The Chinese have a saying, “Ailment of the heart, requires medicine of the heart”. To the Chinese people, the term heart and mind is interchangeable. Therefore the saying can be expressed as, “Ailment of the mind, requires medicine of the mind”. It implies that psychological or mental illnesses and can be cured by psychological means!
To the ancient Chinese there are seven human emotions. They are joy, anger, anxiety, melancholy, sorrow, fear and fright. These emotions are human being’s response to the external environment. In small doses, they are harmless but in large quantity and over prolonged periods, they can be detrimental not just to a person’s emotional well being but can affect the internal organs as well.
In Chinese medicine, the emotion of joy and fright is related to the heart which in turn related to the element fire. The emotion of melancholy is related to the spleen and the earth element, while the emotion of anxiety and sorrow with the lungs and the element metal. Finally the emotion of fear is related to the kidneys and water, while the emotion of anger with the liver and the element of wood.
Hence, excessive and prolonged joy can affect the heart while excessive and prolonged anger can hurt the liver. Too much of a melancholy feeling can harm the spleen while too much anxiety or sorrow can hurt the lungs. Finally too much fear and nervousness can be detrimental to the kidneys.
According to the ancient Chinese, the too much of one human emotion can be curbed using another emotion based on the controlling cycle of the Five Elements. For example joy (five) can overcome anxiety/sorrow (metal), which in turn can over anger (wood). Anger (wood) can overcome melancholy (earth) which in turn can overcome fear (water). By the same token, the producing cycle can be use to weaken another emotion. For example anger (wood) can weaken anxiety (metal) since Metal (anxiety) is weaken when producing wood (anger).
But the same rule, you can use one human emotion to correct another.
I would like to tell you a popular story about physician Wen Zhi who lived during the Spring and Summer period. He was summoned to the palace to treat the King who was suffering from extreme headaches. The prince was extremely distressed by his father’s ailment and begged Wen Zhi to cure him.
Wen Zhi told the prince that he will cure his father but in the course he will lose his life. The prince could not understand what Wen Zhi said but did not pursue as he was more concerned with his father’ ailment.
The next time the king had one of his headaches he summoned Wen Zhi but this time Wen Zhi ignored him. This happened a few times and the king was extremely upset. He sent his troops to drag Wen Zhi to the palace. On seeing the king, instead of help him, he insulted the king. In extreme anger and with fire raging in his eyes, the king ordered that Wen Zhi be cooked in a pot.
A few days later, the king made a surprising recovery. It was only then that he understood why Wen Zhi acted in such a strange way. You see the king’s headaches were caused by anxiety. By deliberately making the king angry, he help the king release his anxiety and hence cured his headaches, at the lost of his life!