Are You Thinking Yourself Sick? The Seven Emotions of Chinese Medicine

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girljpgI’m so excited to delve into this topic with you, as it’s been at the forefront of my mind for quite some time. We spend lots of time focused on releasing negative emotions for the sake of experiencing peace. But we rarely consider the impacts emotions have on our physical bodies.

According to Chinese Medicine, there are seven basic emotions, each tying to a different aspect of our physiology.

Here, we’ll be looking at the organs impacted by each of these seven emotions, and the physical maladies they’re believed to cause when not kept in check.


As you may have guessed, this emotion has direct ties to the physical heart. While it may seem counter intuitive to relate a joyful heart to illness, Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on the issues that arise when we experience long-standing,  extreme versions of each emotion. With that said, have you ever become sick as a dog, right in the throes of a joyous event, such as a wedding,  vacation, or move to a new home? It’s no coincidence that the immune system becomes compromised during these times. Now recall how it feels to fall in love. While this is one of the most beautiful experiences of being alive, heart palpitations, insomnia, restlessness, and forgetfulness come with the territory. Imagine the toll it would take to be stuck in that emotional train wreck for months, or even years. The extreme end of the joy scale involves chronic over-excitability, and even mania, which  can lead to heart disease over time. The reminder here is to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, with the heart open. When emotions flow through you freely, the heart serves as a secure home base for mind and spirit.


Excessive repression of this emotion hits your liver hard. This precious organ filters the blood, creates bile, and breaks down toxins. It’s also responsible for regulating blood pressure and creating cholesterol. Those with long term anger issues often experience shortness of breath, increased PMS symptoms, headaches, eye conditions, tendonitis, and worst case, stroke. Resentment (anger’s ugly cousin) takes up residence in the gall bladder, and is even believed to cause nose bleeds, due to the rising energy within the subtle body.  So next time you find yourself unable to let go of your anger, imagine it’s doing all the liver damage as a drunken night out, without any of the fun shenanigans that go along with it. Do you really value holding a grudge over the health of your own body?  Certainly not. Love yourself enough to find forgiveness!


I have personal experience with this emotion, and can attest to the havoc it wreaks on the body. The lungs and large intestine are impacted the most, with an overall weakening of the immune system. Those with chronic anxiety can experience trouble breathing, frequent colds and viruses, the sweats, shortness of breath, not to mention a host of digestive issues. In short, you can take action toward releasing anxiety through meditation, exercise, healthy eating, and positive thinking, or you can spend your days on the toilet with your inhaler – your choice.


Where are my over-thinkers? Take a moment to apologize to your spleen, I’ll wait. The spleen is a key player for the immune system, pumping out white blood cells to fend off viruses and keep you healthy. Worry energy takes its toll here, as well as the heart, which can result in poor appetite, anxiety and depression, insomnia, and weakened muscles. Chronic obsessing also impacts the digestive system in a huge way, contributing to conditions such as IBS, constipation, and bloating.  There is truth behind the old expression of being “worried sick”. Keep obsessive tendencies at bay with deep breathing exercises, yoga and calming affirmations, such as “all is well”. Eat small, frequent meals with high nutritional content to keep the spleen happy.


The shock alone of losing a loved one rattles the entire body. Loss of appetite, as well as urinary and digestive issues can also arise. The immune system becomes immediately compromised. When prolonged, the lungs begin to suffer, which can lead to asthma, chronic cough, bronchitis, and shortness of breath. This emotion is a special one, because I’m not sure we ever really stop grieving those who are closest to our hearts. But we can learn to celebrate the lives of our loved ones in healthy ways.


When someone is subjected to a major trauma, or experiences repeated episodes in which they feel unsafe, the kidneys can be affected. Responsible for growth and development of the body, kidney issues can manifest in the form of poor memory, back pain, dry mouth, premature greying or hair loss, hearing loss, UTIs, and even osteoporosis. To prevent these issues, do forgiveness work to help release negative emotions and memories blocking the flow of energy through your system. Devote time to activities that make you feel peaceful and content. Meditation, belly breathing, and drinking lots of water will support kidney function.

Shock (Fright)

The element of unexpectedness differentiates fright/shock from the aforementioned emotion of fear. On a small scale, fright is what happens when something or someone startles the bejesus out of you.  We’ve all experienced this, and know the heart and adrenals take an immediate wolloping. When shock occurs,  energy becomes scattered, which leads to confusion, heart palpitations, and the initiation of flight or flight. It can even impact the kidneys (most readily observed when one spontaneously empties their bladder in a highly threatening situation). Repeated exposure to frightful situations can cause insomnia, heart conditions, and adrenal burnout.  To sooth the body and mind, create a sacred space that you can retreat to at any time. It should be filled with items, colors, and scents that make you feel peaceful and safe. Listen to calming music, enjoy a massage, or try acupuncture or a reiki treatment to help restore balance.

In a nutshell, it is completely healthy and normal to experience a wide range of emotions. The key is to acknowledge them as they surface, examine them, and then let them go. Issues arise when we A) cling to an emotion for too long, or B) suppress an emotion because we’re afraid to experience it. It’s easy to lose sight of how profoundly these actions impact our physical bodies; but the truth is, taking care of your emotional health is just as important as a nutritious diet and exercise. Tune into your body’s signals and don’t forget to THANK it for all the hard work it does behind the scenes to keep you healthy!

With Much Love,


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