In Chinese medicine, there is no separation between physical and emotional well-being. They are simply differing aspects of a whole, like yin and yang. Symptoms may manifest in either dimension because of imbalance, and sometimes in both simultaneously. You need look no further than a case of “butterflies” in the stomach, in which anxiety directly causes a very real sensation, if not full blown digestive symptoms. Tension headaches are another obvious example of emotional stress directly causing acute physical pain.
The theory referred to as the Seven Emotional Factors describes how extreme feelings (i.e., grief/sadness, worry/anxiety, joy, fear/terror, anger) may disrupt the flow of qi (vital energy) and blood of internal organs and thus lead to disease. Emotional reactions to stimuli are of course normal experiences; however, when severe responses are consistently abrupt, prolonged or even inappropriately suppressed, serious health issues may develop consequentially. A person who is highly emotionally sensitive by nature may be more vulnerable to this endogenous cause of illness. The emotional state and history of a patient must always be considered in the diagnostic process.
There is a connection between specific internal organs and emotions. For instance, the Heart is linked with joy, the Liver with anger and rage, the Spleen with worry, the Lungs with grief, the Kidneys with fear. The pathologies that arise from an emotional source may be difficult to trace, and feelings may be causal or coincidental. Quite often emotional factors complicate or inhibit the healing process after a physical injury or illness occurs. For instance, a person who has undergone trauma might experience an improvement in his or her chronic pain only to undergo a setback a few weeks later, in a continuous cycle. So, the patient is stuck in a place of disharmony, never fully achieving wellness.
The mind-body connection is now being explored in more depth in western medicine, which is encouraging. While skeptics may demand more research on this phenomenon and cast doubt on its significance, it remains an integral part of health and healing and I applaud any physician who considers this when treating a patient. A respected colleague of mine suggested I watch a film entitled “All the Rage” which explores the mind-body connection and how emotional trauma can manifest physically. I plan to attend the screening and I wanted to share this intriguing subject with you all:
“All the Rage” documentary opens June 23rd, 24th and 25th (Friday through Sunday). Click here to buy tickets https://www.cinemavillage.com/