Seven Emotions in TCM & How to Handle Them


A diagnosis in TCM is individualized from patient to patient. Emotions and physical health, according to TCM are intimately connected. Joy, Worry, Grief, Fear, Fright, Anger & Anxiety are each associated with a particular organ in the body. For example, inappropriate anger can cause unexplained menstrual pain that can be treated using acupuncture, lifestyle and diet change as well as traditional herbal remedies.

What’s the Correlation between the Liver & Menstrual Pain?

According to TCM practitioners organ systems include the allopathic medical –physiological function but are also part of a whol-istic body system. The liver ensures energy (Qi) & blood flow smoothly in & around the body.

When you understand these connections, we can see a disorder such as conjunctivitis (pink eye) & look at it as a disturbance in the liver.

*Note that emotions are known to be associated with pain in certain regions of the body even though science cannot explain it. Prolonged depression can cause an individual to suffer from chest pain.

Five Element Model & Emotional Health

·       Joy: Referring to a state of agitation or overexcitement.

a.       Organ it’s related to: Heart

b.      Emotion out of balance creates; lack of enthusiasm & vitality, mental restlessness, depression, anxiety

c.       Function of the Heart; regulate the heart & blood vessels, responsible for even & regular pulse, influences vitality & spirit. Connected to the tongue, complexion & arteries.

d.      Symptoms of organ imbalance; insomnia, heart palpitation, excessive dreaming, poor memory & concentration, spontaneous sweats

·       Worry: Referring to overthinking or pensiveness.

a.       Organ it’s related to: Spleen

b.      Emotion out of balance creates; focusing too much on a particular topic.

c.       Function of the Spleen; food digestion & nutrient absorption, first step in the formation of Blood & Qi, connected to the mouth & lips, involved in overactive mental work.

d.      Symptoms of organ imbalance; tired, loss of appetite, mucous discharge, abdominal distention, weak muscles, pale lips

·       Grief: Unresolved grief becomes chronic which can cause disharmony in the Lungs.

a.       Organ it’s related to; Lungs

b.      Emotion out of balance crates; excessive sadness, detachment, uncontrollable crying

c.       Function of the Lungs; respiration, controls sweat and body hair, creates energy (Qi) from air & distributes throughout body. Important part of immune system as it helps protect body from viruses & bacteria.

d.      Symptoms of organ imbalance; shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, catching cold easily, headache, asthma, pale complexion, dry skin

·       Fear: Normal & adaptive but if it becomes chronic it causes imbalance in the kidneys.

a.       Organ it’s related to; Kidneys

b.      Emotion out of balance creates; no willpower, insecure, aloof, isolated

c.       Function of the Kidneys; responsible for bones & teeth, hearing and head hair.

d.      Symptoms of organ imbalance; frequent urination, vertigo, night sweats, dry mouth, poor short term memory, lower back pain, sore or weak knees, hair that turns gray prematurely, hair loss, lowered libido

·       Anger: Irritability & inappropriate anger effect the liver resulting in headache, menstrual pain & dizziness.

a.       Organ it’s related to; Liver

b.      Emotion out of balance creates; explosive anger, resentment, frustration, bitterness & moodiness

c.       Function of the Liver; stores blood, responsible for smooth Qi & Blood flow throughout the body, connected with the tendons, nails & eyes.

d.      Symptoms of organ imbalance; red face, bitter taste in mouth, jaundice, menstrual pain (cramps, irregular or heavy bleeding), headaches, sighing, blurred vision, “floaters”

·       Fright: An emotion not related to any specific organ. Distinguished from fear by its sudden and unexpected nature. Fright begins with the heart but when it becomes excessive it turns into a conscious fear (depression) which effects the kidneys.

·       Anxiety: “When one feels anxious, the Qi (vital energy) is blocked and does not move.” Anxiety injures the lung which controls the spread of Qi through breathing.

a.       Emotion out of balance creates; retention of breathe, shallow & irregular breathing. Injures also the large intestine.

*Those with persistent anxiety are also prone to ulcerative colitis.

Rebalancing Emotions: Solutions for Overactive Emotions

As with all things in health & wellness; diet change, lifestyle choice and genetics play a huge part in emotional health and ability to reform them. With that being said there are different ways to help rebalance our emotions using non-invasive, mindful practices.  Doing things like eating a healthy, vibrantly colored diet, practicing meditation and adjusting our thoughts can help alleviate some if not all the emotions in this article.

1.       Excessive Joy: Try soaking your feet before bed every night to help with energy which floats too close to the heart which can cause insomnia & heart palpitations. This allows the energy & blood to circulate down to your feet to help you unwind before bed.

2.       Excessive Anxiety: Try deep breathing exercises; such as ‘Mindful Breathing Meditation’ to help ground your breathing. If you are not breathing into your lungs fully and distending your abdomen this can result in breathing shallowly around the heart causing anxiety which can lead to depression.

3.       Excessive Worry: Get out & get busy! If your mind is occupied on something productive the overactive thinking subsides. Find a hobby you enjoy & put forth all your energy into it. Read, paint, teach, whatever you do let it help you bring about the creative energy flowing throughout your being.

4.       Excessive Grief: Grief “knots” the qi (energy). Addressing this concern is vital to overall health/ Grieving as mentioned before is normal and healthy, it is when it becomes excessive that it can affect the lungs and eventually the liver. In TCM, using other emotions to rid yourself of a current emotion is encouraged. If you’re grieving, getting angry is said to get you out of depression and into frustration which kicks you out of the grieving process. Using techniques in NAET (Allergy Elimination Technique; read more on the NAET dropdown in menu) can help wake up the body to heal the stagnating emotion. Talking about our grievances are also encouraged as bottling up our issues just leads to disharmony in the body. Getting a therapist or calling up a friend to communicate your issues is a great way to help alleviate deep rooted grief.

5.       Excessive Fear: Supporting the kidneys help to relieve fear. Doing things with love & passion help to subside the symptoms associated with weak kidneys. Tonifying your kidneys is important, do this by doing ginger compresses on lower back (directly over kidney area) eating a diet rich in iodine and fermented food help to rebalance mood and move toward a harmonious life.

6.       Excessive Fright: Regulate stress in your life by exercising; try low intensity exercises such as yoga or Pilates to help alleviate fright. Make time for rest & relaxation. Eat mindfully and at a slow pace. Optimize on your Vitamin D levels to provide a stronger foundation for physical & mental health.

7.       Excessive Anger: Detoxing an agitated liver can help reduce anger & irritability. If you’re someone who drinks alcohol frequently; try reducing your alcohol intake & look into a liver detox regimen that fits your lifestyle & desired outcome. Take up boxing to let off steam. Go into nature & let out your loudest yelp! No use in harboring pent up emotions. Let it out. Express them.

Being able to understand the body as a whole entity, we can begin our journey to longevity & health. Looking past the obvious emotional distress & focusing on the lifestyle, organ, time of year and current diet opens a new way to approach & address dis-ease.