The Liver is all about FLOW. Flow of Qi, flow of Blood, flow of EMOTIONS.
“In short, the job of the Liver Network is to monitor flow, maintaining evenness of emotions and clarity of judgment, giving grace and flexibility to the physical and mental body.”
When the Liver is thrown off course, our emotional wellbeing follows suit. And the reverse scenario is also true: the primary cause of wonky Liver Qi is emotional disharmony (and the unhealthy habits it engenders).
ANGER and THE LIVER
“One of the most important functions of Liver Energy is to regulate emotions. Among all the Energetic systems, Liver Energy is the most sensitive to the effects of stress.”
The role of the Liver, as conceived by Chinese Medicine, is akin to the Western concept of the sympathetic nervous system. Both are involved in regulating our emotional and physiological reaction to external stressors, preparing us to fight, flee, freeze, or fawn. And the emotion that accompanies the fight response is typically anger.
The primary emotional assault to the Liver comes in the form of uncontrollable or repressed anger. And when our Liver is struggling for other reasons, such as heightened stress and improper diet or exercise, the expected emotional consequence is (eventually) anger. In other words, anger may be the trigger and/or the symptom of the corresponding imbalance in the Liver.
Anger, like Liver Qi, tends to rise like the energy of new life in springtime bursting upwards towards the sky. Anger mimics the qualities of its corresponding Wood element in its expansive, quick, passionate, and ascendent nature.
Anger is an emotion that typically develops over time and is secondary to some other (more vulnerable) emotion(s). Like the backache that stems from miles of neglecting a pebble in your shoe, anger is often the eventuality of persistent frustration, the sister of irritability. These feelings arise when our boundaries are weak, or we feel helpless or blocked in the process and pursuit of manifesting our dreams and desires.
The anger itself isn’t inherently problematic - in fact it’s a perfectly natural response to any impediment to the Liver’s preferred state of flow. The dis-eases correlated with anger depend on its dimension and expression. When either repressed or excessively vented, anger can easily lead to somatic injury. But when met with curiosity and patience, it can give us the momentum we need to grow and change in the direction of our destiny. And when transmuted by the Hun (the spirit of the Liver), anger becomes a powerful cornerstone of human kindness.
OTHER EMOTIONS OF THE LIVER
But anger is not the only emotion tied to the Liver. An array of related emotions -- including sadness/depression, worry, and anxiety -- are associated with the assorted patterns of Liver disharmony.
When Liver Qi is constrained, it leads to excessive susceptibility to mild triggers, and feelings associated with “stuckness.” It’s marked by tension, irritability, and grumpiness, or melancholy and depression. These folks are prone to impulsive behavior and capricious emotional and mental states.
With Liver Blood Deficiency, one feels self-conscious and unworthy. She lacks self-esteem and has difficulty with self-acceptance. She may be timid, tense and indecisive, and struggle to ask for what she needs.
Liver Yin Deficiency is characterized by nervous irritability, self-deprecation, depression, insecurity, and aimlessness.
When Liver Fire Blazes Upward, it may manifest as uncontrollable rage, hostility, impatience, belligerence, and aggressive behavior. This pattern is typically seen downstream of chronic Liver Qi stagnation and Liver Blood/Yin Deficiency.
Arrogant Liver Yang (theoretically) exists somewhere in between Blazing Liver Fire and Liver Yin Deficiency (although, clinically, patterns are often interrelated and exist simultaneously). Anger and depression are common here.
And lastly, someone with repressed anger and self-directed hostility might be diagnosed with Cold Stagnation in the Liver Meridian.
EMOTIONS OF A HARMONIOUS LIVER
Imagine, if you will, that you’re strolling through a deep green forest or skipping in a field blanketed by wildflowers. How do you feel?
Do you feel free, graceful, self-assured, and unstoppable? That’s your Liver in harmony. When the Liver is healthy, we feel courageous, unencumbered, flexible, resolute, confident, and passionately inspired. We are able to create wise and effective plans with ease and we have a clear sense of direction.
When the Liver Qi “flows smoothly it also enables a smooth emotional state.”
TIPS & TOOLS FOR A HAPPY LIVER:1. Reduce stress through:
- Lifestyle changes
- Meditation and breath work
- Social connection
- Balanced exercise/movement
“Walking, the activity of the liver, is useful because it helps spread or harmonize liver qi. Spread, as the term is used in TCM, refers to what we in the West experience as a kind of equalizing of our thoughts and feelings. Whenever we feel extreme anger and frustration, one of the best and most immediate remedies is to take a walk.”2. Channel your anger into productive and healing action:
- Write it down
- Speak your truth
- Brainstorm solutions
- Work towards change
- Blue Tansy oil at Liver 5 - “Insect Ditch” for detoxification
- Bergamot oil at Liver 14 - “Gate of Hope” for irritability, tension and hopelessness
Ingredients to incorporate:
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains (if tolerated)
- Essential fatty acid rich foods, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, and sardines
- Herbal medicines, such as Emotional Balance; cook with herbs like Carthamus flowers, Ligustium, Lycii berries, and White Peony root
- Stimulants (i.e., coffee/caffeine, nicotine, etc.)
- Greasy and fried foods
- Refined sugar and processed foods
- Conventionally grown produce/meat (choose organic or regeneratively-grown whenever possible)