Imagine your life without all the drama. No more extreme highs and lows, roller coaster moods, or debilitating stress. You are emotionally balanced.
How do you feel? Healthy? Strong? Confident? Free?
A style of acupuncture known as Five Element focuses on helping us achieve this kind of emotional balance in our lives. By understanding some of the basic tenets of Five Element acupuncture, we can resolve emotional patterns that hold us back.
In Five Element theory, emotional health happens when there is balance among the five natural elements—Water, Wood, Fire, Earth and Metal.
Each of these five elements is associated with an emotion that embodies its qualities:Water = fear
Wood = anger
Fire = joy
Earth = worry
Metal = grief
Anger is not always ugly
Let’s take Wood as an example of the interplay between an element and its respective emotion, in this case anger.
In nature, wood attacks its way into the world. Like a seed that pushes its stem up through the earth, against gravity, wood strives to keep growing toward sunlight.
This is a beautiful thing. So is anger when it is channeled appropriately and balanced by other emotions. Yet anger in modern society harbors a negative connotation. Anger as we think of it fails to capture the wood-like qualities that make it essential.
If anger is expressed creatively, it becomes a healthy erupting force that allows us to make positive changes in our lives. It helps us turn compassion into action. A balanced Wood element translates into what we generally think of as constructiveness.
The opposite of this, of course, is destructiveness, the kind of anger that usually comes to mind when we hear the word. If Wood/anger is too forceful (or too weak), it will become destructive to its surroundings, wreaking havoc on your emotional state.
We are not bound by our emotions
Each element’s emotion has a counterbalance, an aspect that keeps the primary emotion in check. When we feel ourselves becoming out of balance emotionally, meditating on the dominant emotion’s counterbalance as expressed in nature can help reframe our state of mind.
As I mentioned, the counterbalance to the destructive kind of anger is compassion. Here are the counterbalances for the other emotions:Joy (Fire) is counterbalanced by sadness
Worry (Earth) is counterbalanced by sympathy
Grief (Metal) is counterbalanced by respect
Fear (Water) is counterbalanced by trust
Joy expresses the spark that lights up the darkness. When there is too little joy, our Fire element cannot rise, causing sadness and depression to occur. The other end of the spectrum, excessive joy without the sadness counterbalance, can be problematic as well, sometimes leading to bipolar or mania. In Western culture, we’re unfamiliar with the concept of too much joy, but from an acupuncture perspective, the goal is always balance—having too much joy is as troubling as having too little.
Earth’s sympathy means giving nourishment where it is lacking. It is a warm embrace that brings comfort and restores peace. When Earth is unbalanced, worry/over thinking occurs, or an inability to give and receive sympathy.
Grief is the sense of loss that’s felt when, like the sharp, harsh edges of metal, something is cut away from us against our wishes. To ensure a balanced Metal element, we must find respect within ourselves, for what we have lost as well as the metallic strength that we still possess.
Like water, which naturally descends, fear is the sinking feeling of a bleak future. Fear causes resistance because we are unsure about what lay ahead. Trust resolves fear by reminding us that we can fluidly move around obstacles and eventually wear them down.
Contrary to popular belief, we are not bound by our emotions. By becoming aware of our emotional tendencies and focusing on their counterbalances when needed, we can achieve emotional independence and maturity.
Photo by Sara Calabro
George Monkhouse practices acupuncture and qigong, and writes about becoming self empowered through acupuncture, in London, England. He became interested in acupuncture through the Taoist concepts of Yin and Yang and the five elements as ways to establish balance, harmony and vitality in our lives. Learn more about George on his website.
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