Spirit and Emotion in TCM

More often than not, first thing people associate with acupuncture is pain management or digestive issues. What is less known is that acupuncture is also very helpful when it comes to the trouble of the Spirit and imbalance of Emotions.

Chinese medicine has a beautiful, holistic and enchanting way of explaining the body, organ system and the Spirit.

According to the Chinese Medicine there are 5 Spirits that represent an aspect of awareness and consciousness. Each spirit resides in one of the Yin organs. And when there are strong emotions in our life, its related organ can be affected. Strong emotions alter the movement of Qi (energy, life force), and that in its intensity can cause a pathology. So let’s look at this in more detail.

Heart is seen as the Emperor of the body and the residence of the Mind. And so it is responsible for the circulation of blood and overall state of the emotions, as well as the well-being of spirits. Heart spirit, Shen is the most yang, most fiery one of the five.

Great Taoist sage once wrote that Heart is like a reflecting pool. When the pool is calm and still it is ‘the mirror of heaven and earth, the glass of the ten thousand things’. But when the Heart is disturbed by violent emotion, ‘it is like the wind-tossed sea’.

Anything that troubles the heart, upsets the Shen. This can be emotional drama, shock or abuse, or recreational drugs such as cocaine, nicotine or amphetamines.

When a person’s Shen is disturbed the light in the eyes may be dim, as if the person is not really present and making real contact is difficult. The person may be over talkative and have frequent inappropriate laughter or other signs of a split between the content of a person’s conversation and their emotion. They may feel that it’s hard for them to recognize what’s truly right for them; feel lack of inspiration and insight, and find it hard to concentrate.

Other signs of Shen disturbance may be insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, timidity or being easily startled, inability to distinguish true from false or real from unreal, anxiety, restlessness and hyperactivity.

Liver in Chinese Medicine is compared to a Military leader whose main task is strategic planning. Liver Spirit, Hun is therefore in charge of organizing the chaos of random possibility into meaningful patterns, giving direction to our lives.

There are two categories of Hun disturbance: the excess pattern and deficiency pattern. But it is not uncommon to have mixture of both. When Hun is disturbed there are signs of chaos and confusion and our capacity for clear thought and grounded imagining is ‘gone with the wind’. Without the Hun we cannot organize and plan our lives and put things in motion, implement bright ideas or carry through on promises we have made to ourselves and others.

When Hun is disturbed, there might be a feeling that whichever way we turn, we run into a brick wall, which may result in feelings of guilt and that nothing works out right.

People with Hun disturbance can often find themselves to be easily irritable, with repressed anger and blame. They may find themselves to be in a state of righteous indignation, obsession with injustice, unable to take responsibility for their own life. Some other signs may be erratic or repressed emotions, vague anxieties, lack of colour and clear vision in life and starting projects but moving on before they are finished.

According to Chinese Medicine, Spleens main function is to assist the Stomach digestion by transporting and transforming food essence, absorbing the nourishment from food and separating the usable from the unusable part of food. The Spleen is the central organ in the production of Qi.

Simply put, the quality of your Qi and Blood depends on the quality of the foods you eat.

The spirit that resides in the Spleen is called Yi. When Yi is fulfilling its function we fully commit ourselves to manifesting our destiny and bringing the light of our spirit into the world around us. Yi supports our capacity for thought, intention, purpose and clarity of thought.

When Yi is disturbed  there might be feelings of oppression and anguish that do not resolve, restlessness, obsessive and repetitive thought patterns, worry, muddled thinking, inability to make logical connections between ideas, over nurturing of others to avoid your own responsibilities and growth, continually generating new ideas but not taking action on any of them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Lungs in Chinese Medicine are seen as Prime Minister in charge of regulation, governing Qi and respiration. Lungs are the resting place for the Po, which is seen as the most physical and material part of the human soul. It is said to be the somatic manifestation of the soul.

Po gets easily disturbed by worry, sadness and grief and this ‘knots’ Qi. There might be a feeling that something isn’t right, but unable to pinpoint the reason. There might be physical pain that takes over the entire life, yet seems to have no identifiable cause.

Person with Po disturbance may feel extreme sensitivity to outer influences of a psychic level; for example, being affected by other people’s negativity without awareness which may create somatic disturbances such as headaches, asthma and digestive upsets and can cause stress related skin problems.

Kidneys are often referred to as the ‘Root of life’. According to Chinese medicine, Kidneys store the Essence of life, govern birth, growth, reproduction and development.

The spirit that resides in Kidneys is called Zhi. When Zhi is disturbed, people continually push themselves to the point of total exhaustion or have no initiative at all. They use chemical stimulants, emotional excitement, ambition and desire to whip themselves forward which might result with insomnia, anxiety, chronic fatigue and back pain, fear, depression, inability to stay steady in pursuit of goals, lack of drive, motivation or over controlling nature.

Person with Zhi imbalance might feel inability to face fears which interfere with expression of their true self, identification with God using will to try to control others and situations around them. They might experience nervous breakdowns, which may be the result of extreme stress or long term repression of instinctual impulses.

If my brief overview of Spirit disturbance according to Chinese Medicine has aroused your curiosity to find out more, I recommend Lorie Eve Dechars book ‘Five Spirits’, where she so beautifully paints the picture of all the spirits through Chinese legends, beliefs and interesting case studies. This book is easy to read without having in-depth knowledge of Chinese Medicine.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s