Can emotions really cause illness?
Do you remember how you felt when someone cut in front of you in traffic? Or when you first fell head over heels in love? If you think about how your chest tightens when you are upset, or your heart beats faster when you are afraid, I probably don’t have to convince you about how our emotions have a huge effect on our bodies.
The ancient Chinese understood that the mind and body are inseparable. What affects our mental function and emotions can also have an impact on us physically. Western Medicine is beginning to understand this too: there is now known to be a link between our gut and our emotions, which I suspect we will see a lot more written about in the next few months & years.
Why? Emotional responses cause chemical reactions in our bodies: the kick in of adrenaline is great if you need to run away from danger, but a severe, prolonged reaction – or experiencing that reaction on a regular basis, can make you more vulnerable to disease.
Which emotions are involved?
All of them! Negative emotions such as anger: unresolved frustration or a continual source of irritation, fear, shock, grief, pensiveness, anxiety… However, it’s not just negative emotions. Too much of the positive ones can be dangerous too.
Let’s face it, all emotions are inevitable: it’s what makes us human. Joy, sorrow, grief and anger are part of everyday life. If you are in reasonable balance, these emotions will be resolved, but if intense, personal or prolonged they can lead to disease. The problems start when emotions are either repressed or contained – or expressed often, out of context or without control. I can’t count how many times someone has come for an initial appointment and, after telling me about their symptoms, I’ve asked “Was anything in particular going on 6 months – 2 years before?” “Well, now you mention it……”
How does this impact Acupuncture?
In Chinese Medicine, each emotion is associated with an organ – eg grief affects the lungs, anger can affect the liver. This is where the concept of holistic medicine comes in : the whole person needs to be treated. A physical problem affects the rest of the body, and the mind. By treating the whole person – not just their physical symptoms, but also helping to regulate their emotions, healing occurs. There are 350 acupuncture points on the body, and as a Traditional Acupuncturist, I choose points that will not only help the symptoms, but also the person’s overall health: physical, mental and emotional.
Emotions aren’t the only cause of disease. External factors (such as extremes of hot, cold or damp) can affect us. As can mechanical or chemical causes (falling over, spilling something on yourself). Genetic makeup, diet and lifestyle also play a part. However, knowing that letting your emotions get out of control, and taking steps to make sure they help, rather than harm, is a great step forward healthwise.
Simply put: making sure that you are in balance helps keep you healthy.