April 13, 2012

Experiencing Loss with the Five Elements.

Grief is defined as deep or intense sorrow or distress. We’ve all experienced this type of emotion at one time or another.

Whether it was through the loss of a pet or loved one. Perhaps a situation occurred that caused keen distress or suffering. It could be any number of reasons. Personally, I recently had to deal with the loss of a beloved pet, my cat Phatamus (aka Phat Boy). Perhaps you can’t understand if you are not an animal person, but for all those pet lovers out there, you know what I am talking about. A beloved pet is not just some animal, he or she is part of the family. It is like losing a part of you.

As I sat yesterday remembering Phatty and what a cool cat he was, I began remembering other things. Other losses. Other regrets. Old sorrows began to well up. For a moment, I lost myself in that grief. Fortunately, I remembered to breathe and was able to let go of the negative emotions and focus on the positive instead.

That is the thing with grief, it is easy to lose ourselves in those emotions. And then we get mad at our loss and the injustice of having to say goodbye.

Grief itself is not negative. It is a natural emotion that we must experience in order to be able to process our loss and then move forward. Grief only takes on a negative aspect when we are unable to move beyond the emotion. When we become stuck in this emotion and are unable to let go, Chinese Medicine sees this as an imbalance in the Metal and Wood element.

Five Element theory has been part of Chinese Medicine since the 10th century B.C. The Five Element system divides the human experience into five distinct phases.

The Five Elements include Wood (liver and gallbladder), Fire (heart and small intestine), Earth (spleen and stomach), Metal (lung and colon), and Water (kidney and bladder).

These elements map out all levels of human existence – physical, mental, and spiritual. When these elements are in balance, we are able to function at an optimal level. However, when one of these elements go out of balance, we become stuck in that phase and are unable to move forward.

In the case with grief, we must look primarily to the Metal element. When an element experiences some type of shock, we often experience symptoms in the organs related to that element.  It is the reason that we often feel the following when experiencing waves of loss – chest tightness, knotting in the lower abdomen, constricted breathing.

These symptoms are due to the Lungs and Large Intestine being affected. Often mixed with grief are feelings of anger and injustice.

These come from the Wood element and affect the Liver and Gallbladder which can lead to headaches and pain throughout the body. More often than not, the body is able to correct itself and these symptoms soon pass and we are able to move beyond our loss.

However, if the element is out of balance, it may not be able to correct itself and we become stuck in our own grief. Someone who still grieves over something that happened 5 or 10 years ago and has never been able to get past that one event is a perfect example.

We’ve all met someone like this at some point. They carry themselves with an air of sorrow. Perhaps you can even here the weep in their voice. They live with constant regrets and are most often in a state of denial. So how do we move beyond this type of grief?

Although most people in the United States only think of acupuncture for the treatment of physical pain, Five Element acupuncture directly addresses mental and emotional issues by looking at the root cause of a person’s illness.

By addressing the whole person and not just the symptom manifestation, the practitioner is able to look beyond the physical to see why a person is experiencing symptoms in a specific way. In the case of grief, we look to the Metal element to help the person let go more easily.

By helping the person feel and acknowledge the richness and worth of their life, they can re-connect with their spiritual essence and begin to let go of past regrets with ease. If they are experiencing any anger or sense of injustice along with their grief, the practitioner can also address the Wood element in order to relax the person’s need for control.

As we can see, by using the Five Elements and their corresponding organs, we are able to tap into unimaginable resources. The body has the amazing ability to heal itself. Sometimes it is just a matter of giving it a push in the right direction.


Edited by Hayley Samuelson.



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