as long as they are able to be expressed properly.

For example, the liver is the organ which controls and monitors the emotion of anger. Normally, our bodies are able to maintain the balance if the anger is expressed naturally with smooth energy flow in the liver. However, if we always suppress the anger, it would be trapped inside the liver, generating a lot of heat. This heat would cause damage to the liver and the rest of the organs as well. Also, the heat would make you lose your temper more easily. This type of connection could be applied to other organs and emotions as well. And maybe you don’t believe, too much joy or excitement could harm the heart even though we always regard “joy” as a “good” emotion.

When the emotions trigger the imbalance inside, we could make use of some treatments like herbs and acupuncture to help the body regain the balance. But, we still want to be one step ahead: learning to get along with the emotions. And the first step is: letting go of our judgments towards emotions. Then, we could immediately provide more space for the emotions to come and go. I always share this metaphor of emotions to my clients:

The heart is like the sky, and the emotions are like different types of weather. It may have rain, clouds and thunderstorms sometimes, but remember, the heart is always clear.

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