I like the title of this photo by Sarah Klockars-Clauser: “Storm Contained Therein.”
That’s how it feels sometimes, doesn’t it? Turbulent inner weather … cloudy thinking … moody squalls … emotional thunderheads …
Spring. We’re having the usual changeable weather outside, and some days changeable inside as well. Not just a few of us are tired of the gray and drip and chill, waiting impatiently for a prolonged stretch of sun and warmth. Which may not happen until July.
Spring: the Wood phase in the Five Element cycle, the time of the Liver and Gallbladder systems in Chinese medicine. If it feels as if there’s a “storm contained therein,” it’s probably related to an imbalance in either of these two systems or both, because they are responsible for a good deal of our emotional health, and “storm” implies tumultuous emotions, related to Liver and Gallbladder.
The emotions associated with a Liver system imbalance are irritability, anger, frustration, stuffing things down, having an inflexible outlook, and/or feeling thwarted. Moody squalls. The physical manifestations of this can be PMS (cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, back ache, queasiness) or other menstrual symptoms, headaches, migraines, pain anywhere in the body, insomnia, palpitations, and digestive ailments.
In a Gallbladder imbalance, there might be a feeling of spinning your wheels, being indecisive, avoiding confrontation, lacking “color” in your life, or having no clear direction or purpose. Cloudy thinking. A Gallbladder disharmony could manifest physically as right ribcage pain or tenderness, pain in the upper back, uneasy or slow digestion, fatigue, headaches, or loose stools … or there could simply be the emotional manifestation of this disharmony.
Both the Liver and Gallbladder systems are connected strongly with the flow of Qi, or energy, through the body. Feeling frustrated, irritable, angry, or indecisive can block the free flow of Qi. When Qi is obstructed or stagnant, symptoms develop. Sometimes it’s hard to know what happens first in an imbalance: emotions causing physical symptoms, or the other way around. Sometimes an imbalance presents as one or the other, not both.
As plants emerge from the ground in spring, they grow strongly toward the light yet maintain their flexibility. Without that ability to bend in the rain and wind, plants will break. Likewise, when we aren’t emotionally flexible and able to handle life’s setbacks and frustrations, we can develop physical problems or a chronic kind of stormy inner weather—cyclic depressions, snappishness, critical voices in our heads, sensitivity to imagined slights, flying off the handle, strong judgments about others (or ourselves), needing to be in control of every little thing, and so on. It gets exhausting! And in being inflexible, we set ourselves up for more and more problems as time goes on.
We can help our Liver-Gallbladder systems by:
• eating light, well-balanced meals, and especially in the company of loved ones
• eating plenty of fresh chlorophyll-rich greens, both pungent and bitter
• opening the mind to new ideas, experiences, and people
• getting outside and moving
• brainstorming new solutions to old problems
• being willing to listen to others’ opinions
• forgiving others, forgiving ourselves
• welcoming opportunities for growth, no matter how uncomfortable at first
• honoring our creative gifts, whatever they are
• getting acupuncture for a “spring tune-up”
I humbly suggest (to you and to myself): Let loose the “storm contained within.” Find ways to resolve stuffed-down or pent-up emotions, and without blasting anyone out of the water in the process. See if the new life bursting forth all around us can restore faith in the goodness and wonder of life, and in the promise of brighter days to come.