A few weeks ago, I posted about a guiding image of health I refer to when considering a healthy body and mind and I touched lightly on emotions. In this post, I’d like to talk a bit more about how emotions are inseparable from our health.
Emotions specifically depend on liquids. Without liquid, we would have no emotion. Culturally, we can imagine it as: when are we more emotional? When do we visit bodies of water, and for what reasons? How does our language express the observation of emotions in others? What kinds of liquids do we use and for which purposes for expressing which emotions? Though these are all interesting questions to ask; I’ll follow up with some answers, as quickly as I can.
People tend to be more emotional during the full moon. People will contemplate beside a lake, follow the path of a stream to explore, bring a loved one or a friend to the bank of a river to watch it flow, or to intake the power of the ocean. When we talk about emotions, we can refer to an overly sentimental person as sappy, or wishy-washy and in the other extreme barren or dry. It is interesting that we drink beer at sporting events, wine for intimate evenings, tea or water to relax or calm down. Liquid carries these drinks into our bodies and the character of each one brings about different emotional states.
Water itself permeates every aspect of life, and the human body and the planet itself is composed mostly of water. Water is associated with the unconscious and is included in all types of ritual- be it something as simple as a celebration at a sporting event or a spiritual ceremony. There are ponds and lakes–places where water gathers. And there are streams, rivers and oceans, which are places where water moves. This brings me back to the vision, or image, of health and the mountain stream’s emotional complement: healthy flow.
There are natural and healthy emotions. Like a mountain stream in equilibrium, we associate streams with tranquility, curiosity, joy. This is our natural emotional state. Our natural emotions, when consistent, encourage a healthy flow in our body and mind together. In an unnatural state, there is disruption. I am saying that emotions are not positive or negative, but that the state of our emotions is either natural and healthy, or disrupted. In disrupted, unhealthy states, our liquid is either stagnant or surging. Stagnancy, or lack of movement, can be expressed as desensitization, depression or numbness. And surges, which seem like “boiling over”, can be expressed as aggression or hysteria.
Emotions also depend upon temperature. Emotion expresses itself when liquid comes to the surface of the body and evaporates. This partially explains how people living in or visiting hotter climates express emotions more readily than in colder climates where we may need to be “warmed up” first. The use of more fire in cooking raises our temperature. Outdoor cooking, such as barbecue, brings out a lot of emotion. Other ways of raising our temperature is in the use spices, stimulants, and alcohol. The opposite, cold, interferes with our ability to express emotions smoothly. Cold affects our bodies through ice, out-of-climate foods and chemicals (especially artificial sweeteners). Extremes of both hot and cold have disruptive effects on our emotions and in turn, our physical and mental health.
It follows then that the state of our emotional health has the capacity to affect the course of our overall health, either in a more natural and healthy flow or into more disrupted and unhealthy flow. Because health craves health, a flowing and joyous emotional state helps us flow with healthy habits. This season is a perfect time while in the company of family or friends to return to our natural state of tranquility, curiosity, and joy.