The Core Emotions

Emotions are an expression of Qi. They are an internal reaction to the world outside. Each person is affected by the outside world like a pipe that resonates with the wind. The resonation represents our emotional response - prompted by the wind which represents some external disturbance. Each person’s resonation is different - dependent on how their pipe is shaped. Emotions are neither good nor bad, they are just information. Our reaction to emotion determines its effect on our body. When we seek to feel a certain way, our mind is not free, and this in turn prevents the smooth flow of qi. For example we may need to feel loved or liked or accepted or not rejected. We then limit our behaviour to seek these feelings and react when we do not feel how we want. This means external events can easily impact on our internal calm, like the wind blowing across a pool of water disturbs the surface of the water. So emotions affect health and wellbeing in Chinese medicine because they affect the flow of qi. However, when the flow of qi is disrupted it also produces an emotional response. So emotions can be the cause of physical illness or caused by physical illness. The aim is to have a calm heart so that it merely reflects what is happening outside but does not become personally triggered. This is the active meditation state that is the objective of Yoga. It is a state where we still feel and do not seek to limit or change the feelings. However, we are not slaves to feeling, we are able to choose how we react and respond to the feelings from a clear state -from a point of quietness. NB: repression of any of 7 emotions causes anger. NB2:  anger harder to control. NB3:  unexpressed emotions lead to anger.
The character for anger is a symbol for the emotion of a female slave under the hand of the master. This is more a symbol for repressed anger – the Chinese say anger can either be bursting out or repressed. The effort of a bird first launching off the ground is a symbol for the energy behind anger. It can be useful for initiating action and overcoming fear. However, if it is not mastered the mind becomes scattered and it may lead to violence and impetuosity. Anger moves qi upwards with physiological consequences such as headaches, brain confusion, sudden deafness and loss of vision, short breath, but also symptoms relating to wood attacking earth such as vomiting blood, diarrhoea with undigested food in the stool, blood in the eyes, poor digestion. Other symptoms include pain under the ribs, and anger leading to poor memory where constant irritation damages the will.
The character for fear symbolises the knocking/beating that fear gives to the heart and another common related symbol relates to a little bird which needs to be vigilant to look out for danger and preserve life. Fear comes from weakness of the kidneys. Fear breaks the heart kidney axis. The essences withdraw and the liquids and essences inside the body are not sustained by qi. There is a separation of qi and essences, and liquids descend leading to dry throats and heart palpitations. Essences are lost through defecation and urination. Fear can also make you timid, panic, watchful and lack courage. Fear makes qi move downwards, resulting in loss of fluid, swollen legs and feet, and articulations, bones and joints may lack liquid and essence.
The character for elation has a hand, small drum and open mouth – a symbol for music at a popular feast. When we are elated qi is regulated from the centre of our heart and we feel alive. This ‘alive’ feeling is a type of excitation that can scatter our spirits like shaking a tree scatters the birds that were resting on the branches. In other words, excessive elation can lead to us losing ourselves, we become tired and over-emotional. The symbol for joy is of the large drums that are used to make royal music. Royal music is a symbol for rhythm that has a positive effect on the harmony of the heart. When in harmony we feel at unity with ourselves and the world. Joy is the natural result of being alive and living in accordance with our heart. Either excessive elation (hard partying!) or a lack of joy can lead to disease such as psychological disturbance, madness, heat, heart pain or dysrhythmia. Elation results in qi becoming loose.
The character for sadness is a symbol for negation or refusal of something. When we grieve it is natural to find it hard to accept the loss – at the extreme we can refuse to acknowledge what has occurred. To some extent sadness is about contending with loss and finding a way to accept and move on. The pathology from sadness relates to saying no to what is, ie. Refusing to accept the change in circumstances. By refusing to acknowledge reality we contradict our spirits – driving a wedge between our perception and acceptance of reality. When we are sad we close off ourselves to life and everything around us. Qi disappears and dries up. You are affected at the centre of vitality – life is lost. Sadness affects not just vitality (qi disappears), immune function (yang qi moves to centre), and the lungs (we breath in but not so easily out) but also the whole upper burner including the heart. It can also affect the liver (through an overactive control cycle) producing agitation, muscle cramps, brittle hair and forgetfulness.
The character for over-thinking has a heart with the brain inside the skull. Thinking relates to the earth element because it is the earth that receives information from everywhere and then can put it together extracting the good things and transforming it like earth does with digestion. Over-thinking is thought that is unable to continue itself into a project or plan and end in an act. If you are unable to act you always come back to the same idea – hence the ‘obsessive’ thought. Thinking and reflection can lead to worries and concerns. Thinking is only good if it leads to action. If we over-think we tend to dwell on one thing and this focus detracts from the ability of the heart to rule all things. Thinking and reflection that leads nowhere just uses up heart blood, injuring the heart and inner peace, and producing heart palpitations. Over-thinking also directly affects the spleen.
The different parts of the character for fright relates to restraining oneself, remaining frozen/ motionless, being easily startled and sensitive to noise and light. Fright leaves us startled and the spirits are not sure how to react. Physically this can produce convulsions or seizures. The effect is the opposite of thought where spirits dwell on only one thing and remain in only one place. When frightened, the spirits have no place to settle and there is disorder, disassociation and no thinking. Fright affects the heart, kidneys, liver and spleen.
The character for oppression is symbolic of a person moving with troubles in their head and heart. Oppression relates to all the elements, not just metal - grief and sadness. It oppresses the free circulation of qi and yang. Qi closes down and is blocked. Oppression and sorrow are closely linked, and oppression can lead to melancholy. Sadness is a denial of what has happened, oppression is a complete immobilisation contrary to the movement of life. The Spleen, lungs and liver are particularly affected by oppression.