Meridians of Fear


Sounds menacing, doesn't it?

In Chinese Medicine, each meridian* pair is associated with an emotion which arises out of its function.

Traditionally, it goes like this:

- Lung/Large Intestine:Grief

- Stomach/Spleen: Pensiveness/Worry

- Heart/Small Intestine & Heart Protector/Triple Heater:Joy/Excitement

- Liver/Gall Bladder: Anger

- Bladder/Kidney: Fear

Seems clear cut enough, until you ponder the idea that there are different experiences of fear, and here's where it gets interesting.

Bladder/Kidney (Water): This fear is based on the idea that these meridians govern the fight-or-flight mechanism.... Kidney - through its association with the adrenal glands, and Bladder - being connected to the central nervous system. A balanced Water element (the element governing the BL/KD pair) allows a person the impetus to act quickly and courageously in a threatening situation, and then recover and return to a relaxed state.

'Imbalanced Water' can take the form of irrational fears, like phobias, or a paralytic inability to take action, or a perpetual 'busy-ness' that doesn't accomplish anything, for fear of moving forward.

This becomes taxing in the long run, as Kidney energy (which is our core energy) gets depleted, leading to chronic exhaustion.

But there are other forms of fear that can be more appropriately placed with other elements.

Lung/Large Intestine (Metal): Metal deals with details, and, as mentioned above, grief. Metal fear is an unwillingness to let go - particularly of control over details, and I would even say perfectionism. It's about trust .. trust that what we have to offer is good enough and that we can release what we no longer need: stuff, ideas, people, the breath we're holding. And trust that, like the breath, what we really do need will always be available to us.

Liver/Gall Bladder (Wood): The Wood element, primarily the Gall Bladder, governs how our energy is used. (Liver stored energy in the form of glycogen, the GB determines where it should go). So Wood fear manifests as the inability to make decisions, and second-guessing. This could also overlap into the Metal perfectionism thing, as Wood energy is the creative force, and the fear of 'not getting it exactly right' can inhibit the creative process.

Heart/Small Intestine & Heart Protector/Triple Heater (Fire): I had read somewhere that the Fire element fear is 'loss of control'. I can see why this might be so, being that Fire is a powerful force that can be destructive if not controlled. But, again, I think that control is more aligned with the Metal element.

My own opinion is this: The Heart, is seen in TCM as the 'Emperor".. the core of our being (also the house of the Shen.. our Spirit, consciousness, however you choose to describe it). And Small Intestine holds the function of assimilation (that whole 'you are what you eat' thing). Heart Protector sounds like what it is.. it protects the heart, the Emperor. And Triple Heater, in addition to many other functions, serves as our 'psychic boundary', and governs the relationship between all the systems of the body.

So, putting these together, Fire fear deals with our ability- or lack thereof - to form healthy relationships, establish appropriate boundaries, or 'allow in' ideas, opinions, or the energy of others.

Stomach/Spleen (Earth):  As seems obvious, this element is about the 'flesh'... our bodies, our homes, and governs the way we nourish ourselves. Because our body is our only home, Earth fear can manifest as self-image issues, or a fear of transition... times when the ground feels like it's shifting beneath our feet.

Also, certain types of trauma, especially when incurred in early childhood, can give one a fear of being in their own body, and feeling uncomfortable in their own skin.

So, there are some overlaps in some of these, for example, vulnerability can be seen as both a Heart and a Lung issue. And relationships with others comes under both Earth and Fire.  But within these are subtleties that can be perceived with closer attention.

And, by no means are these associations meant to be a form of diagnosis.

The "Five Element Theory" in Traditional Chinese Medicine, as this is drawn from, is as much art as science, and should only be referred to for interesting informational purposes. It's presented here to illustrate the connection eastern medical philosophy makes between the physical and the psychological.

If you believe you have fears that require professional support, I have a list of qualified therapists I can refer you to.

* As is often necessary to state, the 'organs' described in TCM are capitalized to differentiate their meaning from the western anatomoical definitions of the organs.

Other writings you might dig:

Wood v Earth

Five Element Theory - An Intro

Orange is the Color of Presence