During the winter, we draw our energy inward to reflect, rejuvenate and rest. As the season shifts into spring, energy bursts forth, like bulbs lying dormant throughout the colder months. As daylight lengthens, contained energy begins to flow instead of being stored. Nature’s activity during early spring can be witnessed everywhere, from newly composed avian harmonies to animal mating rituals. Projects sitting on hold jump to life and bodies that have been curled up on the couch itch to move. Spring is representative of transformation and growth, bringing renewed optimism, hope and life.
According to Chinese culture, humans are microcosms of the environment, and are equally affected by the change in season. The cyclical character of energy flow creates a predominance of energy in a paired organ system during a specified time of year. According to Chinese medical theory, the energy in the liver and gallbladder systems are most active in the spring.
In addition to viewing humans as mirrors of nature, Chinese medical theory also emphasizes the interplay of physical, emotional and spiritual aspects governed by each bodily system. Encompassing much more than the western medical model’s understanding of organ structure and function, each body system also governs emotion, cognition and spirit.
The cognitive responsibility of the liver is planning while the gallbladder oversees decision-making. When the energy in these two organ systems mounts, as it naturally does each spring, there can be two possible outcomes:
- The desired outcome is an active outpouring of creativity, productivity and release of negative patterns.
- The undesired outcome is energetic stagnation, or resistance to allowing this energy to flow.
Restricted liver energy manifests itself as anger, frustration, depression and irritability. Disease occurs when this energy is not expressed or freed. When energy remains stuck, it coagulates, becoming thick and heavy, hampering optimal body functioning. The inability to express spring’s active energy can lead to all sorts of illnesses including migraines, PMS, heart disease and even cancer.
Because the energy in the liver and gallbladder systems increase during the spring, people often experience an increase in stress, anger and anxiety during this season. When an outlet for this energy is found, these emotions can be transformed into creativity, opportunity and change. Springtime is ideal to convert these difficult emotions by focusing on their movement and release. Nature provides us this time of year to spring clean our stored emotions. Feeling these intense emotions is a healthy first step, and indicates readiness for the second spring cleaning step: release.
Emotional release can be achieved in many different ways, and each person must find the method that works best for them. Some methods that may be useful include:
- Engaging in physical activity
- Receiving bodywork
- Verbalizing emotions to a friend or professional
- Journaling or writing about one’s feelings
- Crying and/or laughing
- Meditation and/or visualization
- Using creativity as an emotional outlet
Bodyworkers can assist in this process by understanding the need for and paying extra attention to modalities encouraging emotional release. In general, relaxing massage strokes help clients shed tension and drop resistance. Techniques to invigorate the Liver and Gallbladder meridians are especially useful in facilitating the desired free and easy flow of energy. A specific acupressure combination to address this is called The Four Gates. While The Four Gates is typically used to reduce pain, its overarching purpose benefits both physical and emotional pain by invigorating and moving stagnation. For more specific information on The Four Gates, please see the previous article, Differentiating Back Pain from Kidney Pain, under bodywork techniques for Kidney stones.
Regardless of the method used, finding the path to emotional release keeps the body, mind and spirit healthy. The natural instinct to spring clean our homes and environment answers our spiritual yearning to clear away the cobwebs (stagnation) left over from winter. When spring cleaning is applied to emotional health, our ability to plan and make decisions blossoms, and we experience renewed optimism, creativity, hope and transformation. From the Chinese perspective, the free flow of liver and gallbladder energy is the number one disease preventative, and best way to guarantee a healthy and happy year.