One of the best things about Chinese Medicine is that it has never viewed the mind and the body as separate entities, to be treated and considered as mechanistic isolated parts. Each of us is a complete and whole person, to be treated and considered as such. What balance and harmony are, for each person, will be different.
In Chinese medicine, emotions can be considered the actual cause of disease and disharmony. This does not mean that sadness or joy or anger are pathogenic states (or that they are ‘bad’) – it means that emotions when suppressed, distorted, or stagnating and forced to remain static (remember the latin root of emotions means ‘to move’) can create physical – somatic – expression in the body. As I explained here , medical practitioners in China mapped this expression thousands of years ago.
There has never been a mind/ body split in Chinese medical practices – no stigma and no ‘its all in your mind’ – simply a matter of fact acknowledgment that what happens anywhere has an impact and will appear ‘somewhere’ else as a matter of course. What goes around, comes around, as they say.
In Chinese medicine, Organs have affinity with emotions both physically and energetically. Here is a very beginning overview of the connections
These will have various layers depending on the individual involved and their constitution, and experience. For example grief will affect the lungs -weakening them and increasing an individuals immunity and receptivity to colds and flu. They may also wake up around the time of the lungs at 3-5am. But deep grief can also descend to the Kidneys which may result in lower back pain. Experience is very rarely ‘simple’ and many people have complex interactions (which will make sense to a practitioner, but probably not in a blog 🙂
Because Mental Health generally is such a misunderstood and many layered topic, it might be easier to discuss what Chinese medicine, in this context, isn’t:
– Its not therapy
– Its not counselling
– And its certainly not ‘alternative’
While these techniques may be useful, they are primarily ‘discovery’ or exploratory methods. There are many things to be said for talk therapies, and they can be useful for some people. However in many cases, discovery is simply not the same as recovery. As one of my psychologist clients once discussed about the differences between acupuncture for mental health, compared to psychology: we bypass the conscious pathways.
Acupuncture can start the recovery and healing process for and within you, subconsciously. We integrate the conscious and unconscious aspects of your mind and body.
This also means that many Eastern ‘physical’ practices, such as yoga, chi gung, massage, breath work, and Acupuncture, have the capacity, and in fact the tendency to initiate emotional release.
Would it surprise you to hear this is actually a great thing? Provided you are within a safe and secure environment, with a trained practitioner, there is no reason why feeling what you are feeling – even if its one of those emotions our society loves to label as ‘bad’, is bad. I often observe many people feel too busy to have time to deal with a difficult emotion. Something challenging or just awful happened, and because they had to work or had responsibilities, they never had filtering space to feel it. And hey, I’m completely cool with active and deliberate distraction from something horrific to be able to just get through it (I’ve been there) – but this is a process that is hopefully temporary and not the permanent state of affairs. There is often also a powerful will to be ‘fine’ and capable and dealing well with everything. Which is also very alluring (and another thing many of us have taken much too far) – as long as you are aware of the time and place for these mechanisms, which is not all the time! We all create strategies to cope, just get through it, and avoid pain. These mechanisms are important and fantastic: until they just aren’t. Old patterns need to shift if they aren’t serving you well. So do emotions. And thats when staying stuck in them can have a real impact on your health and happiness.
It’s difficult to explain exactly what and how Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can do this kind of setting: it’s a different, holistic experience that words don’t begin to encompass it. No – one can explain it to you – you have to experience it for yourself.