In celebration of Valentine’s Day, we have a few tips for dealing with the emotional side-effects of love, albeit sublime or agonizing, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese medicine and the Five Element Theory. The five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water show us how our internal organs, systems and structures are categorized and connected. The organs are paired with specific emotional states and although the heart is seen as the organ that is most tied to our ‘spirit’, other organs also have emotional ties related to the unbridled passions of love.
See if you can identify the element and emotions most closely related to the way you handle being in love.
Fire Element – Heart and Small Intestine: including the pericardium (sac of tissues surrounding the heart) as the protector of the heart is emotionally characterized as feeling anxious or a lack of joy. Physical symptoms may include insomnia, palpitations or manic behavior. This could either be the insecure, anxious and obsessive “can’t get enough of you” type or the despondent, hard to read, lack luster type of lover.
Wood Element – Liver and Gallbladder: feelings of anger, feeling stuck, resentment, irritation, frustration, depression and mood swings. Physical symptoms may include neck and shoulder tension, chest tightness, nausea and digestive disorders that have a direct correlation to your emotional state. This is the moody, angst-ridden, fly off the handle in a jealous rage type.
Earth Element – Spleen and Stomach: feelings of worry, obsessive thoughts and inability to concentrate. Physical symptoms may include lack of appetite, low energy, digestive disorders and sweet cravings. This is quintessential ‘love-sickness’, the people pleaser/head in the clouds type.
Metal Element – Lungs and Large Intestine: feelings of grief and sadness either repressed or expressed excessively. Physical symptoms may include low energy, respiratory disorders, and skin problems. The one who writes melancholic poems and songs, revels in the darker sides of love and ‘can’t breathe’ when missing the one they love.
Water Element – Kidneys and Bladder: fear is a primary emotion. Physical symptoms may include poor memory, urinary problems, reproductive system disorders and lower back ache. This is a person who is deeply afraid of being hurt and fears their love will be unrequited to the point they often won't even give love a chance, preferring to be alone than risk heartbreak.
So what can you do to stay grounded in the face of love-sickness?
1. Boost your mood with sage – Though sage is most commonly used in cooking, sage tea has been shown to boost alertness and mood, while decreasing anxiety. To enhance the flavor, mix it with black tea, brew for 5-10 minutes and add a pinch of honey. Traditional Chinese Medicine values red sage (dan shen) for moving blood and clearing heat thereby soothing irritability, restlessness, and insomnia.
2. Quieting the mind with meditation – Instead of letting your mind reel relentlessly, why not take the time to slow down your thinking and make room for some space? Giving your mind a break even if for only a few moments in the beginning can open up room for bigger and better thoughts to emerge. Meditating does not have to be this big, daunting task – just learning some basic breathing techniques and simple affirmations can be your daily meditation. You will slowly realize that love begins within you and the way you treat yourself.
3. Cry to your favorite sad song – Sometimes a good cry is the best medicine. The Lungs are the organ that carry grief but if repressed for too long that grief can build into physical illness. Same goes for overly expressed grief (Bachelorette anyone?). But an occasional good cry can release all sorts of toxins and demons (aka ex-lovers) so let it out and let it go!
3. Make it bigger than yourself – Volunteer your time, give back to others, take every moment and opportunity that presents itself with joy and gratitude. By doing so you will know that it is a colossal waste of precious time and energy to fixate on what you don’t have or feel envy towards others.
4. Get acupuncture! Sometimes change is easier said than done. In that case, there may be an underlying emotional and/or physical imbalance that needs to be addressed with a more heroic modality such as acupuncture. Acupuncture is a holistic medicine addressing the root issues to help assist the body’s energy to move and flow harmoniously and restore balance.
Love is a spirit all compact of fire.
(Venus and Adonis, 151)