Sympathy & Disease 

 March 23, 2017

By  Steve Hoffman

We are at the fifth and final of the emotions that are said to cause disease in Chinese Medicine, sympathy. The western word sympathy does not encompass the entire spectrum of emotion that is typically discussed in Chinese Medicine however. There is also worry and overthinking wrapped in when talking about the imbalances that come about with this emotion. In some ways, when you feel sympathy for someone, you worry about them. This is different than the worry that is associated with anxiety for instance. When we consider overthinking, we are really talking about obsessive thoughts or pre-occupation. “Worrying” over a problem expresses this well. Sympathy, like the other emotions is a valid and necessary emotion for a balanced individual. It is when this sympathy becomes obsessive, for instance taking care of others without any consideration for one’s self, that the emotion is out of balance.

As with the other emotions, there are some behavioral patterns that we see when people become imbalanced and there are opposite or extreme ends for each behavior. A person can be smothering or not at all supportive; needy versus repressing ones needs; dependent versus isolated; lacking a center versus being stuck. Often, these behavioral patterns are a result of how a person was raised and nurtured. So how can any of this cause disease? Often, when someone received little support, they will turn around and nurture or care for others sometimes exhibiting smothering behavior. To meet their own needs for support, they overcompensate and will often care for someone else to the exclusion of everything else, even their own health and wellbeing. When a person is constantly needy, inevitably some of their perceived needs do not get met causing disappointment and even depression. On the opposite end, some will repress their needs because they anticipate that they will not be met. This type of behavior can lead to depression. People who are overly dependent have a tough time developing a real sense of self and often lack self-esteem. This again can lead to depression and other physiological problems. It is well documented that those who live the longest and with the most contentment have a strong social network and support structure. This is just not possible when a person isolates themselves. Lacking center means that one’s efforts are often scattered and life seems like you are constantly just spinning your wheels. Being stuck can be anything from being stuck in behaviors that are unhealthy to being stuck in habits and being unwilling to change and adapt.

If one is constantly worrying about things it is very hard to take much enjoyment in life. Obsessive thinking can lead some to barley meet their basic physical needs much less psychological needs. While there are many mechanisms in Chinese Medicine that can be disrupted and damaged resulting in disease, even in western medicine, it is well known that depression, isolationism, lack of engagement and enjoyment in life can lead to a whole host of real physical problems in the body (you can read more about in our article How Do Emotions Cause Disease).

If any of this is striking a cord with you and you feel like your life has been impacted, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help. Find out how by booking 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!

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