In contrast to the allopathic medicine approach of dividing the body into distinct functioning units independent of each other and separated from the mind, TCM’s fundamental principle is that of Holism. For today’s purposes, Holism in TCM is that of the interrelatedness of the organs, of the organs with the mind, spirit, and emotions, and of the interconnectedness of the body as a whole.

In allopathic medicine, if you have a problem with your heart, they only look at your heart.  If you have a problem with your gallbladder, they remove your gallbladder.  If you have depression or anxiety, they believe it must be all in your head.

TCM insists that the body must work as a whole and that the emotions stem from the functional viscera, just as the emotions can influence the organs’ normal processes.

To be specific:

  • Heart – Joy
  • Spleen – Over-thinking / worry
  • Lung – Sorrow / grief
  • Kidney – Fear
  • Liver – Anger

Heart – Joy To perceive the heart as the center of joy is easy, we use a heart as a symbol of love and from love comes joy. When we are joyful we feel satisfied and complete in our heart.  When we are filled with joy, blood flows easier.

Spleen – Over-thinking The functional organ of the spleen is very much related to the stomach, the intestines, and digestion. The feeling associated with the spleen is over-thinking.  Have you ever noticed when you’re thinking about something important or meaningful or especially upsetting, that you also tend to lose your appetite or have indigestion?

Prior to studying TCM, I hadn’t made the connection; in fact, I’d laugh whenever someone told me your upset stomach is caused by thinking too much. I mean, c’mon, what does the thinking going on in my brain have to do with my stomach’s ability to do its job? Get outta here! But recently, I’ve noticed it to be very true! I’ve been thinking a lot lately, trying to figure out the best course of action in my professional life and in my relationship, and just as TCM would have predicted, I’ve also been suffering distending in my epigastrium.

Even if you don’t have this problem, look around the people you know: are the people who over-analyze and brood a lot also the same people who frequently have indigestion, poor appetite, or abdominal distension?

Lung – Sorrow During periods of grief or sorrow it can be difficult to take a deep breath and thus lungs are associated with sorrow.  When suffering from grief, often we can only take short, shallow breaths. Many people may cry, as well, which puts great strain on the lungs.

Kidney – Fear For me this connection is a bit more remote, but you can think of it this way: in cases of extreme fear or sudden fright, it can be hard to control the bladder. Obviously kidney function is related to the bladder and when facing such fear, the kidneys don’t function as well, which can cause incontinence.

Liver – Anger This is also hard to explain, but basically too much or too frequent anger can harm the liver and likewise, a poorly functioning liver may make it more easy for the person to get angry.

If you notice any of these emotions recurring or especially intense, keep their associated organs in mind as it may be indicative of an imbalance in the organ. Or if you have problems with one of these organs, see if you have the associated emotion in excess or perhaps never.

While allopathic medicine has tended to dissociate the body from the spirit and the emotions, maybe its time we look again to see what correlations and interrelations their are.