This is the second of a series of blogs and newsletters on Wei Chi providing us a deeper understanding of vital energy as we explore the role of emotions that so deeply affect our vitality and well-being.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tells us that to each of the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) corresponds an emotion that can be either in balance and which we will call “positive,” or out of balance which we will call “negative.”
In our first article on Wei Chi, we learned that:
- the best way to strengthen wei chi (the energy of our immune system) is with the positive emotions we derive from satisfactory human relationships, and
- of the natural enemies of Wei Chi, the one we can best fend off is the destructive effect of negative emotions.
Since it should be possible to learn to exercise a degree of control over our emotions, this conscious practice is a constructive way to improve our wellness and benefit from resulting uplifting emotions that will enhance the quality of our life.
This idea is linked to the relatively recent societal recognition of emotional intelligence that we can and should develop both for our own benefit and for those with whom we interact.
All five principal emotions have the potential to become destructive and to affect our natural balance, making ways for pathogens to enter the physical body, and/or mind.
Anger is the emotion associated with the Wood element in TCM that controls the energies of liver and gallbladder. When the energy of anger is balanced, it provides an avenue for venting over frustrating situations we have little to no control over. It can effectively communicate to others where our boundaries stand, but when out of balance as in out of control, anger is damaging whether expressed (yang)—which might generate outer violence—or repressed (yin) which engenders internal damage both physical and psychological.
Joy is the emotion of the Fire element that controls the energies of the heart and small intestine. Balanced joy is a source of wellness. It makes a positive contribution to all our relationships, but excessive or unrestrained joy creates an overexcited state that is physically and psychologically consuming. It is also unnerving for others.
Worry is the emotion of the Earth element that controls the energy of the spleen and stomach.
Balanced worry is limited to a compassionate concern for self and others that reminds us of our role as caregiver or comforter, but worry can fast escalate out of control. It takes us out of the now moment to anticipate often imagined future dangers to ourselves and others. It maintains a state of anxiety that weakens our natural defenses–energetic, physical, and psychological.
Grief is the emotion of the Metal element that controls the energies of the lungs and large intestine. There are times in life when it is normal to feel and express grief such as when a loved one passes away. In grief we experience a needed emotional purging that will allow us to regain balance and resume a normal life again, but when grief is uncontrolled, there is a loss of emotional balance with deeper consequences including physical ones. Controlling grief is learning to let go.
Fear is the emotion of the Water element that controls the energies of the kidneys and bladder. It is normal and even preferable to fear certain things that could be dangerous such as fire, poisonous snakes, or hurricanes, for example, but when fear is out of control, it can easily turn into paranoia. It can be paralyzing when all our thoughts and energies can become focused on imagined things that are not even likely to happen. In this state, there is no peace and no energy left to live a normal and productive life.
It must be clear that any emotion in an excessive state and felt for an extended period of time either internally contained or externally expressed becomes a barrier to our physical and mental health and vitality, to our happiness, and to how we relate to others.
Our understanding of the nature, range, and effect of emotions is at the core of what emotional intelligence is all about as we consider its effects on ourselves and on others. That understanding will motivate us to exercise more mastery over our emotions as a means to enhance our sense of wellness.
But we probably cannot do it all alone. We will need help.
We will explore these subjects in future blogs and newsletters with the words Wei Chi in their headline.
In closing, let’s recall our earlier definition of wellness. Ultimately, it is a state of contentment. Indeed, we need to feel physically, mentally, and emotionally well as a sine qua non condition. In addition, we must be able to experience the sweet inner feeling that all is well even when outer appearances don’t testify to that feeling.
We are inspired by many authors when writing on the vital energy subject but, in particular, by:
- Elias, Jason, and Katherine Ketcham. The Five Elements of Self-healing: Using Chinese Medicine for Maximum Immunity, Wellness, and Health. New York: Harmony, 1998. Print.
- Haas, Elson M. Staying Healthy with the Seasons. Place of Publication Not Identified: Celestial Arts, 2003. Print.
- Beinfield, Harriet, and Efrem Korngold. Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print.
- Gerber, Richard. Vibrational Medicine: New Choices for Healing Ourselves. Santa Fe, NM: Bear, 1996. Print.
- The abundant writings of Deepak Chopra, M.D.