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Harmonious Emptiness

Balanced "negative" emotions

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A lot of people who follow spiritual paths are very suppressive of their "negative" emotions, hoping to "extinguish" them. I'd like to talk a bit about this, especially regarding the total suppression of anger.


Much of post-Qin era Taoism showed influence from The Doctrine of the Mean, which speaks of having balanced levels of both positive and "negative" emotions. Chuang Tzu also reflected someone who did not suppress their emotions, but lived in balance and harmony with them. His influence appeared to show in some Zen "attitudes" as well.


Please see the following quote from The Doctrine of the Mean, by Zisi (Confucius' grandson):


"While there are no stirrings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy, the mind may be said to be in the state of Equilibrium. When those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree, there ensues what may be called the state of Harmony. This Equilibrium is the great root from which grow all the human actings in the world, and this Harmony is the universal path which they all should pursue.

Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish.



So, even though Confucian influence is often considered to be the source of cold, passionlessness in demeanor, Confucius' grandson, Zisi, knew that the emotions of pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy, were to be allowed to sprout "in their due degree."


Someone recently posted about being diagnosed with weak liver qi, being in a job they feel stuck in and afraid to leave, and feeling depression about the whole thing. I noticed that the poster also said they felt better after some kung fu classes, but wasn't comfortable with the aggressiveness of it. He also dealt a lot with his frustration.


Now in a case like this, some would ask: "should anger be suppressed in order to avoid further liver qi issues?"


Anger is an emotion of the liver. Look at it this way: Liver is wood energy. Wood rises.


When you're trying to rise and something gets in your way, what emotion tries to fight it? Anger.


Extreme anger just burns out the liver, like putting fire to the wood. But anger, in balance, is useful. It's a function, if you will.


If you overly suppress "negative" emotions, they will also become problems which manifest physically. Sometimes a chi kung healer will even need to release the suppressed emotions using various possible techniques. This may include the healer manifesting the emotion themselves in order to help the client's release of it (see Sat Chuen Hon's "Taoist QiGong for Health and Vitality").


So, if you face a situation which requires a bit of constructive anger, but suppress the anger, what happens? how do you deal with it? Most often, people deal with it by wateriness, fear, avoiding, trying to find a way around it no matter how much they have to adjust themselves. Adaptability can be a positive attribute of courage, but when it's based in fear, it taxes the kidneys which leads to more fear.


When the liver energy is strong, it draws water energy from the kidneys in balanced amounts which keeps the water energy from being stagnant (the worst way for water to be is stagnant). This way, the kidneys' energy provides courage, and nourishes the liver which can provide the upward force needed to push through the weeds and branches and get to the sunlight! (ie., finally changing a situation)


So, just remember if you ever feel that being a "shrinking violet" is part of the spiritual path, that you may be doing you, and your path, a lot more harm than good.


(note: this may contradict your structured program of spiritual development. If this is the case, I do not mean to suggest that you should abandon the techniques prescribed by it).



Any comments or criticisms on the above article are welcome.

Edited by Harmonious Emptiness
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As I'm thinking about this some more, and relating to the emotions associated with the 5 elements and (yang) organs



It makes sense that fear would be the emotion associated with the kidneys, since, what happens when you feel fear? Adrenaline!


Lungs/Metal/Sense of Environment/Sorrow.

I'm seeing now that it also makes sense that the lungs would be associated with both sorrow and the connection with one's environment (see po spirit, also Hon "the consciouness of the lung has the spirit of protection and the emotion of greif"). I thought this relation to the connection to one's environment was just due to the lungs and skin being the closest to contact with the environment.


But when looking for the positive function of sorrow, I ask myself, what does it bring? It brings sympathy, empathy, and Cí 慈.

(see Lao Tzu Chapter 67: "I have Three Treasures; Guard them and keep them safe: the first is Love (Ci 慈)."

With sympathy and empathy comes listening and connecting with the environment. So it makes sense that the lungs would be related to both sorrow and awareness of the environment.



Joy, pleasure, thrills. A lot of people overly suppress this as well.


Spleen/Earth/Calm and Grounded/Worry.

Worry, over thinking, digestion. Might be lacking/out of balance for some people. The spleen likes sweet taste. What does too much sugar do to kids, and lack of sugar do to some diabetics? Makes them erratic, causes ADHD behaviour in kids, un-groundedness. So the pensiveness, in the right amount, could help one to reconnect with the virtue of the spleen.




As you may have noticed, this is my own theorizing on 5 elements/wu xing theory, presented for consideration, rather than paraphrasing of authoritative sources. Essentially the idea being that the "negative emotions" have useful functions "when those feelings have been stirred, and they act in their due degree."



"Let the states of equilibrium and harmony exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail throughout heaven and earth, and all things will be nourished and flourish."



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