Life, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is a gathering of Qi, or vital life energy. The vitality and health of the human body relies on the ‘pushing’ action of this Qi for good health. Conversely, Qi stagnation in any part of the body leads to illness or loss of vitality.
Much like the Qi in the human body, the universe that we live in is endlessly moving. If it were to stop moving, it would spell disaster for the universe, and all of us. The human body is just like a small universe, and the Qi in the human body should move as smoothly as the stars in the sky. The less this flow is disturbed, the healthier the body will be.
When a disturbance in the flow of Qi does occur, stagnation results
When a disturbance in the flow of Qi does occur, stagnation, or “Yu”, results. In TCM, Yu syndrome is Qi stagnation or Qi blockage — a state in which Qi is obstructed and cannot flow. Chinese medicine says that all diseases are the direct consequence of Qi stagnation, and the body can no longer function properly.
In a healthy body, the distribution of Qi is relatively uniform, but when there is a disturbance, an uneven distribution of Qi will result. It is just like the four wheels of a car: each wheel needs to have the correct pressure to enable the car to run smoothly. If one of the wheels has too much or too little air pressure, or if a tire becomes flat, an imbalance will result, and the car could become unstable, wobble out of control and put the driver in danger.
It is the same with the human body. If there is an uneven flow of Qi, and the upper body has more Qi than the lower body, or the left half has more Qi than the right half, or if there is too much Qi in a certain part of the body, problems will arise. Pulse Diagnosis says that the pulse in the area where a lot of Qi has clustered will be stronger, or out of balance, just like a tire with too much air. This is the result of Qi stagnation or blockage.
TCM recognizes 7 main emotions
The Qi inside the human body has its own law and trajectory. Any disturbance in this trajectory can cause an imbalance in the body. According to Chinese medicine, Qi stagnation results from excessive exposure to emotions. Chinese medicine recognizes seven main emotions: joy (excitement), anger, pensiveness (overthinking), grief (sadness), anxiety (worry), fear, and fright (shock). Excessive emotion can interfere with the circulation of Qi in the body, negatively impacting blood circulation and the respective internal organs.
According to the famous Chinese medical text, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, all illnesses are born of Qi stagnation or blockage. The seven emotions relate to specific organs in the body, and any excessive emotion can easily result in Qi disturbance and damage to the respective organs, resulting in various symptoms in the body.
According to Chinese medicine, emotions relate to organs in the following way: over excitement hurts the heart, anger hurts the liver, overthinking hurts the spleen, sadness and worry hurts the lungs, and fear and shock hurts the kidneys. The organs most easily damaged are the heart, liver, and spleen.
Problems that arise from Qi stagnation
For example, the emotion of excessive excitement leads to Qi stagnation in the heart, and can cause the heart to beat irregularly or too fast. It can also lead to high blood pressure, restlessness, insomnia, forgetfulness, and so forth.
Anger causes stagnation of Qi in the liver, the primary organ responsible for the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body. Liver Qi stagnation can result in vision problems, diarrhea, dry, cracked nails, tinnitus, dizziness, headaches, PMS, depression, and feeling stuck in life. The common phenomenon of pain in the body, according to The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, is a direct result of anger interfering with the flow of Qi in the liver.
Pensiveness, or overthinking, easily leads to Qi stagnation and loss of vitality in the spleen, and can result in hair loss, decreased appetite, bloating of the stomach, foggy thinking, muscle fatigue, easy bruising, and a lack of ability to resolve things.
If we pay attention, we may notice some ways that our emotions affect us physically. For example, when we feel anxious, such as when we’re rushing to catch a train or airplane, we often become tired before we’ve gone too far. And when we lose our temper, we may notice that we feel weak all over due to Qi depletion.
To prevent Q blockage, or depletion, we should keep a calm mind, and focus on or do something peaceful and enjoyable. Taking a walk in the park, for example, relaxes the mind. In this state, we may notice that we can walk a long distance before becoming tired, since Qi is not easily depleted when we’re calm.
Qi stagnation over a long period of time will eventually lead to Qi exhaustion, resulting in loss of vitality, a tendency toward illness, and chronic diseases that are difficult to treat.
Keeping calm at all times
Avoiding excessive emotion, and keeping a calm and steady mind, are vitally important to maintaining the flow of Qi, and keeping the body in a state of good health.
Translation by Chua BC