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The Liver: Mental & Emotional Aspects

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the organ connected to springtime is the liver. The liver is connected to the wood element.  Think about all of the new buds that come out in the springtime, this is the healthy state of the liver energy, full of creativity, desiring to move into and fill out a new space, unobstructed.

Each organ system in Chinese medicine is related to a specific emotion, liver is associated with anger when imbalanced and ease when balanced.  When the emotional aspects of the liver are working in a balanced state, you are able to be flexible and strong and firm in your convictions, with proper boundaries between you and others around you.  You grow and respect the space of others at the same time. The liver influences confidence and assertiveness, and the ability to make decisions and stick by them.

When the liver energy is obstructed due to over controlling or due to stagnation, frustration and anger can erupt. Physically, an over stressed liver can create tight tendons, necks and shoulders, and emotionally  it can lead to a tightness of the spirit.  Below is a image of of a character who has his liver energy blocked.When the liver energy is obstructed, everything in the body tends to rise upward. In these types of patients, you can often see the physical manifestations of their emotional state. These patients might hold everything in their bodies in a tight, rigid manner. They often clench or grind their teeth in anger and frustration. Their faces might be suffused with color. That doesn’t mean all people who have a liver imbalance act this way, or that the liver is responsible for creating miserable “Type A” individuals. This liver energy is necessary for keeping us on track. Without it, we wouldn’t have a sense of purpose, and we wouldn’t be able to get anything done.

On the other hand, a person with too weak of liver energy creates a lack of boundaries, allowing for a “pushover” mentality.  This can show up when someone steps into her personal space, she steps back allowing the asserting person to overact on her.  This is an example of lacking the assertiveness that a strong liver energy can bring forth. The key is balance.

When in a state of equilibrium, the liver can move us toward our goals, allowing us to plan and follow a steady course. It can keep us on track with our plans and ambitions, and protect us from those who want to cross our boundaries and take our energetic reserves. A common diagnosis in TCM is Liver Qi Stagnation and the treatment for this pattern is Regulate Liver Qi, the herbal formula for this pattern is Xiao Yao Wan / Free and Easy Wanderer.  When a patient receives treatment for Liver Qi Stagnation, the pent up stress can flow and the frustration can turn into creation and meaningful self expression.  Happy Spring!


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