by Andrew Pacholyk MS L.Ac ~
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we have a healing methodology called the 5 Phases (Elements). In the Spring the weather is starting to warm up by the change in the sun’s position. The botanical world is making its renewal known through growth and upheaval. The energy of the season is rising upward and outward and expressing itself with the freshness of a new start. This new growth is what is represented by the element of Wood.
The Spring is the time when the climate is represented by Wind. Wind Cold imbalances are those in which wind and cold play a role in disease. The Liver and Gall Bladder systems are the most vulnerable at this time. These imbalances are often expressed as hepatitis and cases of pink eye which, in TCM stems back to imbalances in the Liver and Gallbladder systems. The Liver governs the workings of the sinews and muscles and imbalances are more apparent at this time of year. The sound associated with Spring is shouting, while the emotion most prevalent tends to be anger. By being prepared with this knowledge, it allows us to be in tune with our own body systems and shows how our health can be influenced by nature.
Strengthening the immune system should be a part of any seasonal ritual! Any tonic formula that regulates Qi, nourishes the eyes and tendons and tonifies the liver is appropriate. Remember, the best form of medicine, is preventative.
Learn how to heal with the seasons and how Traditional Chinese Medicine will help you find remedies and bring your body back into balance!
The Liver and Gallbladder
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, The liver and gallbladder are associated with Spring. They belong to the element of Wood. The Liver “system” is the “farmer who cultivates”. It stores blood, governs and regulates the blood, organizes the “free flow” of Qi energy to promote circulation which cultivates our emotions, soothes digestion, regulates menstruation and bile secretion. The liver changes harmful toxins into substances, which can be eliminated safely by the colon or kidneys. The liver is our master cleansing organ and the gall bladder is its mate. Enjoy a tall glass of water with a 1/2 lemon squeezed into it.
The Gallbladder system in Chinese Medicine is associated stores and excretes bile (as in Western medicine). The Gallbladder governs decision making and gives the courage and capacity to make decisions. Like the Liver, the Gallbladder controls the sinews by encouraging the Qi to the fascia. The Gallbladder also has an effect on our dreams. It is said that the Gallbladder effects the quality and length of sleep, if it is deficient, a person will wake very early and not be able to return to sleep. The Gallbladder’s close relationship to the Liver is not only anatomical but they both play an essential role in the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. In order to plan a good life (which is a function of the Liver), one needs good decision making skills (which is a function of the Gallbladder).
The Liver is the major organ treated in Chinese Medicine. It is the organ that rules the free flow of Qi. The primary symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation include frequent sighing; inpatients, anger and temper outbreaks, a sensation of fullness or congestion in the chest, intercostal, or subcostal regions. Secondary symptoms include obstructed bowel movements; dry and distended eyes; feeling of something being stuck in the throat; self-doubts and crying; pain (especially intercostal and abdominal) that is characterized by moving, pulling, or penetrating sensations; in females; premenstrual breast distention; menstrual cramping and irregular menstruation.
The Wood Element
The element, Wood is associated with the Spring season and with wind.
The element is associated with the liver and the gallbladder, which regulates the smooth flow of Qi energy throughout the body and has a strong relationship with the reproductive organ system and the ability to nourish the body with blood.
Wood represents our mental activity such as intellect and the ability to reason, memory, thoughts, knowledge and comprehension. It also rules new beginnings, friendship, clarity, and positive expression. The Wood personality is very good at making decisions and carrying them through.
The Wood element is associated with feng shui and Chinese medicine. Emotionally, wood allows you to be adaptable to life. It is the creativeness of the wood element that gets expressed when we are at our most artistic. Spring is the new life energy of growth, renewal and the life force sprouting upward and outward. Wood allows you to make a plan and stay true to that plan. It also allows you to be flexible, like a willow and adapt to the circumstances that intercept your plans and expectations.
Psychologically, wood is the element that represents our growth. Too much wood in the environment can produce excess growth, as in when a relationship moves too quickly or a business starts growing too fast without a strong foundation. Not enough wood in the environment and the results is expressed as stagnation or barrenness. Wood represents our creative urge to achieve, which can turn to anger, when frustrated. The wood element represents all the activities of the body that are self regulating and/or function without conscious thought such as heart beat, digestion, respiration and metabolism.
The Solar Plexus Chakra is in the third in the Chakra system and represents our power and will and autonomy, as well as our metabolism. When healthy, this Chakra brings us energy, effectiveness, spontaneity, and non-dominating power. It is your center of will. This Chakra deals with the human ego, emotions and self-love. Intuition is believed to begin in the area of our Solar Plexus Chakra. Although, the Third Eye Chakra is most associated with intuition, the “spark” is what is felt in the area of our solar plexus.
Anger is the feeling we experience when events in our world are not going according to our plans. Anger is one of the most common and destructive delusions affecting our minds. Because it is based on an exaggeration, anger is an expression of our belief system and how we defend it. It’s as if we have an inner idea of how things, events and people should be for us. When we get angry and either feel frustrated or try to change them, we tend to give away our power! Many of us remain a victim to our tempers all of our lives. In essence, anger is the feeling we get when we want to control the world around us.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, anger is most prevalent in the Spring. It is considered the emotion of Spring. Although we can and do experience anger at any time or season, it is Spring when we are most easily angered. This is believed to be due to the changes of light and dark and the balance between them.
It is very important to identify the actual cause of whatever unhappiness we feel. If we are forever blaming our difficulties on others, this is a sure sign that there are still many problems and faults within our own mind. If we were truly peaceful inside and had our mind under control, difficult people or circumstances would not be able to disturb this peace, and so we would feel no compulsion to blame anyone or regard them as our enemy. To someone who has subdued his or her mind and eradicated the last trace of anger, all beings are friends.
Techniques for Managing Anger
1. The first step towards managing anger, is to identify which attitudes and convictions that many predispose us to being excessively angry in the first place! Once these beliefs have been identified, it is important to take steps to understand and correct them, if need be.
2. The second step is to realize that anger is a natural human emotion and it is not the emotion of anger that tends to be a problem. The problem is the mismanagement of our anger. Mismanaged anger and rage are the major cause of conflicts in our lives. This mismanagement often has roots from our childhood that prevents us from expressing our anger as appropriately as we should. These factors include fear, denial, ignorance and impatience. These factors can derail the appropriate management of our anger towards others. Learning to understand and change these factors in ourselves, will allow us to express our suppressed anger in a more appropriate way.
3. The third step is learning the appropriate ways of expressing our ” honest and legitimate” anger at others so that we can begin to cope more effectively with anger provoking situations as they come up in our lives. When we are anxious or depressed, we are often experiencing the consequences of our suppressed anger. The problem is that we have suppressed our anger so deeply that we succeeded in concealing it from our own selves! All we are left with is the residual evidence of it, our anxiety or our depression. When we are depressed, very often we are also angry at ourselves without realizing it. Learning to appropriately manage our anger at ourselves is the antidote to much of alcoholism, drugs and sexual abuse.
4. The fourth step in the Anger Management process is to approach anger by taking responsibility for our own reactions and behavior. We can do this by addressing our anger with the following coping techniques:
1. Listen to other people, first: listen carefully to what is being said. Do not have a preconceived opinion before you hear what is being said. Remember, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
2. Think carefully about what you want to say: before you say it. slow down. What is the underlying factor in your anger? Fear, denial, impatience?
3. Be clear about what you are going to express.: Your objective is not to belittle, berate, be sarcastic or attack someone, because their opinion is different than yours.
4. If their statement is pushing your anger button: know why! Try to understand the root of your own anger. Look at why they have formed such an opinion.
5. Express yourself by saying: “I feel angry with (you, them, this situation) because…” Stay calm in the face of your own and the other person’s anger. The worse thing to do if someone is angry toward you is to shout back at them! Be patient and ask questions to get to the heart of problem. Try being carefully assertive, rather than aggressive.
6. Make lifestyle changes. Making small changes in your life can allow you to reap great rewards.
7. Get regular exercise: This can help to prevent the accumulation of tension and will give you regular time away from everyday stress.
8. Learn relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation. These forms of exercise will help to release tension in a controlled, healthy way.
9. Change your environment. Find alternatives for situations which add stress to your life. Schedule time to relax and unwind.
10. Learn to express your feelings: either by talking to a friend or by venting feelings in other ways, perhaps creatively through painting, journaling or taking on a new hobby.
The need to understand the power and place of forgiveness in our world is important in the healing process. It is urgent that we examine the steps that lead to justice and strengthen society. We need to understand how forgiveness improves the human condition. How do we choose to forgive? What are the effects of holding grudges and seeking revenge? We can find a way to balance our need for security with the potential for granting forgiveness. Forgiveness offers the possibility of two types of peace: peace of mind — the potential healing of old emotional wounds, and peace with others — the possibility of new, more gratifying relationships in the future.
Patience is a mind that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much more than just gritting our teeth and putting up with things. Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly whatever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. It is always possible to be patient; there is no situation so bad that it cannot be accepted patiently, with an open, accommodating, and peaceful heart.When patience is present in our mind it is impossible for unhappy thoughts to gain a foothold.
There are many examples of people who have managed to practice patience even in the most extreme circumstances, such as under torture or in the final ravages of cancer. Although their body was ruined beyond repair, deep down their mind remained at peace. By learning to accept the small difficulties and hardships that arise every day in the course of our lives, gradually our capacity for patient acceptance will increase and we shall come to know for ourselves the freedom and joy that true patience brings.