Winter, the Kidneys and fear

Clients frequently ask me about the association between our emotions and the body’s organs, ie. Lung and grief, Liver and anger, Kidneys and Fear etc.

They’ll ask questions such as ‘I feel angry, are you going to work on my Liver?”, or ‘What is sadness related to?”.

According to the theory of Chinese medicine, it is true that each of the emotional factors of grief, anger, fear, joy and worrying/overthinking can trigger specific conditions in the body. Some of these are very briefly experienced as they move freely into an outward expression such as tears, or we utilise the energy of the emotion (such as anger) by channelling it into a healthy creative task…

Deeper pathologies appear when the emotion is experienced for a prolonged period, or experienced in such intensity that it overwhelms the person’s resources preventing them from processing or ‘digesting’ their experiences.

• The Ling Shu Ch 6 (one of the Classics of Chinese Medicine) states, “Emotional states such as melancholy, fear and anger can damage the Qi”

• Su Wen Ch5 states, “The Kidneys are related to fear and fear can also damage the kidneys”.

• Ling Shu Ch 8 states, “Fear can make the mind unstable… If one experiences continuous fear, this will damage the Essence…”

The classics say that fear can be a healthy emotional state, and also an unhealthy emotional state. My teacher Ikeda Masakazu sensei interprets this to mean that fear as a healthy emotional state is akin to humility, and an unhealthy state when humility becomes a pathological expression (having a perilously low opinion of yourself) which manifests as fear.

Fear can also cause a deficiency in the Kidney essence – the adrenal glands become activated and our body goes into the fight, flight, freeze or feint response. If we experience a terrifying event, our instinct is to avoid that event in the future. If we can’t avoid it, the deficiency can become pathological.

Energetically, the movement is a downwards expression. This correlates to the Qi of Winter which turns inwards and downwards for warmth and survival during the cold and dark months of the year. It is a time to slow down and replenish our physical, mental and emotional energy in preparation for the much anticipated upwards expression of Spring.