Proof that Relaxation, Fun, and Intimacy are Essential to our Health
Now that you’ve all read about the Fire Element and its relationship to the heart and Summer, lets talk about some specifics of what I see in the clinic when people don’t have enough fun, relaxation, and intimacy in their lives.
I’m hoping that reading about the symptoms that occur will serve as a reminder to make sure we’re getting these needs met.
I promised I wouldn’t be talking about the liver anymore (but I did say don’t quote me on that! :-) ). However, it’s nearly impossible to talk about the effects that a lack of downtime or relaxation/fun can have on our lives and our Fire Element, without bringing up the liver.
As the last 2 week’s blogs have pointed out, summer is the time when it is medicinally appropriate to really focus on just relaxing and connecting with those we love. When I say “medicinally appropriate”, I don’t just mean it would be a handy luxury for us to enjoy…something to consider having in our lives–I mean that if it doesn’t happen, it will have affects on our health. Affects that I see showing up in my clinic daily.
When we don’t have enough relaxation time that really nourishes us, our liver gets stressed out. On the 5 elements chart, the liver is supposed to nourish the Heart. When we are in constant stress, our liver gets either depleted or overactive–both cases rendering it unable to feed the heart, or Fire Element, which then affects our psychi and state of mind. We use a word in Chinese medicine, “Shen”, that doesn’t translate directly into English. The Shen is a combination of the mind, emotional heart, and spirit. It is related to the physical organ of the heart. When our heart is out of balance, it is easy to develop what we call a “Shen disturbance” over time.
An extreme example of Shen disturbance is mania or mental illness. But minor cases are when a person just doesn’t quite seem present…they seem disconnected from their body, like you look at them in their eyes and you can physically see them, but you know their spirit is really off somewhere else. It just doesn’t quite seem like there’s anybody fully home.
More commonly, I see the imbalance show up in the liver. Probably because my practice is centered around treating highly functional people, and people who have a deep enough level of self-awareness to realize when something is “off” in their lives before it gets to the point of mental illness. But what it can, and commonly does show up as is:
- Depleted liver: migraines/headaches, menstrual issues, muscle spasms/cramps/twitches, dizziness, lethargy, insomnia, tingling or numbness, depression/lack of motivation/apathy
- Overactive liver: migraines/headaches, IBS-like symptoms (alternating constipation/diarrhea), irregular or painful menses, pain and tension that moves throughout the body, dizziness and/or high blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety/extreme Type-A workaholic or controlling behavior
In addition, I mentioned in a prior blog that if our Fire is not nourished, it also can’t do its job of “controlling”, or keeping in check, the Metal element, which is all about letting go and grieving. So someone who doesn’t take the time to nurture their heart and Fire element by spending enough fulfilling time with loved ones or in intimate connections, easily gets stuck in a constant Metal cycle of grieving and depression. Their whole life can begin to feel like loss, and they can begin to seriously withdraw, which is the exact opposite of what they need to bring the spark back into their lives. We need other people, which is very scary for many modern people to admit, fearing that this makes them weak. Spiritual types are particularly vulnerable to this form of thinking, as most highly spiritual people are Metal types, who look up to everything out-of-body and other-worldy, and frown upon the messy and vulnerable aspects of being human. Sure, they may feel lofty and impenetrable, but maybe a day of play and goofing off with someone they love would do their health and happiness a lot of good!
It’s the time to play right now after all! We can worry about reflecting on our life-path and focusing on bringing judgment to our choices in Fall, which is Metal time.
For now, we need to be easier on ourselves…most of us are way too critical of ourselves and need to lighten up, which is the gift of the Fire element! Being a Metal type myself, I know all too well the trap of striving for perfection and the discounting of the gifts of intimacy, recreation, and play. As I deepen into this medicine and begin to understand the wisdom of balance between the elements, I’ve come to see that there is indeed “proof” that we can’t just discount any of the elements in our lives, judging them unnecessary to our wellbeing. The “proof” is the symptoms I see showing up in all our lives when one of our elements is neglected.
**So let’s all make use of these gifts throughout this Fire season, and make sure to get out and play with people we love! **