There are 6 Fu (Yang) organs: Gall Bladder, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Urinary Bladder & San Jiao, and 5 Zang (Yin) organs: Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung & Kidney. We look at these organs not just from their physical function, but from their Yin & Yang aspects as well. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory states that each of the above organs is linked with a particular emotion, and all of these emotions can play a role in disease manifestation. Since this is one of those times of the year that our emotions can really get out of whack, let's look at the seven major emotions (“Evils”) from a TCM approach: Anger, Fear, Fright, Grief, Joy, Worry and Pensiveness. And so now I sing to you the 12 Moods of Christmas: “On the 12 days of Christmas my true love gave to me…The 12 Moods of Christmas”:
1st day of Christmas: Anger
For me, this usually starts waaaaay back in July when they announce the 'Christmas in July' sales. The degree of this emotion progressively builds up as Christmas carols, decorations and sales start popping up before Halloween is even over. If you happen to walk behind me in a store, you may hear me muttering under my breath or scoffing exasperatedly: "Seriously? Are you kidding me?!” I get real irritated and frustrated when I’m looking for end of season clearance sales and all the summer beach/garden stuff have been replaced by Christmas decorations and gift ideas as early as OCTOBER!!! By the way, an extension of Anger is Irritation. Frustration isn’t too far behind that, and either could lead to Rage. Thank goodness, I’ve not had to go there. Anger as well as either of its counterparts, is the emotion of the Liver. When the Liver is inundated by Anger, Irritation or Frustration, we can see symptoms such as headache at the top of the head, dizziness, blurred vision, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, even stroke like symptoms. We say things like "I thought I was going to blow a gasket; I was so angry!” Or "I couldn't even see clearly/think straight I was so mad!” The Liver is also known as 'the General' in charge of decisions so you may feel indecisive or wishy-washy when the Liver is challenged/stressed, and may make the wrong choices when in such an emotional state.
2nd & 3rd day of Christmas: Pensiveness
So a couple days later, I’m thinking: Christmas is supposed to be a festive time. I can’t let this stress me out..... Gotta start that Christmas list…. My monkey-mind will not shut down, either keeping me up until late hours or waking up in the middle of the night, ruminating about the next thing I have to do to get ready for Christmas.
4th & 5th day of Christmas: Worry
Come day 4, and I've graduated from Pensiveness to the next downward spiral phase: Pensiveness allowed to run rampant eventually gives way to Worry. If you spend too much time thinking too much, you will start worrying about something and so now – here comes Christmas & I’m worried about a) the budget, b) who gets what gift, c) bandits stealing my delivery packages off the front porch, d) mall muggers, e) how much exercise I’ll have to do to burn off that 5th Christmas cookie and 2nd glass of eggnog…. Oh dear! All of this over-thinking, pensiveness and worry damages the Spleen and can lead to digestive issues or bleeding problems. Wait – did you say Spleen? The same Spleen that’s being damaged by overindulgence in sweets, dairy and cold temperature/energy foods? This is double trouble and I’m going to have to seriously watch the diet, make the right food choices, yield not to temptation, AND watch my emotions!
6th & 7th day of Christmas: Fear
Fear is the emotion of the Kidney and no one would think this would be associated in any way with Christmas, but there are so many people who dread (fear) the approach of this season. Some of this may have to do with recollection of previous Christmases that didn’t go so well, expectations that we place on ourselves or we perceive others place on us, keeping up with the Jones’… even agoraphobia – fear of crowded places. Fear can immobilize us and weaken the Kidney. When faced with stressful situations, we either flee or remain frozen in fear (“Fight or Flight” is synonymous with Kidney function, especially those little adrenal glands that sit on top of the kidneys). Physical symptoms such as dull low-back pain, sexual issues, low-pitched constant dull ringing in the ears or weak knees are all examples of how chronic Fear-based activities can weaken the strength of our Kidney and subsequently our life force.
8th & 9th day of Christmas: Fright/Shock
Fright is associated with the Gallbladder, and so here we see indecisiveness, lack of courage, even confusion when faced with making decisions. Over time, Fright can lead to Fear, a Fear that immobilizes. We see many people who stay home and refrain from venturing out due to either Fright or Fear, real or perceived.
10th & 11th day of Christmas: Grief
Ah, the beauties of Christmas: melodious carols, the scent of pine trees, dazzling Christmas lights, getting that gift you’ve been waiting for….. What could we possibly be sad about at Christmas time? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD Syndrome) is very real for many people around this time when the days are short and we have less sunlight. Losses do occur, the effect or memory of which becomes even more pronounced around this time. And so unfortunately anxiety along with grief, despair and apathy may also be present at this time of year. Grief is the emotion of the Lung. Physical symptoms caused by sustained or severe acute grief include respiratory disorders such as flare-up of asthma, or frequent colds & flu. Please reach out to those who are homeless, alone, the elderly, the sick, the less fortunate, and please remember them throughout the year, not just this month, this week, or this day.
12th day of Christmas: Joy
Joy is the emotion of the Heart, but a stressed Heart can result in canker sores, bitter feelings, insomnia, chest pain, palpitations and high blood pressure. Over-excitement, agitation and mania, on the other hand, are Heart organ extremes of being overjoyed. Unfortunately, none of the emotions listed above take a break on Christmas Day. Here on Christmas day, families and friends gather, the house is filled with the delicious smells of Christmas dinner, kids’ faces light up when they rip open their Christmas gifts, and for many of us the symbolism and essence of a “Santa” becomes real. For each of us in our particular culture or religion, there is a joy that is honored at a special time every year – even if not necessarily on December 25th. From November 1st through the 2nd week in January, there are many cultural celebrations celebrated around the world. And so Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, a very Happy Kwanza; can't list them all here, so to everyone I wish you Happy Holidays. Take good care of yourself. Keep those emotions in check, acknowledge them, work through them, seek appropriate outlet or help as necessary; and please know that you are not alone. Joyeux Noël, and blessings for a holiday that's "merry & bright". And now for your listening pleasure, click on John Denver & the Muppet's video below as they entertain us with their version of the 12 Days of Christmas.
(*You can thank me later ;-)
Audrey Steele, L.Ac.