Acupuncture and Emotional Health

I haven’t had a chance to see the Disney movie Inside Out yet, but I was extremely excited when I heard about it. The part of my brain responsible for wishful thinking hopes that the writers consulted with some Acupuncturists when they were working on the script. In Chinese medicine theory, the emotions are considered such a vital part of good health.

Encouragingly, I’m also now seeing more articles and studies from the western medicine world acknowledging the strong connection between mind and body. How often do we say we have the weight of the world on our shoulders when talking about stress? We really feel the stress in our body, usually as tightness in our upper back and neck. How about when we are nervous and say there are butterflies in our stomachs (and sometimes have to run to the bathroom)? Who is guilty of feeling such anger that their face becomes red and flushed? The five major organs of Five Element Theory in Chinese medicine are all associated with a specific emotion.

Water – Kidneys – Fear

Fire – Heart – Joy

Metal – Lungs – Sadness

Wood – Liver – Anger

Earth – Spleen – Worry

All the emotions are important, playing key roles in the natural cycle of our systems. Each organ depends and functions with the help of all the others, and each organ will naturally feel its emotions in the course of life. I often tell my patients that there is no such thing as a negative emotion – the important thing is to move through them and not get stuck in any specific one. For example, if you lose a loved one, it would be expected to feel sadness. It would be out of place to feel joy. It would also be harmful to feel the same level of sadness over time, rather than move through the typical grieving process. Ideally, one would be able to move through the process and not be sad forever.

From the trailers of Inside Out, it seems that the main character loses her sadness and joy when she has to move across the country, leaving anger, fear and disgust in charge. I truly hope this movie will introduce the benefits of acknowledging emotional health as a key component of overall health and wellbeing. I think this will be especially beneficial to children who tend to have a hard time understanding and explaining why they feel the way they do. The AMC Kips Bay on Second Avenue right near the clinic here in Midtown Manhattan has multiple showings; meet me there I’ll buy the popcorn!

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