Healing Emotions with Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine / Female Health / Male Health

Traditional Chinese Medicine places a large emphasis on the role of emotion in almost all illnesses. The greatest Chinese doctors were renowned for their deep understanding of the mind and emotions. It is therefore not surprising that many people encountering emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, habitual stress, and low self-esteem are returning to this ancient system of medicine and visiting Ireland’s leading Chinese Medical practitioner Dermot O’Connor at his clinic on Haddington Road, often with profound results.
Every day at my clinic I meet clients who have first encountered the arrival of emotional problems in a rather dramatic manner. People suffering from anxiety attacks will tell of the precise moment when panic first struck. Similarly people suffering from depression will remember with total clarity the first time that they “dropped” into a depressive state. Although these emotional problems arrive rapidly most people will often assume that they can only recover slowly over a number of years – if at all. However, this slow response often isn’t necessary, as frequently the brain is more effective working fast to rapidly re-align itself back to a normal healthy emotional state with the help of ancient Chinese medical techniques discovered by the masters of emotional health.

Chinese Medicine considers the repression of emotions such as anger, frustration and sorrow as contributing to many physical illnesses and ultimately more severe emotionally related disorders. When we suppress emotions with our conscious mind we are essentially training our sub-conscious mind to accept these negative emotional feelings as normal. If this is done continuously, the sub-conscious mind can become confused and polarised. Negative life events will often start to seem acceptable and normal to the individual. In fact, a normal healthy emotional and physical state becomes almost abnormal and this makes it more difficult to break out of the spiral of negative emotion and ill health. Take, for example, an unfulfilling or abusive relationship where the suffering party, rather than end the relationship, suppresses their emotions and convinces themselves that everything is fine. Even a physically and emotionally destructive relationship can continue for a long period of time, and when the relationship finally comes to an end the injured party will often feel guilty and reject future nurturing relationships, gravitating instead towards an equally abusive relationship. The key to resolving such patterns is to re-train the sub-conscious mind to express negative emotions correctly. In the clinic this process is often aided by the release of suppressed emotions. This explains the frequent occurrence where clients will often experience an emotional release during or shortly after an acupuncture treatment, often without knowing where this emotion came from.

In my clinic I regularly encounter clients who seem trapped in a chain of negative emotions. For example, if someone feels unreasonably frustrated or angry towards someone, whether they express or repress this emotion, they will often feel very upset afterwards. This will often lead to feelings of guilt and low self-worth where ultimately they redirect this anger towards themselves. If this chaining of negative emotions happens continuously over time it can often lead to severe anxiety or depression. So an initial negative emotion spirals into a whole series of lingering negative emotions – each one damaging to the person. The secret is to chain and spiral positive emotions of confidence, self-worth and joy and in that process help the client to release and ultimately to collapse the negative emotional feelings. Acupuncture and ancient Chinese herbal formulas can be very helpful in achieving this goal and when supported by Chinese physical exercise and mind techniques the results will often be astounding.
Within Traditional Chinese Medicine emotional disorders can be associated with a number of different patterns of disharmony. Whilst it is impossible to create a medical dictionary which translates between Western medical illnesses and Chinese medical disharmonies, here we will look at some patterns associated with the most common emotional problems.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Panic attacks within Chinese medicine are commonly associated with the pattern disharmony of Heart and Kidney Yin Deficiency. The clinical manifestations of this disharmony are: Palpitations, oppressive feeling in the chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating, poor memory, insomnia and listlessness.

This pattern may be due to a chronic long-term illness, particularly after a serious haemorrhage or a long period of overwork. Emotional shocks and the ensuing sadness from the break-up of relationships are often also a common cause of this pattern.

Acupuncture will commonly be effectively used to treat Heart and Kidney Yin Deficiency and will commonly be supported by herbal remedies such as Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan “Heavenly King Tonify the Heart Special Pills”. It is always important that Chinese herbal formulae are prescribed by a qualified TCM herbalist.

Anger, Frustration and Depression
Anger and frustration are most commonly associated with the pattern Liver Qi Stagnation. This is perhaps one of the most common patterns of disharmony with Chinese Medicine and contains the following clinical manifestations:  Moodiness, “feeling wound up”, feeling a lump in the throat, sour taste in the mouth, sighing, grinding teeth and PMT.

Problems related to repression of anger and frustrations are the primary cause of Liver Qi Stagnation. This resent over a period of time causes a disruption in the smooth flow of energy in the body resulting in stagnation. If Liver Qi is allowed to stagnate over a long period of time it often transforms into Depression.

Acupuncture is excellent at releasing Liver Qi Stagnation and the Chinese herbal remedy Xiao Yao Wan “Free and Happy Wanderer” is commonly prescribed to treat the condition. Exercise can also an effective treatment, particularly Qigong exercises which will often mimic the expression of previously repressed anger.

Excessive Worry
The emotion of worry is associated with the Spleen in Chinese Medicine. Too much worry and thought produces energy stagnation and energy deficiency in the Spleen which in turn can lead to digestive disorders such as poor appetite, bloating, weakness in the limbs and diarrhoea. Likewise mental strain and improper diet can lead to a propensity to be consumed with worry.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be very effective at treating Spleen disorders and it will also be critical that the client pursues a diet which supports treatment.

According to Chinese Medicine insomnia is generally considered to be associated with the Heart, Kidneys and Liver organs. Mental activity and consciousness reside in the Heart, which pumps blood, but is also the seat of awareness and higher consciousness. The view is that if the Heart is agitated or deficient the “Shen” or spirit consciousness cannot root and sleep will be affected. This is because there is too much heat in the Heart which can be a result of weakness in the Kidneys caused by fire and water being out of balance.

Chinese doctors recognise that Insomnia can take many forms. Moreover each individual is unique requiring a distinct treatment approach. Another common form of insomnia is where the individual has no difficulty falling asleep but often wakes during the night and remains restless. This is considered to be due to Liver Blood deficiency. Those suffering from Liver Blood deficiency will often have a dull pale complexion, pale lips and an aversion to sunlight. Once again acupuncture can be very effective and the individual will also be advised to follow a diet which nourishes Liver Blood.

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