The Traditional Chinese Medicine categorization of the seven emotions is the following: grief, melancholy, fear, fright, anger, joy, worry. The are naturally occurring emotions without pathological consequences in many instances. However, abrupt, severe, or chronic occurrences may cause pathophysiological consequences. This excess leads to disruption of qi and blood, directly affecting the five zang (heart, liver, spleen, lung, kidney) and six fu (gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, urination bladder, triple burner) organs. For this reason, the seven emotions are major factors in the cause of endogenous illness. The organs most affected by emotional states are the heart, liver and spleen. Excessive emotions result in specific effects on the internal organs:
Grief and melancholy injure the lungs
Fear and fright injures the kidneys
Anger injures the liver
Joy injures the heart
Worry/pensiveness (including overconcentrated thinking) injures the spleen
The reverse is also true, an injury to the internal organs may cause an emotional disturbance. For example, a liver disorder may cause anger. In addition, the flow of qi is affected by the emotions:
Grief and melancholy consume qi
Fear causes qi to descend
Fright disperses the qi
Anger causes qi to rise and causes qi stagnation
Joy slows qi
Worry causes qi stagnation
Five Elements: emotions, flavors, colors Metal: lungs, large intestine grief, melancholy, pungent, white Water: urination bladder, kidneys, fear, fright, salty, black Wood: liver, gallbladder, anger, sour, green Fire: heart, small intestine, joy, bitter, red Earth: stomach, spleen, worry, sweet, yellow Metal Starting with the metal element, grief and melancholy injure the lungs. We noted that these emotions consume qi; they dissolve and diffuse qi. Melancholy is defined as pensive sadness. It is a sorrowfulness involving deep and serious thought; for this reason, this type of sadness overlaps with worry because it involves overconcentrated thinking. As a result, melancholy affects the spleen as well as the lungs. The effects of these emotions on the spleen may cause digestive disorders including loss of appetite, loose stools, weight loss, anorexia, epigastric pain, abdominal or epigastric distention, or constipation. From a five elements perspective, the son is sick and therefore drains the mother; metal damages earth.
In the vernacular, melancholy is sometimes called “the blues.” A disconnected sadness combined with apathy is one form of melancholy. Overindulgence in nostalgia is another form that combines some forms of depression with sadness. Overall, people suffering from melancholy do not have a bright outlook, they are often lugubrious (i.e., sad and dismal).
Excess melancholy and grief can cause liver qi stagnation, often resulting in a feeling of a bloated chest. From a five elements perspective, metal overacts on wood. Metal may counteract onto the heart. This causes mental disturbances, emotional imbalances, and issues with blood circulation.
Each emotional excess has a balancing emotion. The cure for grief and melancholy is joy. Grief is a form of dwelling on sadness and is related to things that have happened in the past. A Taoist philosophy focusing on curing grief is to promote peace of mind. Water Fear and fright cause the qi to descend and disperses qi. Another way to view fright is that it confuses qi, like a frightened horse that runs any which way, in any direction. Both fear and fright injure the kidneys, the internal organ associated with the water element. As such, kidney related disorders may emerge, including bedwetting. If the fear and fright causes water to overact on the fire element, it is injurious to the heart. The heart houses the shen (spirit). As a result, this may cause mental illness, mania, palpitations, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, confusion, and abnormal laughing or crying.
If the mother does not nourish the son (water does not nourish wood), there may be injury to the liver. The liver controls and stores the blood. As a result, excess fear may cause menstrual disorders. The liver belongs to the wood element and is internally-externally related to the gallbladder. As a result, fear and fright may injure the gallbladder, a fu organ associated with decision making. This is manifest in fearful people, they are often indecisive.
The cure for fear and fright is to tonify the spleen and regulate the water. The spleen is the mother of kidney-water and nourishing the spleen-mother benefits the son. Fear is overcome by concentrated thinking. Although overconcentrated thinking (i.e., thinking too much) is associated with spleen pathology, a healthy increase in concentrated thinking balances fear. Wood Anger injures the liver and causes the qi to rise and also causes qi stagnation. Anger may visibly inflame the veins of the neck and cause redness of the face. Mild anger, such as irritability, commonly leads to liver qi stagnation issues such as abdominal distension and pain.
The liver is responsible for the free flow of qi. Anger, in all its forms, prevents the free flow of qi. This causes irritability, belching, sighing, plum pit throat (globus pharyngeus), irregular menstruation, tinnitus, distention and pain of the hypochondrium, and impairment of blood vessel circulation. In severe cases, impairment of the blood vessels may lead to bleeding.
Liver-wood controls spleen-earth. An excess of anger causes wood to attack earth. This leads to spleen qi deficiency and qi to rebel upward. Symptoms include loose stools, low appetite, nausea, and vomiting. Chronic liver qi stagnation caused by anger results in liver qi depression. This leads to a disharmony of the liver and spleen and associated digestive disturbances.
Lung-metal controls liver-wood and therefore regulating the lungs or emotions associated with the lungs stops or regulates anger. Fire Excess joy slows the qi and injures the heart. Excess joy damages the shen (spirit) and may lead to mental illness, including mania and insanity. Heart related disorders caused by excess joy include palpitations, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, abnormal laughing or crying, and confusion.
Kidney water balances excess joy and the heart fire that it brings. In this case, fear and fright associated with the water element balance excess joy. There are other processes at work with this element. Terminally ill people wait to see a loved one and then die shortly thereafter. Often, they die peacefully in their sleep. This is an example of the qi slowing to a complete rest. Earth Worry, overthinking, obsessions, overconcentrated thinking, and excess pensiveness damage the spleen and causes qi stagnation. The spleen is responsible for transforming and transporting. As a result, damage to the spleen may present as loose stools, poor appetite, poor absorption of nutrients from food, constipation, epigastric pain, abdominal distention, anorexia, or weight loss.
If worrying causes the son to drain the mother, the spleen-earth damages the heart-fire and may lead to mental disorders. According to five element principles, liver-wood controls spleen-earth. As a result, anger (associated with wood) wakes people up from thinking too much and helps to spread the qi.
Worrying and thinking too much focuses on the future and events such as making plans. The Taoist philosophy of promoting peace of mind to allay this mindset is to engage in activities such a yoga, taiji, meditation, and to enjoy music. The focus of theseactivities is on the present and helps to offset the future-thinking orientation. Dietetics According to the Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic), five element theory specifies that several flavors are contraindicated for specific differential diagnoses per the control cycle. If the liver is deficient, avoid spicy foods. If the lungs are weak, avoid bitter foods. If the spleen and stomach are weak, avoid sour foods. If the heart is sick, avoid salty foods. If the kidneys are deficient, avoid sweet foods. Following these guidelines prevents each of the five elements from overacting upon another and their associated internal organs. From a seven emotions perspective, modify the diet to benefit the organ/element associated with each emotional imbalance.
Example In the control cycle, water controls fire. Fire is the element associated with the heart and water is the element associated with the flavor of saltiness. When the heart is ill, salty foods no longer control the heart but instead pathologically overact upon the heart.
Another Huangdi Neijing principle is that five element theory applies to the colors of food. Green foods benefit the liver and relate to liver cleansing. Red foods benefit the heart, yellow foods benefit the spleen and stomach, white foods benefit the lungs and black foods benefit the kidneys.
Huangdi Neijing Suwen
Chinese medicine dietetic principles also stipulate that there are five spicy vegetables essential to supplemental nourishment. Chives benefit the heart, bean leaves benefit the spleen, garlic benefits the lungs, onions benefit the kidneys and spinach benefits the liver. The five livestocks for beneficial nourishment are chicken for benefitting the liver, sheep and goat for benefitting the heart, beef for benefitting the spleen, horse for benefitting the lungs and pork for benefitting the kidneys. The five grains of major nourishment are rice for benefitting the lungs, wheat for the liver, sorghum for the heart, millet for the spleen and black beans for the kidneys.