The Psychological Effects of the Seven Emotions

The seven emotions that the Chinese physicians commonly refer to are:

  • Joy,
  • Fright,
  • Anger,
  • Worry,
  • Sorrow,
  • Fear, and
  • Grief.

These psychological factors, if in excess, can cause disease and ill-health.

Joy ... The Seven Emotions ...

Joy is linked to the Heart.

To the Westerners, joy is a cheerful, positive concept that we find difficult to see as damaging. The positive side of Joy seen in these terms is beneficial.

However, Traditional Chinese society was excessively hierarchical and deeply conservative. Therefore, Joy could be seen in terms of overexuberance and inappropriate behavior, and it is damaging. There is a saying in Chinese : "Sorrow grows out of excessive joy."

We can perhaps imagine "Joy" as a rowdy group of excited teenagers yelling noisily in the street and upsetting elderly passers-by, rather than the happy sense of contentment and light-heartedness associated with the word in the West.

This "inappropriateness" is the negative aspect of Joy and too much of it will damage the Heart and also the Lungs which are located close by in the Upper fiao.

Too much Joy damaging Heart Qi. It can lead to an inability to concentrate, while the sort of hysterical laughter associated with some forms of mental disorder is also associated by the Chinese with damaged Heart Qi.

Fright ... The Seven Emotions...

Panic or sudden fear from some dramatic external event is also associated with the Heart.

This association can be easily understood in the West; its symptoms are "panic attacks," with their palpitations, mental restlessness, and cold sweats. In Chinese medicine, fright is said to send the Heart Qi "wandering about, adhering to nothing." Therefore, the heartbeat will speed up, and thus add more burden to the heart.

Worry ... The Seven Emotions ...

Worry means dwelling too much on a particular problem, or concentrating too hard for too long.

The result is stagnation of Spleen Qi, which in Chinese medicine theory manifests as depression, anxiety, poor appetite, weakened limbs, abdominal bloating, and, in women, menstrual irregularities.

Pensiveness is said to originate in the Heart, so an excess can damage Heart Qi. A common syndrome associated with excess worry is described as "depressed Heat in the Heart and Spleen", which can involve insomnia, palpitations, and constipation.

Sorrow ... The Seven Emotions ...

Sorrow is linked to the Lungs. An excess of sorrow is considered to "consume Lung Qi" and also to lead to respiratory problems as well as cause stagnation. This may then affect the vitality of associated organs (following the five-element relationship).

Sadness affecting the lungs is very common and may be observed as bronchitis and asthmatic problems, for example. They frequently seem to follow bereavement, while chesty coughs are common in those who are unhappy.

Grief ... The Seven Emotions ...

Extreme grief or shock is also linked to the Lungs. Since the Lungs are responsible for Qi circulation, severe shock affects the entire body.

Symptoms include those associated with "shock" in the West - pallor, breathing problems, and a sense of suffocation in the chest, as well as loss of appetite, constipation, and urinary problems.

Fear ... The Seven Emotions ...

Fear is linked to the Kidneys. An excess will reverse the normal, upward flow of Kidney Qi, leading to listlessness, lower back pains, urinary problems, and a desire for solitude. Bedwetting in children can be explained in these terms, with timidity and shyness often being associated symptoms. In women, fear damages the Kidney and can also cause irregular menstruation.

Anger ... The Seven Emotions ...

In Chinese medicine, the Liver is associated with Anger. Too much anger will make Liver Qi rise, leading to headaches, flushed face, dizziness, and red eyes.

In the West, the liver is traditionally associated with strong emotions notably love and bravery. Westerners have absorbed some of the Chinese imagery for this in the term gung-ho, with its association of excess activity and military aggression. It is said to derive from the Chinese word for "Liver Fire".

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