Traditional Chinese Medicine View of Emotional Balance

Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) Theory recognizes control of our body by Five Elements: Earth, Wood, Fire, Water and Metal. Each of the Five Elements is associated with a particular organ. The Ancients related a variety of different characteristics with each element and therefore with each organ. Traditional Chinese Medical practitioners use such characteristics to help diagnose patients and to understand the etiology of the symptoms. This is why it can appear that TCM practitioners have a crystal ball when they are asking questions about your condition. Once the practitioner believes that you may be suffering from an imbalance in one of your organs, they can confirm quickly by asking questions related to the Five Elements. For example, if a patient's symptoms indicate that a liver imbalance is present, the practitioner will suspect that waking between 1 and 3 am occurs, that there may be changes in vision and perhaps stiffness in the joints. For a kidney imbalance, the practitioner will suspect extreme tiredness between 5 and 7 p.m., changes in hearing and perhaps changes in the bones and teeth. The practitioner looks for other symptoms as well to confirm what kind of imbalance is present.

One of the most important symptoms is emotional change. Each of the Five Elements is associated with an emotion. From a western science point of view, emotions arise from complex chemical reactions deep inside our brain. We have classes of emotions that arise from different brain areas. Ancient, primitive emotions that we share with all animals that have brains, such as lust, joy, anger, and fear, are very powerful and drive what we think of as instinctual behavior. For example, a mother bear protecting her cubs is driven by a strong primitive emotion. Most humans are able to control their behavior when experiencing these emotions so we don't usually associate such strong emotions anymore with human behavior. However, the extraordinary strength that some people display under extreme stress such as a small mother lifting a car bumper off her child might be an example. Children can experience strong emotional responses such as fear and rage, which might be linked to these more primitive centers of the brain. Emotions such as compassion, contentment, and love are usually associated with areas in the newer Cerebral Cortex of the brain. Not all animals have these developed areas of the brain. We can understand a snake experiencing fear or anger, but not compassion. Because of the belief by western science practitioners that all emotions come from the brain, when patients suffer from disturbances in their emotions, chemicals that mimic brain neurotransmitters are given to correct these mental disturbances.

TCM practitioners believe that emotions are associated with the Five Elements therefore balancing the organ associated with the emotion will balance the emotion. Sometimes the organ is out of balance and produces the emotional imbalance. However, it may be the reverse; the emotion imbalance can produce an organ imbalance. The difference to the practitioner is important only in preventing a re-occurrence of the problem.

A trained TCM practitioner can help diagnose where the imbalance is located and through the use of herbs and acupuncture help correct the imbalance. It is important to remember that the cause of the imbalance may be occurring from events in your life. The practitioner doesn’t have a needle for a bad boss, but can help you deal with the stress in your life that can contribute to organ imbalance. Proper diet and exercise can mitigate stress and help you remain in balance. Proper diet involves the incorporation of the five flavors (sweet, bitter, spicy, salty and sour) and five colors (black, red, white, yellow and green) into every meal. Proper exercise involves breathing techniques that move the Qi such as Qi Gong, Tai Chi, or Yoga. Aerobic exercise is not enough to keep in balance.

Dr. Susan Hathaway has studied in China and South Korea and holds a doctorate in Medical Research. She is the owner of Dong Ye Acupuncture and has three locations: Palm Bay – 321-726-3017, Cocoa – 321-634-5800, Community Clinic (Cocoa) – 321-549-2206. Call for more information and appointments.

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