"A man is related to all nature."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
The body and mind is a bo-nd of life that lets us enjoy and interact with the physical world around us. Our arms, legs, head, skin and bones are extensions of our internal organs, which are extensions themselves of emotions. Students of Traditional Chinese Medicine are taught the 5 Phase/Element theory, which categorizes the organs into pairs. These pairs are associated with the seasons and their mechanisms of action are likened to what occurs in nature during the seasons.
With the 5 phase theory we can see that not only does the body and mind connect to each other intimately on a spectrum, but we can also extend that spectrum to take into account the connection man has with nature. Man lives and eats according to the seasons, not so much in today’s world, but once this was exactly the case. Living with the seasons made man more aware of how nature relates to and affects him and from thousands of years of observance, the 5 phase theory came to life.
The 5 Phase elements, their corresponding seasons, organ pairs and related emotions are as follows:
Fire = Summer = Heart and Small Intestine = Joy
Pericardium and Triple Burner = Joy
Earth = Late Summer = Spleen and Stomach = Pensiveness, Over Thinking
Metal = Fall = Lungs and Large Intestine = Grief and Sadness, Letting Go
Water = Winter = Kidneys and Bladder = Fear, Will Power
Wood = Spring = Liver and Gall Bladder = Anger, Decision Making
There are whole books devoted to this topic, but I will only touch upon it to give readers an idea of how an acupuncturist can relate what happens in nature to the health issues of their patients. The 5 phase theory includes many other factors besides emotions such as tastes, sounds, colors, foods, locations and more.
As you can see under the fire category there are two pairs of organs, although the triple burner is not technically an organ. The triple burner is rather a pathway in the body that interacts with all the other organs and their pathways.
With this theory we can make the connection from the most internal part of us to the external planet around us. When an individual is healthy all emotions, organs and their relation to the seasons is one of harmony and balance. When out of balance we can get a good look at these internal and external connections.
To get a better idea of how this works we can look at the Wood phase, which is the spring season. In the spring, flowers and trees bloom and life begins to grow in the woods, we can easily notice that this is a time when energy is rising from the ground and pollen and seeds begin to spread everywhere. Just as nature rises and things move around spreading life the wood pair of organs the Liver and Gallbladder have a similar action of energy in the body. Their energy rises and moves all over the body bringing proper circulation through out. When out of harmony the symptoms of these organs can be seen as anger and headaches, which can be the result of uncontrolled energy rising upward or energy stuck, causing pain.
We can also easily see the affect of alcohol over the liver, too much alcohol over loads the liver causing an imbalance, which makes a lot of energy rise up to the head, making peoples faces and eyes red and some times making people very angry. The color associated with this season is green, which makes me wonder if the creator of the Incredible Hulk knew some Chinese medicine.
Right now its fall, in this season we have the element of metal, which can be looked at as a defensive element. With a strong set of lungs and a healthy Large Intestine, individuals can be considered to have a strong metal element, which will help keep them from being prone to catching colds. People who smoke are obviously impairing there lung function by doing so, leaving them to be very susceptible to catching colds and also extending their recovery time. People with depression, who are sad most often and have difficulty letting go are usually the ones who are more prone to catching colds, because their metal is weakened. Depressed people are also more likely to be constipated due to their in inability to literally “let go” of their issues or the useless waste of their life.
In the winter we enter into the water phase with the emotions of fear and will power, the corresponding organs being the kidneys and bladder that release water waste from the body. The kidneys in Chinese medicine give internal heat to the rest of the body and in turn they dislike cold weather, for too much cold can put out their fire and kill the body. People living in areas of snow fall are known to experience fear of going outside because they don’t want get to cold or fall down and get hurt. During the cold winter months the pulse that can be felt on both wrists actually can be felt to go deeper into the body where its more warm.
As mentioned in earlier articles each organ has a pathway throughout the body and the kidneys are connected to the feet. I personally have always had a fear of heights; I am unable to even look down from a great height with out my feet hurting. The 5 phase theory has taught me why my feet hurt, because the kidneys have that association with fear.
In the summer we have a blazing hot sun and the element of fire, the emotion of joy and two sets of organ pairs. The heart is one of these organs and like the sun it sits up above the rest of life, the heart over looks other vital organs showering its life force through its blood vessels. The color of this phase is obviously red and people who have a strong fire element are known to have a red and happy face no matter what. They bring joy to all around them, but they may not know the boundaries of their joy and go to far. Over excitement can feel amazing, but for proper health everything must be had in moderation, an excessive amount of any thing can damage something. Although it may sound strange to say that to much joy can hurt the heart, but that is exactly the case here. During the peak summer months the pulse that can be felt at both wrists can be felt closer and stronger towards the surface of the skin.
In the late summer we have the element of earth, the emotion of pensiveness or over thinking and the spleen and stomach organs. The earth phase is centered around food, this is the time of year when the all food from the farms would be harvested. These organs take in the sustenance of life and distribute them where needed. A disturbance in their function can lead to a number of digestive issues, including not being able to digest life and life issues. Many people have found themselves unable to sleep at night because they can’t stop thinking about some thing, this is usually a direct connection with a weakened spleen.
There is so much more that can be said for the 5 phase theory, but I hope this was good little introduction to the Chinese 5 phase theory and its connection to the internal emotions of life. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know.
Thank you very much J