Do We Cause Our Emotions? An Interesting Connection Between Our Organs & How We Feel

By Reniel


Last Updated: January 8, 2022

Many people don’t know this, but there’s an interesting connection between our emotions and body organs. 

With modern psychology and biomedicine, we understand how our brains affect our bodies, connecting to our organs and releasing hormones that change our physical state. 

We know that when we are faced with an opponent or something that is aggressive towards us, our brains send a distress signal to our adrenal glands (On top of our kidneys) that there is danger, triggering the release of that fight-or-flight hormone, adrenaline.

Our reaction then is to fight or flee, thanks to the response of our organs to a perceived threat.

But how does that explain what emotion we are having at the same time? Naturally, we are probably feeling afraid or worried on some level. But we may not immediately connect issues with our kidneys to a feeling of fear or worry.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is clear how our emotions are associated with our organs.


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Your Emotions Are Linked to Your Organs

"...emotions are natural and healthy - they are not “good” or “bad.” However, they can be balanced, repressed, or excessive. In TCM, when an emotion is stuffed-down as well as even experienced repeatedly or inappropriately (out-of-context), it can show in the body as physical symptoms associated with its paired internal organ." - Lauren Dyer, DAC

In this way, they look at bodily responses and emotions differently and longer term - how we feel psychologically has an effect on us physiologically. If we feel angry too often, or at high levels, we may be causing damage to our liver. 

According to a study on Understanding Mind-Body Interaction From the Perspective of East Asian Medicine published in 2017, human emotions manifest through physiological responses.

In trying to understand the link between our minds and bodies (From the Eastern medicine perspective.), this study found that there were specific patterns between the emotions people felt and the corresponding organ system. 

Feelings of anger showed a response in the liver.

Feelings of happiness showed up in the heart. 

Sadness? In the heart and lungs. Fear in the kidneys and heart. 

In essence, there is a close relationship between your feelings and body responses.   


The 6 Primary Emotions

Humans have up to 27 different emotions, but psychologist Dr. Paul Ekman, famous for his study and research into non-verbal behavior, identified only six as basic, universal emotions. (These have since been expanded and updated.) 

  • Happiness
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Surprise
  • Disgust

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are considered to be 5 basic emotions: 

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Sadness
  • Worry

"In TCM, it is believed that emotional imbalances can act as both symptoms and causes for physical issues. Additionally, mental health conditions are linked to specific physical ailments of key organs." - VeryWellMind

Each emotion is associated with a corresponding body organ.

For instance, when you are happy, the pituitary gland in your brain naturally releases endorphins and dopamine, which are hormones associated with excitement, satisfaction, and pleasure.

When nervous or fearful, the adrenal glands in your kidneys release cortisol and adrenaline to increase your focus and aid your stress response.

In both TCM and Western medicine, having an imbalance in any of our organs can lead to health issues. 


8 Organs Connected to Our Emotions 

1. Heart

The heart is the principal organ of the body, and the primary emotion associated with it is joy or excitement.

However, excessive joy or overexcitement can be dangerous, and it can lead to an imbalance, causing insomnia, nightmares, restlessness, mania, palpitations, and excess risk-taking.

Being the center of all emotions, other feelings such as grief, anger, and fear also must filter through the heart.

2. Liver

The liver’s primary functions are to produce bile, break down nutrients, excrete hormones, and store glycogen. Too much bile causes anger, which leads to resentment, frustration, jealousy, irritability, rage, and hatred.

Symptoms of a liver imbalance include dizziness, blurry vision, headache, stiff neck, hypertension, and painful menstrual cramps.

3. Spleen

The emotion associated with the spleen is worry or anxiety. Scientifically, the spleen stores blood and produces white blood cells for enhanced immunity. In alternative medicine, its work is to control your physical energy. 

When the spleen is overwhelmed, you may feel pensive, depressed, or exhausted. Some people lose their appetite, experience long menstrual periods, and struggle with digestion issues.

4. Kidneys

Fear is directly associated with the adrenal glands found in your kidneys.

The kidneys are responsible for flushing out toxins from the body. However, in case of extreme fear, this function may become impaired. Your kidneys may lose control, and you may exhibit symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, frequent urination, hearing loss, and even infertility.

5. Lungs

After the heart, the lungs are second in line as the body’s principal organs.

They are responsible for respiration, regulating sweat glands, and distributing vital energy throughout the body. 

Like the heart, the lungs are vulnerable to various emotional states, but sadness and grief are associated with these organs. Too much grief and sadness can affect the lungs and lead to shortness of breath, chest tightness, asthma, eczema, and frequent crying.     

6. Stomach

The emotions associated with the stomach or gut include nervousness, fear, and sometimes rage. This explains why people have butterflies in their bellies before public speaking or in nervous situations.

Excess negative emotions in the gut can lead to choleric conditions such as ulcers, gastritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diarrhea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.    

7. Small Intestine

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the small intestine is one of the five major yang organs.

It is associated with blood circulation and hormonal balance throughout the body. The emotions linked to the small intestine are joy, agitation, and feeling lost or vulnerable. You must find a balance between your happiness and anxiety to avoid negative feelings.

8. Large Intestine

The large intestine is another major yang organ, and its primary role is to dispel waste from the body through the rectum. It also absorbs vitamins, water, and electrolytes from indigestible food.

The emotions connected to the large intestine are similar to the lungs, including sadness and grief. An imbalance in your feelings associated with the large intestine can cause hemorrhoids, irritable bowel disorder, and gastrointestinal diseases.


Bottom line

As you already know by now, your emotions and bodily organs are connected and almost synonymous. 

Failure to control your feelings can be overwhelming to the body and make you sick. On the other hand, learning to control your emotions depends on how well you care for your body and overall health. 

Understanding the different associations between your organs and emotions lets you know what to work on to get desirable results and avert avoidable health concerns.      

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash


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