The Five Elements and the Five Emotions

I didn’t know why I was taking pictures of people or what I was looking for so I just snapped a picture of any one who came into focus.

When I downloaded the photos onto the computer and looked at them, I was surprised at how much emotion people expressed while walking in the street.The full range of the emotion such as anger or fear may not be expressed while walking in the street. Given that limitation, it is still interesting to see people’s feelings so clearly in evidence. Since I do Chinese Medicine, my mind turned to the Five Elements.

The Daoists observed that there were five energetic phases that comprise the year, fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Then they developed a system of correspondences. Each element is associated with an organ,a sense perception, a type of tissue, an emotion, a season, an environmental factor, a direction, a color, an odor, a sound, groups of foods, and a flavor. These pictures focus on the emotion associated with each element.

When a person’s emotions are contributing to a health problem, we strengthen the element and organ pair that is responsible for keeping that emotion in the healthy range. The number of treatments a person will need depends on how pathological the emotion has become.

Fire is linked to the heart. The heart is responsible for modulating the emotion of joy which in its negative manifestation is anxiety. If the heart energy system is healthy, then people are happy rather than anxious. The fire emotion that was most commonly seen was happiness.

Earth is associated with the spleen and stomach. They are associated with not only the digestion and assimilation of food but also of experiences. Even in English we say some one is chewing over an idea. The spleen/stomach pair is responsible for pensiveness and rational thought. When the spleen/stomach energy is not well balanced or strong you get over thinking, worry and obsession. Lots of people have worried expressions.

Metal’s organ is the lung. The lung eliminates what you no longer need such as carbon dioxide. The lung manages the process of coping with loss. When the lung energy is healthy, you grieve, are sad and recover. When the lung is not strong, the sadness can turn into a depression and a general feeling of emotional oppression. People do express sadness and depression in public spaces.

Water is represented by the kidney. Its emotion is fear and fright. This was the hardest emotion to illustrate. I think several of the pictures show some one who is afraid of loosing a relationship even though I did not photograph both sides of the situation.

Wood is related to the liver and also wind. The emotion is anger. It is seen as arising quickly like the wind. The liver energy needs to be strong to control anger. There is a lot of anger in the streets. It was the emotion that showed up most frequently.

Looking at these pictures, should you conclude that everyone is sick. Sick is probably too strong a word but imbalanced might be more accurate. You do see a lot of strong emotions expressed by people who were for the most part walking by themselves on city streets. The question is whether they were thinking of some incident and the expression is a momentary articulation of that thought or is the facial expression signaling a chronic imbalance. That person is always sad, worried, or angry. Start looking at people as you walk around and form your own conclusion.

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