A friend of mine, Michael Bending, was describing to me some of the insights that he has gained from studying and practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) this last few years. Mike has a Diploma of Massage, is completing a Bachelor of Health Science: Traditional Chinese Medicine and is a Political health activist, one time IT specialist, deep sea Navy Clearance Diver, semi professional triathlete and is passionate about creating positive change in the world.
I asked him to share his thoughts, ideas and insights with you. I can see many connections between what TCM offers and how it links to modern scientific insights of the heart brain and gut (enteric) brain. The idea that various organs are linked to particular emotions (emoting) makes sense when you realise that the gut brain and heart brain connect to and enervate the organs around the body. Messages to and from these distributed systems must change information flows and resulting emotional responses that are used to motivate and directionalise the head brain, thinking and ultimately behaviour.
So for your interest and edification, here's Mike's guest blog on TCM and enhancing your life:
Happiness, the 5 emotions and the organs they pertain to in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Your physical health alters your perception of the world around you, what you see, what you don't see, what you focus upon or do not focus upon.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) says that the Qi energy in your system determines your health. TCM states that each organ is responsible for an emotion: liver/anger, kidney/fear, heart/happiness or mania, spleen/over active mind, lungs/sadness. If the Qi is deficient in the kidney or heart it leads to corresponding changes in the emotions linked to those organs.
Now if I was to explain in such a way as to match our western biological way of thinking, then I would say that each organ is responsible for the regulation of different hormones and chemicals in the body and the balance of these hormones and chemicals dictate our emotions and thoughts at any time of the day. We can see that the kidneys express or do not express adrenalin relative to the flight or fight response to perceived danger...if the kidney is not functioning correctly then people could be fearful in ordinary everyday routines and events. Have you ever heard the expression "I was livered" when referring to anger? Well when someone has an unbalanced liver; in TCM then they will generally have a lot of anger at different times in the day or rise to anger easily.
So, moving along....our emotions are the sum total of the chemicals and hormones that wax and wane in our bodies. Our egos are the sum total of these emotions, and our perception of the world is an extension of our ego. Our perception of the world can reinforce our internal chemical environment or help change it....its an open-loop control system which can flip over to a closed loop control system anytime we decide....but only when we decide to take control! Or let go!
The emotions result in the sum of our ego influence the decisions we make on a day to day basis... about everything....and sometimes the way we feel one day is not the way we feel the next and sometimes we regret the decisions we made yesterday because we don't feel the same way today.
So...even though we can, in varying degrees, exert some control over our emotions mentally, we are in fact not in as much control of our lives as we generally like to think we are. Its like white water rafting, we can exert some control with our paddles and steer a course but we are also at the mercy of the currents of the river.
Many men will not understand this statement and may even negate it as most men feel as though they are in control of their thinking 24/7. Most women, will understand this as they sometimes feel different emotions before and during their menstrual cycle.....a woman may get angry or sad or both...she can't help it, it is the sum of the hormones and chemicals that are being expressed or not being expressed at this time. The man's general response to these emotions is "just snap out of it honey" but this is easier said than done for many women!
Men don't understand this as they believe they don't lose control of their emotions like women do, hence they believe women can "just snap out of it". However men don't stop to think they they are in fact driven by a different emotion 24/7 every day of the month. Testosterone drives their nearly every day thoughts and actions, but because it happens everyday of the month and it doesn't result result in moods of sadness or melancholy, then men don't usually see a difference in their behaviour as women do. However men do sometimes have a problem with anger but probably dismiss it as being part of being a man. Most women will acknowledge their behaviours during those 5-7 days of the month, men have no idea they themselves are so out of control emotionally.
So what causes these chemical imbalances? We all have different genetic predispositions however the main mechanism involved is genetics and food. We are what we eat, it has been said many times yet most people do not fully grasp this statement. Different foods have chemicals that have effects upon our bodies. If we don't get enough of some of these chemicals then the body does not function the way it should.
The average western diet has nutrient values paramount to eating a plate of cardboard three times a day, hence diet is the place to start when trying to effect happiness. Yes some genetic predispositions will make it harder for some people, but genes can be switched on and off depending upon the levels of certain nutrients and mental control. And if you think that your mental capacity to control your biological functions is limited then spare a thought for the Tibetan monks who practice a lifetime to actually slow their heart beats to almost nothing and raise their body temperature at other times. It is possible.
Some people who suffer depression have a higher need for vitamin B3 than other people. Exercise like running, swimming, cycling, yoga, qi gong and tai chi all stimulate the happiness hormones called endorphins which will effect changes in our body and our perception. Good sleep will stimulate more melatonin which is responsible for regulation of most of the hormones in our body.
So lets get back to happiness and life enhancing....happiness is the balance of these chemical markers in the body. Yes they can be controlled by the mind, without so much reliance upon diet, but it takes years of skill and practice as shown by modalities such as Buddhists mediation training. The average person can not do this without extensive training. We can control our emotions when we are more understanding of how they are effecting us and this does have an effect day to day.
Its a multifaceted approach, food, medicine, relaxation, exercise, sleep, mentally concentrating upon happy events and moments while minimising negative emotions, consciously fostering love and compassion in our hearts while minimising anger, fear and sadness.
Think good thoughts, step back from the illusionary world...see the world for what it is without these debilitating emotions....and don't get caught up with what other people think, run your own race.
The perfect blossom is a rare thing, you could spend your entire life searching for one and it would not be a wasted life! (The Last Samurai)
Chase after money and security
And your heart will never unclench
Care about people’s approval
And you will be their prisoner
Do your work, then step back
The only path to serenity.
for more information or to read more of Mike's thoughts on TCM and health, check out: