The Liver and Gall Bladder Meridians of the Wood Element make up the Land of Hun according to Chinese Medicine. While the Gall Bladder Meridian is traditionally associated with decision making, the Liver Meridian controls planning. When both are excessive, we become easily agitated and angry. "Excessive or chronic anger is injurious to Yin in general, and to the Liver in particular." The Liver has the "functions of a military leader who excels in his/her strategic planning," and when in an extreme state, we may have difficulty making decisions and carrying out our plans. We may experience frequent anger, irritability, impatience, headaches, and moodiness.
The Land of Hun
Hun, the related aspect of the psyche to the Liver & Gall Bladder Meridians, is the "seat of the soul, or spiritual faculties," according to the Nei Ching. Hun grants the capacity for control during times of excitement and change. Hun is the yang, masculine, assertive aspect of the psyche related to "the animus" or intellect, directing conscious and unconscious thinking activities. It's the actuating force which allows us to carry out our functions and responsibilities.
The image is WOOD, and the image of a tree comes to mind. A tree is a symbol for the process of self-actualization, and the psychic activity of Hun is active and vigorous with the new yang energy of birth and rebirth, allowing that seed to sprout to the surface and emerge into the light. Hun is associated with developing response-ability--the ability to respond appropriately to life.
"Hun energy allows us to respond appropriately to things, with a common sense which depends on being in touch with our vital energy (Chih), instinctive desires (P'o) and bodily self (I'). Hun propels Shen (spiritual Land of the Heart) and is the motivation to carry out the impulses of Shen, and to live out Shen's basic message -- be/become that Self which you truly are."
-Iona Teeguarden, The Joy of Feeling
This worldly aspect of Hun has to do with initiating and completing. Deficient Hun can present as powerlessness, whereas excessive Hun would present as aggressive feelings and anger. In either case, response-ability becomes a challenge. "One extreme is being unable to express oneself or take charge; the opposite extreme is a tendency towards over-control, or an egotistical desire to demonstrate power over others." The goal would be the balance of extremes which would manifest as self-assertion, standing one's ground and effectively taking charge without trying to force things against the natural order.
There is another, seemingly opposite side of Hun, which has to do with "the circulation of light" and "return to the creative," or development of spiritual consciousness. "There is no conflict between the worldly and spiritual sides of Hun activity. Living in the world is part of how we return to the creative by creating, not just passively retreating from the world in search of transcendence. Creating means expressing the Self in the world."
The Liver Meridian
The Liver Meridian is the center of metabolism, and as such, our general sense of well-being and energy is more often dependent on the Liver than any other organ in the body, according to acupuncture theorist Felix Mann. The Liver "neutralizes various poisons (including drugs and alcohol), synthesizes several kinds of proteins, and helps regulate the blood sugar level." The Liver also stores blood and secretes bile, which is necessary for the digestion of fats and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). Bile is the bitter, sour fluid secreted by the Liver and stored in the Gall Bladder. "Bile also means bitterness of spirit or anger, while "bilious" means bad-tempered or cross." These definitions point out the long-standing popular association of the liver with the temperament, and with temper and the associated emotion of anger.
According to the Chinese, the "Liver" refers not only to the organ, but also a set of energetically-related functions, which all have to do something with planning and control. Tendons and ligaments are the associated body parts, and tears are the associated fluid. The Gall Bladder, the yang partner meridian to the Liver, is associated with "irritable uptightness, indecision or rash decisions, restraint of anger, and over-control of feelings." The Gall Bladder Meridian is one of the "most traveled meridians, traversing almost the entire body, except the arms." In times of stress and tension, it can feel like a vise, which explains the commonly associated symptoms of headaches, neck tension, and "uptightness" with the Liver and Gall Bladder meridians.
Traditional Liver Meridian Associations
Deficient symptoms include depression, deficient erection, limited flexibility, decreased menstruation, blurry vision and dry eyes. Excessive symptoms include frequent anger and frustration, excessive erection, red/swollen/painful eyes, headaches (behind eyes and crown), irritability or impatience, itching, and moodiness.
Extreme Emotions of Hun
Anger is not one of those emotions that seems wildly acceptable as a natural response to situations. Often people are more comfortable admitting they feel frustrated or irritated. The explosive nature of anger may frighten others around you as if you were going mad! Although getting mad and going mad are very different responses. In fact, anger is a healthy emotional response and can be used constructively to channel energy out of the body. When we suppress anger, a whole another set of emotions can come up making us feel stifled, closed down, and downright crazy. When anger is channeled appropriately, we can more likely move through the challenging situation or emotions quicker and more gracefully.
“There is a fine line between controlling anger and containing it.
Resentment, guilt and depression are clues that what seemed like great
self-control was actually just suppression.”
-Iona Teeguarden, The Joy of Feeling
Trying to avoid getting angry seems to be a futile attempt at controlling our natural human experience, and an energetically costly one too. It takes a lot more energy to suppress a natural emotion like anger or frustration than actually allowing yourself to feel the anger and release it. Of course we’ve all heard how many muscles it takes to frown (roughly 43 muscles) and how many it takes to smile (roughly 17 muscles). It takes an enormous amount of energy to attempt to control or suppress disharmonious emotional states.
Of course, in Five Element Theory, any emotion that is expressed persistently leads to a chronic state which depletes the energy of the whole bodymind system. And when one meridian becomes out of balance, either in an excessive (hyperactive) or deficient (hypoactive) state, all of the other meridians are affected.
When we experience anger, whether in response to a real or imagined threat, the energy tends to rush upwards and becomes strong in the neck and shoulders. Like a dog seized by the impulse for confrontation with raised fur along the neck and back, the energy rushes upwards in us with our shoulders lowered and our head forward. The energy extends into the arms where we feel charged and mobilized for action, whether fleeing or fighting. We become ready to defend or confront threatening situations.
Anger & Frustration
Anger can also be a response to frustration— that feeling of irritable uptightness which is classically associated with Liver Meridian imbalance. “Frustration can come from feeling thwarted, being excessively limited, or pushed too far.” The Taoist belief is “Don’t force anything,” and "all things in moderation, including moderation!" Continued frustration generally turns into anger, and anger is not likely to be “excised from our personalities.”
“Frustration is woven into the very fabric of life, because life is a tension of opposites. An apparent conflict between opposites is part of the relative world—the world of activity and passivity, light and shadow. Frustration results from and calls our attention to conflict." Frustration can be temporarily diminished until we become frustrated once again by the next conflict. Growth involves accepting the “shadow” aspect of ourselves, the dark parts that we often feel and shun away. Part of the shadow is our animalistic self, our animalistic primitive instinctual patterns and primal emotional responses.
Healing the Liver Meridian
“Individuation is realizing who we really are. It is coming to know our Whole Self and integrating the opposite aspects of our personality, the masculine and feminine, the good and bad, and all our seemingly opposite
thoughts, feelings, and emotions.”
-Iona Teeguarden, The Joy of Feeling
We could minimize frustration, anger, and conflict by accepting all of life’s polarities. We evolve by seeing that all things could be perceived as good and bad, right and wrong, or neither. When we realize the polar aspects of everything in life, including our wide range of emotions, we may be able to relax around our natural instinct to experience extreme emotions from time to time. “It is integrating the polar aspects of oneself so that there is less inner conflict.” We naturally desire harmony and wholeness, and a balanced state would be accepting the seeming conflict of opposite forces and reaching for self-individuation and the will to become that Self which one truly is—the ability to respond appropriately.
Teeguarden, Iona Marsaa. The Joy of Feeling. Tokyo and New York: Japan Publications, INC., 1987. Print.
Teeguarden, Iona Marsaa. (2009). Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure® Intermediate Handbook (2). Idyllwild, CA: Iona Marsaa Trust.
Specializing in Trauma-Informed Somatic Bodywork, Thai Yoga Massage, & Jin Shin Do® Acupressure