Psychology in Chinese Medicine: The Uninhibited free flow of the Spirits

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Our physical and emotional wellbeing are determined by external and internal physical and psychological influences. It is an ever changing state of being, depending on how we perceive and interact with the world we exist in. In Chinese medicine the five main organs house the five spirits, of the body. The emperor is the Shen, housed within the Heart, which controls the other four. Each of these organs are attached to the five elements and their spirits include Water and our Zhi, Metal and the Po, Fire and the Shen, Earth and our Yi and finally Wood and the Hun.  

The Seasons

Our life is an ever changing environment. As spring, which corresponds to Wood, comes, and nature expands, we are encouraged to exit the home and grow. If this is hindered, then frustration sets in. Summer, which is associated with Fire arrives, we are excited, feeling the warmth on our skin. We must try to remain balanced and not to burn the candle at both ends, otherwise restlessness will prevail. As the summer starts to wane, we should feel centered and connected to the earth. If not, we will feel melancholic, and obsess over that which we want to protect. As autumn, which corresponds to Metal arrives, we start to look inward and bring order into the home. It is a time to learn to let go. Winter, being the Water element has arrived, representing our ever flowing journey through life. This is a time to accept that things in life change and we should just go with the flow.

The Shen

Psychology in Chinese Medicine envelopes this notion of the Spirits and they are therefore key to understanding emotions. The Shen is the emperor reigning over the other four emotions. Shen can be translated as our consciousness which appears at conception and leaves the body at death. The Shen is attached to the Heart and is associated with the fire element which is expanding in nature. All of our thoughts go through the Shen and ensures mental equilibrium.  When the Shen is out of balance excessive or unwarranted over-reacting with joy or hysteria can be seen. This tends to be associated with deeper issues regarding mental instability. Signs of a disorientated Shen are seen after an accident or when one reacts too easily by crying or with neurosis. An excited Shen can also cause insomnia. 

The Yi

Although all thoughts go through and are interpreted by the Shen, they are then however sent to the Yi to be analyzed and stored. The Yi is the spirit of the Earth. It is our Mind which stores short term memories. They are kept at the surface to be called upon when needed. The organ associated with the earth is the stomach. Just like the Yi it absorbs and digests. When the Yi is disturbed the mind wanders and thoughts become confused. A Sign of a disturbed Yi is excessive worry and pensiveness. This excessive worry can also disturb the stomach. With clarity the Yi gives you the ability to unify and coordinate your thoughts to achieve a particular goal, giving you intelligence and understanding. 

The Po

The Po is the spirit associated with the Lungs and the element is metal. Autumn is the season of the Po, which is a season of interiorisation. The Po has an instinct for preservation and when translated is said to be our corporeal soul which represent our primal urges, or animal instinct. The Lungs are what form a connection between the internal and external world, where we also breathe in life. The coupled organ with the Lungs is the Large Intestine which also maintains a connection to the outside and allows us to let go. Grief or sadness is the emotion of the Po with a feeling of oppression on the chest.  When grief takes over the body it can also destroy the Shen. However, when the Po is balanced the individual possesses the ability to truly value life, is open to change and knows when to let go when ideas no longer serve them.

The Hun

The Hun is the spirit of the liver and attached to the element of wood. In western terms the Hun is the closest spirit that could be translated as your soul. After death the Hun leaves the body and ascends to the stars to report to the spirits of destiny. A healthy Hun gives us direction and purpose in life. At night the Hun organizes our dreams and sometimes when you have a slight jerk before sleeping, this is the Hun controlling your movement from a waking to a sleeping state. The Hun presides in the eyes, but at night the Hun is active with your dreams. When the Hun is dis-balanced then the emotions of anger and resentment are conveyed in explosive behavior or inner nervousness and an inability to calm down. When in balance the Hun is creative and visionary, with clear plans that are well executed. 

The Zhi

The spirit of the Kidneys is the Zhi, which is our willpower, our will to live. It is the most inaccessible part of our consciousness, which drives our sexual energy.   The Zhi can be described as our life force, our instincts, and ambition. The Zhi houses our long term memories and is associated with water and emotionally gives us a desire to grow, thrive, and live fully. When the Zhi is disturbed people are without desire or alternatively push themselves to their absolute limits. Physical signs are seen in hormonal imbalances and chronic fatigue. Emotions include an inability to face ones fears and a lack of courage. When the Zhi flows freely one feels a sense of power and equilibrium, motivation and perseverance.

Balance within each of the five spirits is essential to living a radiant, conscious and truly real life.

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