Catharsis comes from the Greek word ‘katharsis’ and means: to release through drama. We all have some drama in our lives and usually need to find ways of dealing with it. Whether we use creative expression such as music, art and literature, exercise, or just plain unloading a screaming fit on some stupid bureaucrat whom may or may not deserve it, catharsis is not only necessary but also healthy. When we don’t release our stress, it turns inwards and will effect our health in a myriad of ways. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), internal organs are linked to different emotional pathologies. For example, anger is associated with the liver. Have you ever been at the dinner table and had a big fight with someone in the family? Notice how either your appetite vanishes, or becomes out of control? Chinese pathology calls this liver and spleen disharmony. Conceptually in TCM, the liver governs the free flow of Qi or energy, while the spleen controls transportation and transformation of food essence. In order for the food essence to be distributed properly, Qi must flow smoothly and freely. When it doesn’t, indigestion results.
In a western paradigm, the liver secretes bile, which is used to digest fat. Bile secretion is optimal when we are in relaxed mode (increased parasympathetic nervous tone). When we are stressed (increased sympathetic nervous tone), we have blood flow diverted away from our digestive organs to the skeletal muscles, increased adrenalin secretion and preparation for a fight or flight. This is the worst time to eat as you probably know. Yet, how many of us are in a constant state of being wired and tired? Although there are many ways to change this, the important thing to remember is to do the thing that gives you the catharsis that you enjoy. Although sucking back pints at the pub might help temporarily, as might medications like antidepressants, they are solutions to a problem that aren’t sustainable or long term without adverse consequences. Exercise, nutrition and creative pursuits are far more productive and are long-term recipes for success. Yoga not your thing? Try picking up Julia Child’s book “How to Cook” and making a nice French meal. Or better yet, write your MP and give them a taste of your frustration.
Although some of these little interventions might take longer than 2 min, others like yelling out a string of profanities only takes seconds, and you will feel better as a result. Stay tuned next week when we talk about magnesium supplementation.
Be Well and Be Zen,