Nova Article-Depression and Lifestyle 5

One the con­sequence of our hec­tic life­style is the increased amount of stress that we have to absorb on a daily basis. Gradu­ally, our nervous sys­tem becomes over­loaded with this con­stant stim­u­lus, leav­ing us depleted and unable to cope. In my last art­icle on mind­ful­ness, I men­tioned the use of that med­it­a­tion tech­nique for the man­age­ment of depres­sion dis­orders. In the next few months, I will look at a dif­fer­ent approach, and explore the treat­ment of this increas­ingly com­mon men­tal con­di­tion with Tra­di­tion­al Chinese Medi­cine.

Accord­ing to one of the prin­ciples of this ancient med­ic­al frame­work, each of the main organs in our body is asso­ci­ated with a spe­cif­ic emo­tion. By treat­ing the spe­cif­ic organ which is affected, we can har­mon­ize a person’s emo­tion­al state. In a sim­il­ar fash­ion, the treat­ment of the person’s emo­tion­al state will in turn improve the func­tion of its related organ. Obvi­ously it is only when the expres­sion of these emo­tions becomes excess­ive that our health is affected, but we see the heart being asso­ci­ated with excess­ive joy, the spleen with worry, the lungs with sad­ness, the kid­neys with fear, and the liv­er with anger.

In ori­ent­al medi­cine, health is achieved when the flow of energy (Qi) and blood in the body is har­mo­ni­ous. Through­out our lives, we receive a com­bin­a­tion of sev­er­al sources of Qi, start­ing from the genet­ic inher­it­ance from our par­ents (stored in the kid­neys) to the food that we eat (stom­ach and spleen), and the air that we breathe (lungs). It is the liv­er which is respons­ible for the optim­um cir­cu­la­tion of this vital sub­stance. This organ has two import­ant func­tions: the cir­cu­la­tion of the free flow of Qi, and the stor­age of the blood. So, the liv­er nour­ishes the nervous sys­tem, and reg­u­lates its sup­ply of Qi and blood accord­ing to its emo­tion­al needs. Which explain its influ­ence on our men­tal well­being.

When the liv­er is func­tion­ing prop­erly, the Qi will flow unres­tric­ted, and the per­son will be healthy in body and spir­it. The increased nervous ten­sion will be released thru verbal expres­sion, or phys­ic­al activ­ity and the emo­tion­al bal­ance will be main­tained. Unfor­tu­nately, if this ten­sion is not released, the nervous sys­tem will con­tin­ue to call upon the liv­er for fur­ther nour­ish­ment. Soon, the mus­culo sys­tem, which has been unable to relax, will be in urgent need for extra Qi and blood sup­ply. Gradu­ally the liv­er stor­age of blood will become depleted, the cir­cu­la­tion of Qi inter­rup­ted, and this organ will be no longer able to main­tain its essen­tial role in main­tain­ing the body homeo­stas­is.
When the energy stag­nates in that organ, the person’s emo­tion­al state will be affected not only with anger, but feel­ings of frus­tra­tion, irrit­a­tion, and resent­ment. This block­age of Qi will also be mani­fes­ted with a sen­sa­tion of tight­ness in the chest, some­times there will be uncom­fort­able lump in the throat with dif­fi­culty swal­low­ing, or the per­son will be sigh­ing fre­quently, in a for­lorn attempt to expel this unwel­come con­stric­tion. This is what we described as a pat­tern of Liv­er Qi stag­na­tion.

If it is not treated, the body being a liv­ing organ­ism, a change will occur, and the con­stric­ted liv­er energy will start to rise upward with a built up of heat. The indi­vidu­al affected will now be com­plain­ing of fre­quent head­aches. He could have become very short tempered, fly­ing of the handle for the slight­est reas­on. We can find ample evid­ence of this emo­tion­al pat­tern on the week ends, when seasoned drink­ers start pun­ish­ing their liv­er in the pubs with great enthu­si­asm. Soon a trans­form­a­tion takes place, and their merry mood quickly turns sour. They become irrit­able and aggress­ive, and often it only takes a quick spark before punches are being thrown. This is liv­er yang rising. The con­stric­ted liv­er Qi becomes heated up by the warm­ing nature of the inges­ted alco­hol, and rise to the head, like the steam in a pres­sure cook­er.

In addi­tion, one of the func­tion of the Liv­er asso­ci­ated with its reg­u­la­tion of Qi, is the abil­ity to make decisions, to be able to adapt to life changes, like a mil­it­ary com­mand­ant who knows when to advance, and when to retreat. The liv­er belongs to the wood ele­ment, so ideally it should be like a piece of bam­boo, strong, but able to bend to the wind. When that organ is in dis­har­mony, the per­son who is affected will lose that com­pli­ance, and will soon become author­it­ari­an, inflex­ible and dom­in­eer­ing. Once again a pic­ture of an army chief comes to mind.

If there is a defi­ciency in the liv­er abil­ity to reg­u­late its energy, it is expressed by the patient’s inab­il­ity to make decision. We have prob­ably all met some of these people, who are always full of won­der­ful plans. Although they are often very cap­able, they nev­er accom­plish very much, because they are unable to turn these into actions.
When that inca­pa­city to make changes turns to frus­tra­tion, it becomes fer­tile ground for the nox­ious weed of depres­sion to start sprout­ing its ugly shoots. This is what I pro­pose to explore in my next column in this magazine in a month’s time.

About Olivier Lejus

I was born in France and I emigrated to Australia in 1980. I worked as a circus performer, puppeteer and actor before I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine a the University of Technology of Sydney in 1997. I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of of science degree in Traditional Chinese medicine. I am now specializing in Japanese style acupuncture for the treatment of female and male infertility, pain, and anxiety.

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