…through Chinese Five Element Theory (part 1)
Imagine if you will, that you live a life of emotional balance that eliminates all negative feelings. How do you feel?
Fit, healthy and strong? Unshakeably confident? Free from the pressures of life? We have all felt this way at times.
Although continued, attentive practise is needed, acupuncture theory shows exactly how to achieve this whatever life throws at us.
In acupuncture, there are many self-help techniques that promote balance and harmony. The action of self-help can be seen as practising emotional independence, maturity, character development, and the ability to adapt to any environment we find ourselves in (which is the ability to evolve successfully).
In the framework of acupuncture theory, well-being comes from balance between the internal organs, which are all said to be governed by Yin and Yang, and one of the 5 Elements of Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.
Our emotions are also associated to the Elements they best represent. The Wood Element, for example, is assigned the emotion of Anger, as Wood has a tendency to attack its way into the world – like a seed that must push its stem up through the earth, against gravity, and keep on growing up towards the sunlight.
But our word ‘anger’ harbours a negative connotation and this does not adequately describe the ancient view of the emotion of Wood. Wood’s energy can be channelled destructively or creatively. If the Wood/Anger is too forceful, it will become destructive to its surroundings, if too weak it becomes destructive to itself; but if it is channelled creatively it becomes a healthy erupting force to make change for the better. This can be translated as Constructiveness. With a supple approach, Wood’s Anger can work in harmony with our environment and those around us, constructing a win-win situation.
Most importantly, this demonstrates that we can practise our emotions: we are not bound by them, as we tend to assume. This gives us real power to achieve emotional stability through the buffeting of life.
So when Anger arises within us, we can practise to ensure that any destructive tendencies we have are redirected into positive action. Then Anger transforms into a powerful motive force for change, just as the onset of Spring (the Wood season) awakens the sleepy plant and animal kingdoms. If spring got angry at the plants for their sleepiness, it would fail. But spring sees how things could be different and establishes new growth instead.
So Constructiveness can be seen to be the counterbalance of Anger. Destructiveness counterbalanced by Constructiveness. And when a negative emotion is counterbalanced, emotional stability is restored.
The following diagram shows the emotional weaknesses of each Element and their corresponding counterbalances.
There are many emotions that lie outside of these descriptions but not this design, as the whole emotional spectrum finds its expression as one or more of the 5 Elements.
Here we now have a system whereby not only does each negative emotion have a counterbalance, but also two further cycles arise:
Through the Generating Cycle:– Anger can be transformed into Joy – Constructiveness can turn Sadness into Joy – Constructiveness will alleviate Fear – Reassurance can turn Anger into Constructiveness
Through the Controlling Cycle:– If Anger is used to help us get what we need (Nourishment), it becomes Constructive – Constructiveness can turn Worry into Sympathy for Self (Comfort) – Respect allows Anger to become Constructive – Constructiveness can turn Grief into Respect
Not only can we practise this ourselves, we can use it to alleviate the emotional instability of others too. Teaching this to young children is possibly one of the most constructive things we can show them; because what this means is emotional independence and maturity.
Joy expresses the spark of Fire that lights up the darkness and sustains Life. When Joy is imbalanced, the Fire may not rise, so Sadness and depression arrive. The smooth bell curve is the natural rise and fall of Fire’s expression in the world. When Fire is too unstable, bipolar disorder and mania can develop.
Earth’s Sympathy is giving of nourishment where it is needed. It is the warm embrace of the Mother that brings comfort and restores peace; the comfort of the womb, where all needs are instantly met by the mother. When Earth is imbalanced, overthinking (worry) occurs, or an inability to give and receive Sympathy.
Metal represents the quality metal and mineral ores that reside in the earth as well as the refined metal of the sword that cuts away what isn’t wanted. Grief is the sense of loss felt when something is cut away from us against our wishes. We feel that something valuable to us has been taken, and it tests our Metal. To restore this, we can focus on what we do value instead. Respect is the acknowledgment of value, so we can find Respect in ourselves, in what it was we lost and in what we still have, by focussing on Positive Inner Qualities.
Water naturally descends, and so can flow freely or stagnate. Fear is the sinking feeling that the future is bleak like Winter, where the free flow can become frozen. Fear is the resistance to the future in the belief that it holds no hope for us – a lack of Trust in our own Willpower and the power of our environment to sustain us and ensure we thrive. Reassurance resolves Fear by showing how we can carve out a replenishing future, fluidly moving round obstacles or simply wearing them down.
And beyond acupuncture theory, if you cannot see how your emotional weakness fits into this 5-fold system, then simply find the opposite of an emotion, its counterbalance, and stimulate it within yourself.
This effect can be seen in basic wave theory: two identical waves added to together create a wave twice as big, whereas two waves of opposite frequency cancel each other out, and the balance is restored. If one wave is stronger than another, it’s remaining influence is left uninterrupted, so we just need to practice the positive emotion until it pacifies the negative completely.