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The Seven Emotions - Kidneys & Fear/Fright

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

The fascination for me about the seven emotions is how they show a direct connection with our physical body. There is a somatic response, especially when those emotions are at their extremes. The Qi of that particular zang-fu (internal organ) can be affected, disrupting its function. This underpins the notion that there is no separation between body, emotion, and spirit. In this blog, the emotions we will be looking at are fear and fright, as well as the related yin organ, which is the Kidney. Also touching on Shen (spirit), Zhi (will), and the related element Water.


These are the last two of the seven emotions that I will be covering in this blog.

The other five are available to read on my blog page.

The 6th and 7th emotions are fear and fright, which are associated with the Kidneys.

First, I would just like to define the differences between these emotions. Fear could be anything along the lines of phobias or a sense of not feeling safe. Fright is something that could be triggered by a sudden shock. The effect on the Kidneys is very similar: increased levels of adrenaline are produced, and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is engaged, putting your body into the fight/flight/freeze/faint response. For example, in those moments of fear or fright, it is possible to lose voluntary control of the Bladder or even the movement of your body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the term used in this situation is 'the has Qi dropped.'

It is said in the Nei Jing that:

when one is in fear, then the Qi moves down, when one is frightened, then the Qi is in disorder. - Paul Unschuld Translation

This commentary is from the Nei Jing by Zhang Jiebin.

When one is severely frightened, or has sudden fear, then the spirit-mind disperses, the Blood and the Qi separates and the yin and the yang Qi disperse. Hence, 'the Qi is in disorder.' - Paul Unschuld Translation

Being exposed to fear and fright regularly or for long periods keeps your body on high alert, which is taxing on your Kidneys. As with the other five emotions that I have covered: Anger, Joy, Worry, Grief/sadness, being frequently in that zone of excess can affect the physical and psychological. When an imbalance with the Kidneys takes place, you might be aware of signs and symptoms like incontinence, tinnitus, hair loss or grey hair at an early age, fatigue, low back pain, or insomnia.

Insomnia would usually be associated with the heart, but there is a strong connection between the Heart and Kidney, which is why you may experience symptoms of insomnia. The Heart pumps the Blood, and the Blood is cleaned by the Kidneys, then travels through the Heart again as part of the cycle. In TCM, if the Blood is in poor condition, it can affect the Shen (spirit) of the Heart, resulting in symptoms of insomnia.

The state of the Blood shapes the spirit, the movement of Qi defines the Blood. - Andrew Nugent-Head

The one Yin organ that is at the centre of all the emotions and can be greatly disturbed by all these imbalances is the Heart. The Heart houses the Shen - I have written more on this here.

Zhi - Will

Each of the five elements has a Shen, and the Shen name for the Water element is Zhi, which means Will, ambition, and aspiration. It is a quality that enables us to move forward, akin to rushing water. We are able to put plans and decisions into action with the desire to accomplish a vision or meet a deadline. This is the yang aspect of Will: knowing just how much to do without sacrificing our health.

When this Will is out of balance and leaning in the excess direction, you might work or play beyond exhaustion, usually with the assistance of stimulants like coffee. All with the purpose of pushing through any tiredness or pain.

But long periods of this have the risk of slowing down the development of your Essence, which affects the Qi, which then affects the Shen, which inhibits the development of your Essence.

With this continuous cycle, your system becomes drained, and symptoms of fatigue, sleep problems, skin issues, and other symptoms may show.

If the Will is leaning in the deficient direction, there may be signs and symptoms like lethargy, loss of determination, or impotence.

Maintaining your physical Essence is something you aim for with a lifestyle balance.

There are always exceptions to the rule. Some people are able to live a functioning life with all forms of excess and live well into their old age. I do not have the answer to this, but genes must play a part in their resilience.

Some plants are able to redirect the compounds that increase their defences against attack or pathogens to the part of the plant that needs them. But it does this at the risk of weakening another part of itself. Consequently, it reduced its Wei Qi (protective Qi) in another section of the plant. There is always a payoff.

Water - Wisdom

All five elements have a virtue associated with them, which assists us in navigating our world.

Liver: Hun; Heart: Shen; Spleen: Yi; Lung: Po.

The virtuous nature of the Water element, which is associated with the Kidneys, is wisdom.

This Wisdom is not about knowing things. In fact, it is more about being deeply connected with the unknown. - Ted Kaptchuk - The web that has no weaver.

Have you ever been somewhere and had the feeling that something wasn't right?

Some call it a gut feeling; it isn't necessarily based on any sensory cues, but you have a somatic experience. Then, trusting that internal wisdom, you make a new decision. This is being connected with the unknown.

In a book by Stephen Porge called 'The Polyvagal Theory' the term neuroception is used. It is a visceral response to the unknown, to something that isn't tangible or easily explained.

According to TCM, this form of wisdom develops over time and is said to mature with age.


The word rest, written in the sand. A beach

In nature there are the four activities, generation, stimulation of growth, killing and storage.

These four activities are representations of our four seasons spring, summer, autumn and winter respectively. At the time of writing this blog, we are in the heart of winter, which is the season associated with the Kidneys. The sun rises later and sets earlier, the warmth is no longer in the air, and fewer bird songs, as nature becomes slower, and turns to stillness.

Ideally for us to remain healthy throughout the year, keeping in step with the movement of the seasons, would be beneficial. Winter is the stage at where the energy is more yin. We slow down, go to sleep earlier, wake later, consume warming food and drinks, and rest more.

Our Qi, the earth's Qi, and the Qi of the heavens are intrinsically linked. They each have their position and this is where their Qi is based. They also all interact and influence each other.

The Qi of Heaven - stars, rain, wind, cold, summer heat.

The Qi of Earth - mountains, rivers, animals, plants, birds, fish.

The Qi of Man - Qi and Blood - depletion, replenish, internal, external, rebellious, obedience.

As we are entwined in this union of Heaven, Earth and Man, it is easier and more enriching for us to flow the same way. We must aim not to resist or fight against the natural flow.

Kidney Health

Image of Kidneys

The health of our kidneys is important, as is the health of all of our organs, as we go through the natural stages of life, which are: birth, development, maturation, decline, and death.

In the following quote from the Nei Jing, it is clear that the ongoing maintenance of our system is required for a smoother transition through these stages.

Huang Di asked Qi Bo (his medical advisor) this question.

When someone is old in years and no longer has children, is it that his strength is exhausted? Or is it that the heavenly numbers are such?" - Paul Unschuld translation

Eating well and in line with the seasons and supporting your whole system with nurturing activities are a few ways to improve and maintain your health. During the winter months, rest is an important element to include. It is time to reserve your energy and reflect before we move forward into the next phase.

As you go through the seven emotions, you will see that we are a combination of all of them in different degrees. There is a constant interplay physically and emotionally between Yin and Yang, Qi and Blood, as we respond to our social environment and tussle with internal dialogues.

Zen Shiatsu helps to support
and regulate your system.
While working with the physical,
It is helping the psycho-emotional
While working on the flow,
It is helping to restore
Zen Shiatsu has a holistic approach.
To maintaining your wellbeing.

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