We’ve become acquainted with how ANGER, JOY and GRIEF can cause disease in my last few blogs. Fear is the fourth of the five emotions that are said to cause disease in Chinese medicine. If you have been following along, you have gotten a flavor of how emotions can contribute to actual physical symptoms and disease. So, what are the mechanisms that cause this emotion to affect the body in such a way that it negatively impacts our health. Let’s explore!
First, none of us would be here if we did not have a healthy level of fear ingrained in us through hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. The edge of the cliff I’m standing on? Nothing to worry about. That huge animal with big nasty teeth and claws? Maybe he just wants a hug. Even a healthy degree of fear about putting food on the table (be it ages ago as hunter gatherers or modern men and women who “bring home the bacon”) helped us survive, propagate, and reach the top of the food chain. Our distant cousins, who we never got to know since they are not here because their ancient ancestors did not have enough fear and did not survive and pass down these traits, would tell us all about it if they could. So, there is a healthy and appropriate level of fear that keeps us safe and helps us make good decisions. Then what does it look like when fear runs amok.
There are two sides of the amok spectrum when it comes to any emotion. In the case of fear, one side is lacking fear altogether and on the other side is fear ruling our lives. Someone who completely lacks fear is prone to risk taking behavior. This can run the gamut from risky sexual behavior, to drugs and alcohol, dangerous activities like extreme sport and even criminal behavior. These people are often adrenaline junkies, seeking the next thrill, something with even more danger because what they have done becomes commonplace. Relationships get boring and don’t last long and fulfillment is not obtainable. It is easy to see how an unfulfilled life and risk taking behavior can negatively impact a person’s health. It is interesting to note that in Chinese medicine, the Kidneys (which the adrenal glands are attached to) are one of the organ systems that is associated with the emotion of fear. Further, in Chinese medical theory, our basic life energy is stored in the Kidneys and during times of great stress or duress or when we become elderly, we tap in to those energies to carry us through. You can think of this energy like our IRA and the food we eat, water we drink and air we breathe, our everyday savings account for everyday things. When we tap in to our “Kidney” energy prematurely (like with risk taking behavior) we are essentially tapping in to our IRA prematurely and it may not be there when we really want or need it.
Fear can also rule our lives, at the other end of the spectrum. This can manifest in a few ways. Some people will become completely isolated, fearing social situations, work situations and even diseases like agoraphobia at the extreme. For others fear, will drive them. People who are often thought of as successful are often driven by fear. Fear of not having enough, fear of losing, fear of not being the “best”. While these people are perceived to be successful, they can pay a price in terms of their health. The same type of adrenal fatigue that catches up with the adrenaline junkie also happens to people who are constantly operating in a state of fear. Anxiety disorders, heart disease and immune problems are just some of the physical diseases that can affect this type of person.
A balanced fear emotion will help keep us safe. We can recognize dangers (physical and even emotional) and take steps to avoid them. An appropriate level of fear will encourage us to be responsible and do a good job so that we can provide for our families. An appropriate level of fear will “drive” us to succeed, to overcome, to persevere. These things add value to our lives and enable us to lead content, fulfilled, healthy lives. If you feel like fear is something that drives your life out of control, in one way or another, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help. By balancing the body, mind, and spirit, we help our patients properly process their emotions so that the body does not come under assault on an ongoing basis. Call us today or book an online consultation. See below for more details.
Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!