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The Seven Deadly Emotions

Updated on June 20, 2012

Toxic emotions and health

Traditional Chinese medicine has acknowledged the role of emotions in health and well-being for over 2000 years. Increasingly, scientific studies are backing up the ideas that negative emotions can cause serious health issues.

Certain parallels can be drawn between the Seven Deadly Emotions of Chinese medicine and the Seven Deadly Sins - anger features in both, and is particularly destructive to others and to self.

The internal emotional landscape

What are the negative emotions to avoid?

The disease-causing emotions in Chinese medicine are:

  • Anger

  • Grief

  • Fear

  • Shock

  • Worry

  • Over-thinking

  • Joy

Anger

Anger and rage

The cause of Liver disharmonies

unresolved anger causes flaring up of the liver fire and can lead to hypertension and stroke

Anger makes the energy - or qi - rise. In the context of traditional Chinese medicine, anger includes other emotional traits such as resentment, frustration, irritability and explosive rage.

This emotion is possibly the worst of all, as it can adversely affect the person who harbors it, and all those around him. Physically, it can manifest itself in violence and fighting, in rows, and in the breakdown of relationships.

As with all things, there is a positive side to anger, when expressed healthily and to a resolution. For example, anger can propel people to stand up for themselves or others in the face of abuse. It is the quick expression of anger which renders it positive. If left to fester without expression, it causes problems of physical ill-health, but can also transform emotionally into depression. So it is long-term and unresolved feelings of anger and resentment that are poisonous to well-being causing ill-health.

Adverse health effects of being angry

Headaches, hypertension and stroke

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), anger causes the qi to rise. This can cause headaches, a flushed face, red bloodshot eyes (according to TCM, the eyes are associated with the liver channel), ringing in the ears, chest congestion and a bitter taste in the mouth.

Studies in the USA and Japan have demonstrated that people who cannot express their anger or resolve frustration are far more likely to suffer from headaches. And rather worryingly, they are at a substantially higher risk of suffering from high blood pressure.

Although TCM agrees with general western opinion that high blood pressure can be alleviated by the sufferer relaxing more, TCM places far more emphasis on successfully resolving anger issues.

Herbal decoctions are prescribed for hypertension - often called flaring up of the liver fire - and acupuncture is used to reverse the direction of the liver qi. Since the emotions are all connected, sadness is the emotion which controls anger in TCM, so it can offer relief from the conditions caused by anger.

Grief

Grief and excessive sadness

The cause of Lung disharmonies

sudden or shocking grief can increase the risk of heart attack

Grief consumes and weakens the Lung qi. In Chinese medicine, this emotion includes sorrow, regret, sadness, and senses of loss or remorse. Like anger, grief can have a very strong effect on health.

People normally cry to release their sadness, and this is perfectly natural and healthy behavior. Again, holding onto this emotion and letting it consume you is when ill health can result. It is always far better to express grief and release these feelings rather than trying to suppress (or repress) them.

It is useful to compare the way Westerners - especially in the UK - keep a stiff upper lip and keep their feelings hidden; whereas the Chinese will celebrate the death of a loved one with a three-day funeral party, dressed in white. They will eat and drink and talk to each other to express their sadness and grief.

Adverse health effects caused by grief

Respiratory problems and 'shock'

Problems associated with sadness affecting the lungs is very common. The symptoms are usually concerned with the respiratory system, such as bronchitis or asthmatic problems, especially after a bereavement. And chesty coughs are common in people seeking alternative therapies for being unhappy.

When sadness reaches its extreme, grief, it can affect the whole body, and causes symptoms that in the West, we would call 'shock'. These include pallor, difficulty breathing, a feeling of suffocation in the chest, but also other indicators such as loss of appetite, constipation and urinary problems.

The best cure involves expressing the grief to close the chapter that caused the illness, and this might involve 'unloading' emotionally, talking to close friends or family. Sometimes acupuncture can be helpful to combat the effects of the unexpressed loss.

Finally, it is worth remembering that grief and sadness can be caused by any kind of loss, not just bereavement. It could be loss of a dream, regret about not having achieved what you wanted to achieve in life. The emotional response is what is important, and needs to be dealt with.

Fear

Fear and Shock

Causes of disharmonies of the kidneys and heart

fear & fright cause bedwetting in infants, and panic attacks

Fear causes the qi to descend, and Shock causes it to scatter.

The reversal of the normal upward flow of Kidney qi can lead to loss of control of urination and other problems, such as lower back pain, listlessness and a desire for solitude.

Fear can also be the emotion responsible in children who suffer from bedwetting - and also the related symptoms of shyness and timidity.

Fright and shock can affect the heart causing Heart qi to scatter - or in the parlance of TCM to wander about but adhere to nothing.

The symptoms of fright and shock are essentially those we see in the West as a panic attack, and include palpitations, mental restlessness and cold sweats.

Adverse health effects of fear & fright

Chronic back pain to stress to heart attack

A Stanford Medical School study of women who had previously had heart attacks, found that women who were fearful were the ones more likely to go on to have a second heart attack.

The fearful ones were women who after their first heart attack had stopped working, or stopped driving etc.

The effects of fear have also been briefly described in the previous section, and include chronic lower back pain, associated with the Kidney qi imbalance.

It is also known that fear can stimulate the production of adrenaline in the body, and it is not good for us to be perpetually high on adrenaline. This can stress the organs and lead to long term ill health.

Although fear can also be seen as a force for good, by ensuring that we exercise caution when facing the unknown, it can also be extremely debilitating. In its extreme forms it can totally paralyse us in the face of imagined catastrophes - that never materialise!

Of course, there are obvious physical disadvantages of having no fear, not least the danger of death by reckless acts, carried out without fear of the possible outcomes. Many people drive too fast, and have no fear of this. Yet you are far more likely to survive a car accident at a lower speed!

Worry

Worry and Over-thinking

Cause of Spleen and Stomach disharmonies

a problem shared really is a problem halved

Worry and over-thinking cause qi to stagnate. This emotion also includes too much studying, obsessive thinking or continually working something over in your mind.

Worry is a particularly insidious emotion as it can eat away at some people, even though there is nothing to be worried about. More often than not, the worries are unfounded, but the afflicted person is ruled by the emotion.

Adverse health effects of worry

Abdominal problems, depression and anxiety

The most important thing to consider regarding worry is to share your concerns with somebody you trust. This can have a dramatic effect on the health outcome.

Research at Stanford University found that women with advanced breast cancer who unburdened themselves of worries by regularly attending meetings with other cancer sufferers, lived twice as long, after diagnosis, than the women who suffered in silence.

So emotional support is extremely important to counteract worry and its effects.

In TCM, excessive worry stagnates qi and causes dampness, disturbing the Spleen qi and leading to abdominal symptoms such as stomach distension or poor digestion.

Other associated symptoms are depression, anxiety, poor appetite, weakened limbs and abdominal bloating.

Some aspects of worry are connected to the heart, and a very common complaint is called depressed Heat in the Heart and Spleen which can involve insomnia, palpitations and constipation.

Don't worry be happy - Free yourself from worry

Joy

Joy and over-stimulation

Cause of Heart disharmonies

To have enough is happiness. To have more than enough is harmful

Joy causes the qi to slow down and relax. Over-exuberance can scatter the Heart qi, damaging the heart.

It may be surprising that joy can be a cause for concern emotionally, and therefore a burden on health. What is really meant here is over-stimulation or rowdy over-exuberance. It is the unsettled feeling perhaps associated with teenagers shouting noisily in the streets and annoying passers-by.

It might also be the state of elation of somebody winning the lottery!

Such excessive elation can lead to problems later on, usually the opposite feelings to joy. So, for example, the initial elation of a giant lottery win may be followed by bickering and breaks with family and friends, all linked to greed, and sadness is the final result.

Adverse health effects of joy

Confused behavior and mental illness

In its restrained form, joy is of course a very good thing. To have contentment and satisfaction is one of our goals in life, and relates to being balanced and healthy.

When joy becomes excessive elation however, it can cause the Heart qi to become scattered, leading to confused behavior. Hysterical laughter and some forms of mental disorder are also associated with damaged Heart qi, the cause being joy taken to excessive extreme.

Anger causes energy to rise, joy causes energy to slow down, grief causes energy to dissipate, fear causes energy to descend, fright causes energy to scatter, exhaustion causes energy to wither, worry causes energy to stagnate.

from the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine

Promotion and control of emotions

The Sheng and Ke cycles

The emotions are interconnected according to Chinese medicine, following the Five Element Theory. So each emotion is associated with and promotes the next within the Sheng Cycle:

  • Anger promotes Joy

  • Joy promotes Worry

  • Worry promotes Grief

  • Grief promotes Fear

  • Fear promotes Anger

The Ke Cycle connects emotions together according to which one controls another:

  • Anger controls Worry

  • Joy controls Grief

  • Worry controls Fear

  • Grief controls Anger

  • Fear controls Joy

So in order to control Anger, for instance, TCM suggests inducing Sadness - perhaps by remembering a loved-one who has passed away; it doesn't matter how you do it, just that by generating feelings of sadness or loss, you can reduce anger levels.

The other way is to reduce the element that promotes your pathogenic emotion, so for Anger, the promoting element is Fear - do something in your life to reduce Fear, perhaps by facing a fear and overcoming it.

Learn more about Chinese medicine - Acupuncture, herbal medicine and qigong

The Acupuncture Handbook - by Angela Hicks

The Acupuncture Handbook: How Acupuncture Works and How It Can Help You
The Acupuncture Handbook: How Acupuncture Works and How It Can Help You

This is a very well-written and clear book on the ancient art of acupuncture. It gives useful information on what acupuncture actually is, who should have it and what does it treat, as well as explaining what it feels like.

There are some good sections on the landscape of the body and how we get ill.

The book then goes onto some more specialized areas, including the theory of Chinese medicine and the organs, and finishes with some common ailments and how they are treated in TCM.

A useful well thought out and accessible book for the non-expert.

 

Image credits

Caveman image: Hasslefree Clip Art

Do you have emotional balance? - Release your feelings here!

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    • SomethingAboutC profile image

      SomethingAboutC 4 years ago

      I lose my temper easily but once I'm done the anger goes away very fast, so I figure it's better to let it out instead off keeping inside.

    • angelsigh profile image

      angelsigh 5 years ago

      I find this interesting! My ex is Chinese and all the men in his family prided themselves on stuffing their emotions. They all have serious health issues. His father died of a bleeding ulcer aggravated by stress and he has heart issues again aggravated by stress and anger. Sad...

    • siobhanryan profile image

      siobhanryan 5 years ago

      Great lens--I would love to have emotional balance-always searching for the solution

    • Zut Moon profile image

      Zut Moon 5 years ago

      Hey You are famous ... This was such a Great Lens I featured you in my lens The Dangers of Non-Communication, Problem Avoidance and Suppressed Emotions

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      This is fascinating, I have bookmarked it because it is too much to take in at one reading. Great stuff!

    • GetFactsnotHype profile image

      GetFactsnotHype 5 years ago

      Once you mentioned in your intro that "Certain parallels can be drawn between the Seven Deadly Emotions of Chinese medicine and the Seven Deadly Sins" and I have added this page of yours to my "Seven Deadly Sins" under related lenses. You can seen yours and mine here at https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/christian

    • ltraider profile image

      ltraider 6 years ago

      Cool lens. I have always been fascinated by Traditional Chinese Medicine. It makes so much sens

    • profile image

      WriterBuzz 6 years ago

      If you like coffee, check out my lens on Who Invented Coffee. I found your lens by accident, and it's really nice. I gave you a thumbs up. Look forward to more lenses from you. I also did one on Migraine Headaches that might interest you. If you surf on by, leave me a comment .

    • NanLT profile image

      Nan 7 years ago from London, UK

      A very interesting and informative lens. Added to the '100 lenses for my 100th lens' update.

    • Sharon Weaver profile image

      Sharon Weaver 7 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Stress kills. It probably is not realistic to eliminate adversity from your life but how we handle it is what will make the difference. Helpful lens.

    • VarietyWriter2 profile image

      VarietyWriter2 7 years ago

      Great lens. Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

    • poptastic profile image

      Cynthia Arre 7 years ago from Quezon City

      What a well written and entertaining lens, I truly enjoyed my stay here! And i'm so glad I discovered it before my squid angel powers have disappeared! *blessed by an angel*

    • sheriangell profile image

      sheriangell 7 years ago

      I enjoyed my visit here. "A problem shared really is a problem halved." I love that!

    • ArtSiren LM profile image
      Author

      ArtSiren LM 7 years ago

      [in reply to Spook] Thanks Spook! A lovely surprise and much appreciated. :-)

    • Spook LM profile image

      Spook LM 7 years ago

      I had forgotten how beautiful this lens is. Blessed by an Angel.

    • RuthCoffee profile image

      RuthCoffee 8 years ago

      I guess emotions are like anything else, too much is a bad thing.

    • michaeldavid3 profile image

      michaeldavid3 8 years ago

      Hello ArtSiren; I gave you five on your lens. I am writing a book on Emotional Healing: Lessening Trauma/Stress. I see worry and overthinking as results of the emotion of fear. I rolled your lens to Emotional Healing.

      Blessings,

      Michael

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hiya Art,

      Difficult not to get carried away by this years tidal wave of disruption very sound advice.

      Good on yer kind.

      Sue.xxx

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :) - and I would love to feature this in my spiritual growth and awareness group.

    • profile image

      jamesanderson1346 8 years ago

      Great lens. These are the Bad things in every Humans. it is very difficult to get ride of. Read Health Articles

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 8 years ago

      Great resource! 5 stars and rolled to Coping with Anger and Creating Happiness.

    • ArtSiren LM profile image
      Author

      ArtSiren LM 8 years ago

      [in reply to indiefrog]

      I sometimes feel the same way, but the first step is realising it. The next step is to spend more time 'in the present'. Worry and overthinking are emotions - very often - dealing with the future, and 'what ifs' that may never materialise. So enjoy 'the Now'!

    • profile image

      rydigga 8 years ago

      Excellent lens. We must remember at all times that everything has its root in the mind, including sickness.

    • indiefrog profile image

      indiefrog 8 years ago

      Excellent lens!! Worry and overthinking, these are my troubles... always there even in the moments of joy :(

      But anyway, thumbs up!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Maintaining a balance is a constant battle.

      Great lens

      LizzyJean

    • Laddoo LM profile image

      Lloyd Pinto 8 years ago from Mumbai

      i think this was a great idea and a wonderful lens. 5*

    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 8 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Wow, great lens. Informative and nicely presented.

    • profile image

      banbarak 8 years ago

      Great lens on emotions that could affect our health.I appreciate for your advices and suggestions.Feel free to visit my the accupuncturequest blog

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Worry is a big one. I can usually control the anger and I give the joy free reign but the worry creeps in and undermines my confidence. It is a troublesome emotion.

      Great lens

      5* and lensroll to Say Something Nice

      Lizzy

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 8 years ago

      Great lens and I think you are right !! I am lensrolling this to my Understanding Depression lens

      thank you

    • profile image

      ywperjjl 8 years ago

      I like this lens. It is very informative.

      Health Tips

    • ArtSiren LM profile image
      Author

      ArtSiren LM 8 years ago

      [in reply to spirituality]

      Thanks! It would be nice to get one of my lenses blogged about by someone other than me! lol. But whatever you think is right, is fine by me. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :)

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens. Very informative. I might just blog about it in future ;) (not promising anything, but I might).

    • ArtSiren LM profile image
      Author

      ArtSiren LM 8 years ago

      a_willow - a good comment, thanks! I actually spent ages trying to find decent free facial images but couldn't find anything really ideal. That's why I ended up embedding text boxes instead. But as they say: great minds thinks alike! All my lenses evolve though, so over time, who knows, I might find some nice images that I can use.

      And once again, thanks to all who have read and enjoyed this lens!

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image

      RaintreeAnnie 8 years ago from UK

      Fascinating lens! Very interesting topic and very well laid out lens. I enjoyed reading it and learnt a lot too. 5 Stars from me and added to faves :)

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 8 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

      Quite fascinating! Chinese medicine and Western medicine can both agree on the dangers of anger, worry, and fear. I didn't realize that JOY was considered a negative. I guess that it's a matter of moderation.

      I hereby bless this lens.

      And I invite you to join my Broaden Your Horizons: Learn About China group.

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 8 years ago from Croatia

      See you did some more work on this lens! Nice done! You could add some facial expressions also! :)

    • chefkeem profile image

      Achim Thiemermann 8 years ago from Austin, Texas

      5*s and a hearty SquidAngel Blessing to keep you content and happy. At least, for a while... :-)

      Fabulous lens, well-researched and designed!

    • ArtSiren LM profile image
      Author

      ArtSiren LM 9 years ago

      Glad you escaped the spiral Margo. Sometimes, when I get really angry, I end up having a 'meh' moment, throw my arms up in the air, and finally have a laugh at myself for getting so worked up - there's Anger promoting Joy!

      Thanks everyone for your comments! Much appreciated.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 9 years ago

      I could have used you on Saturday, I was in an anger spiral, great to be out of it and this is still a good lens.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 9 years ago

      I could have used you on Saturday, I was in an anger spiral, great to be out of it and this is still a good lens.

    • profile image

      qlcoach 9 years ago

      Five star lens here on coping with stressful emotions. I have found these five to be the most challenging: anger, fear, worry, depression, and shame. Feel free to see how I try to help people in new ways. Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and therapist.

    • profile image

      boutiqueshops 9 years ago

      Outstanding lens! Love it! Struggled with grief after Mom passed away last year (and still do); you provided excellent information! Favorited & 5*'s! Great Job!

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 9 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      One of the most helpful lenses I've seen on Squidoo!

    • profile image

      real_estate_hawaii 9 years ago

      Great post! Perhaps we should have a balance emotions.

    • profile image

      real_estate_hawaii 9 years ago

      Great post! Perhaps we should have a balance emotions.

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 9 years ago from Croatia

      Great topic! Love it! I'm pretty emotional person myself but people can see when I'm upset - I don't hold it inside! Think it's better!

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 9 years ago

      Yes, there was a time when people used to say it was good to get the anger out, but what that often did was feed the anger.

      Great lens 5* and I know that EFT can help

      EFT, When Nothing Else Works