The mind-body approach of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) posits that emotions and the health of internal organs are interconnected. This means that the emotional state of your mind can end up damaging the organs linked to those emotions over a period of time. In addition, the health of the organs can also affect the way you feel.
How TCM views 5 of the common human emotions and their associated organs
Joy is linked to the heart since this is the organ associated with deep, positive feelings, including overexcitement. According to TCM, the heart is tasked with regulating the blood vessels of the body as well as ensuring that the pulse remains steady. If the heart is afflicted due to any reason, it can lead to conditions like insomnia, mania, palpitations, nightmares, and restlessness. A lack of joy leads to depression. The heart is connected to your consciousness and its health is expressed through the body’s complexion, the state of the arteries, and the tip of the tongue. Joy is believed to slow down and relax the movement of qi, which is the vital life force.
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“The liver is connected to anger, which when out of balance, can be expressed in the extremes of excess wrath and irritation or as a lack of feeling, as in depression or PTSD. These mental health imbalances can be both symptoms and/or contributing causes of liver dysfunction,” according to Very Well Mind. Anger causes the qi in the liver to stagnate and fester, which eventually causes poor circulation of internal heat. An imbalance in anger affects the liver and can lead to depression, headaches, violent outbursts, menstrual cramps, and high blood pressure. The liver is connected to the hair, nails, eyes, and tendons.
The emotion of sadness is linked to the lungs. In the human body, the lungs are tasked with respiration and the regulation of sweat glands on the skin. It is also believed to be the organ responsible for generating and distributing qi throughout the body. The lungs also contribute to resisting bacteria and viruses. Sadness leads to the dissipation of qi and also weakens the lungs.
An imbalance in the lungs can lead to tightness in the chest, allergies, dry skin, frequent crying, asthma, and so on. If the lungs are negatively affected for too long, it can lead to ulcerative colitis, constipation, etc.
Shock is defined as an instant reaction to a sudden, unexpected stimulus. It is often associated with terror, trauma, and fright. The organ linked to shock is the gallbladder. The primary function of the gallbladder is to store the bile generated by the liver. When the gallbladder is imbalanced by the emotion of shock, it can lead to temporal headaches, timidity, constipation, poor digestion, shoulder pain, etc. You might also feel a bitter taste in your mouth.
The organ that is associated with fear is the kidneys (together with the adrenal glands). In TCM, the kidneys are seen as the “life gate” that acts as the battery of your body. These organs are responsible for functions like metabolism, growth, regulation of body temperature, fertility, etc. They also manage the stress levels of your body. Fear tends to weaken the kidneys and causes qi to deplete rapidly.
An imbalance in the kidneys can lead to night sweats, ear ringing, infertility, frequent urination, osteoporosis, hearing loss, and premature aging. Psychologically, weak kidneys can manifest as weak willpower, as well as trigger feelings of aloofness and isolation.