Have you wondered why is it that one person is full of life and may set out to achieve amazing goals while another person is dull and does not set out to achieve anything? I often wondered why particular people were predisposed to be a certain way. After reading “Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies” I realized there was more underlying factors to the human character than the usual emotions covered in so many texts. It is true, that some of our make-up develops from our emotions and these emotions, being fear, anger, joy, worry and sadness, are very important in the clinic. Patients will, in fact, have one of these emotional imbalances as a chief complaint. The emotions will too, bear weight in the clinic as a classic manifestation of a particular pattern and diagnosis. However, TCM psychology is far more exhilarating to study and far more useful in the clinic when you can look beyond the emotional state of the patient. This is the ability to recognize that each individual has a defined primal disposition. This quality or makeup of the individual shapes the person’s entire life from the day they are born. Based on five-element, yin-yang, deficiency/excess and Zang-Fu theory, I will summarize these individual traits into fundamental explanations, so they can be useful in the clinic.

Kidneys “Courage”

IMG_1144.JPGBronze statue of Bruce Lee on “Walk of Stars” Hong Kong, 2007

1.) Kidney Yin: Influences learning, nutrition, growth and cultural development.

  • Kidney yin deficiency:

Will not identify with human values or ethics, will tend to be crude or savage like, indifferent for aesthetics, make poor judgments, will have increased irritability, egocentricity, cheerlessness, paranoia and depression. They will suffer from fear but will mask it with aggressive pose. Ultimately, there will be an exaggerated show of will and drive due to the yang compensatory.

  • Kidney Yin Excess:

Left Brain: The deductive process and six senses are the touchstones to reality. They are logical, unimaginative, grounded and have clear-cut relationships. Death is final. Lacks spontaneity.

Right brain: Idealistic, romantic, inspired, unpredictable and impulsive. Revelation through intuition.

2.) Kidney Yang: The life force, energy, mingmen, heat, motivation and will power with the dynamic, goal-oriented and aggressive will to live. Future.

  • Kidney Yang Deficiency: This person tends to live an easy lifestyle with low motivation, a lack of power to act, lack of strength and endurance and Incentive. They will depression, gloominess, cheerless, inadequacy and lifelong fear with deep frustration but cannot develop rage. There will be a Lack of confidence and faith in oneself and in others with the tendency to blame others. Brightness and sharpness will be missing.
  • Kidney Yang Excess: Enormous self-confidence, excess will, with Identification as god. This person is about power rather than pleasure. Live on will and drive! Burn brightly early and burnout. Human dynamo. Can lead to tyranny.

3.) Kidney Qi: The Kidney Qi is both the yin and yang energy of the body. It balances, directs growth, development and reproduction. It anchors the shen and keeps perspective in the here and now. It helps achieve authenticity of feelings and thoughts.

  • Kidney Qi deficiency: This person will have a lack of faith in oneself. Being afraid is a common pattern. One tends to avoid the present and confrontation of strong, immediate feelings. There will be an internal conflict between longing and fear. One cannot permit themselves to experience the awe of life wonders. Inspiration is forestalled and underdeveloped. They will have a lack of humility, spiritual principles and values. Fear is dominance and the determining force for expression with the inability to look people in the eye and a general uneasiness.
  • Kidney Qi Excess: An Intelligent, motivated person who can develop fanaticism and rigidity with Inflexible principles.

Liver: “Direction”

IMG_2331Hiking the Foothills with my home below in Jinan, 2007

The wisdom to know when to move forward and when to be still.

1.) Liver Yin: The ability to retreat, wait and a voluntary surrender of the ego, man’s most difficult task.

  • Liver Yin Deficiency: Retreat means humiliation, therefore is impossible. Stand up and fight can lead to self-destruction. Inability to back down and every provocation is an engagement. There is no surrender, acceptance, withdrawal or strategic retreat. A constant state of readiness and a feeling of persecution while always on guard and there is no relaxation. Humiliation will lead to depression, which is an acceptable retreat. His mind will never feel tranquility or creative awareness. Extremes are rare and flexibility is limited. May appear strong on the surface, but tires easily due to the deficiency.
  • Liver Yin Excess: A pacifist, forever withdrawing from life’s battles, avoids trouble, sees no value in struggles and making it a virtue. This person cannot hurt a living soul. Naturally, warm and friendly with a soft voice, easy to please and is giving and gentle. Tends to like comfortable, safe, monastic places and enjoys many activities with less people. Any situation that requires a struggle, aggression towards another or a need to show force will elicit anxiety. This is because of a fear of their aggression. Therefore, aggression against the self is more acceptable and desirable. The emotional withdrawal leads to depression and withdrawing one’s thoughts will inhibit development through loss of stimulation rendering thinking stale and repetitive.

2.) Liver Yang: The ability to move forward and act.

  • Liver Yang (Gallbladder) Deficiency: Without the yang energy to act, there will be an inability to assert themselves. This will lead to anger directed inward because they cannot stand up for themselves in a disagreement and that leads to depression and excessive compliance. Underachiever but may be quite intelligent. Big ideas but cannot follow through because they cannot come up with enough energy to finish what they begin. Ambivalence develops, indecision and undermining one’s plans. Terror from the thought of humiliation, they will develop passive/aggressive behavior depending on the kidney’s strength, stubbornness, spite, will be argumentative and have temper tantrums. Ultimately, feelings of worthlessness develop, inadequacy and low self-esteem
  • Liver Yang Excess: An individual who cannot accept no for an answer and are unable hear that or accept. They love sound of their own voice. Driven by underlying anger. There is little or no anxiety but much agitation without getting what they want with a distorted judgment to achieve their compulsion. They align themselves with passive and competent people to cover their own inadequacies, require full attention, have one-sided relationships and love is almost out of the question. Above all, they are outgoing and an enthusiastic person with an outlook only for his own self-aggrandizement. Eventually there is self-destruction. There is no joy with little happiness.

Heart: “Expression”

IMG_2369Largest carved seal? in Tiantai, 2008 

Intelligent formulation of creative visions and concepts and development of conscious, symbolic, intelligent, interpersonal communication including verbal, mathematical, musical, visual and motile forms of expression. 

1.) Heart Yin: Insight and realization, inspiration, originality, formulation and loving.

  • Heart Yin Deficiency: Dull, boring, cold and uninspired. This person will have a lack of zest, spontaneity, excitement or repression, of expression of joy, originality. They will have cyclic depression due to repression of being. They may be ambitious but will be a follower. Strong need for approval and focuses on the past. There will be a lack of interest in pleasurable activities and a lack of love or warmth. Will avoid certain situations or issues and have selective inattention. Diminished thinking or concentration with indecisiveness will lead to emotional. Anxiety and phobias develop due to emotional expansiveness of a pleasurable or joyful nature. May feel conformity leading to irritability, agitation and restlessness.
  • Heart Yin Excess: This person has a constant flood of information and material, enhanced awareness of inner world of unconscious and constant impinging sensory and emotional stimuli. This heavy bombardment leads to agitation, restlessness and will leave them fatigued, not rested after sleep, self involved and withdrawn. There is a struggle to maintain a steady focus and jumping of one thing to another. Always under siege of a flood of ideas, feelings and images from the inside, they avoid confusion, disorganization and try to maintain continuity of thought, concentration and attention. This takes a great amount of energy to maintain homeostasis and can lead to anxiety due to thoughts of losing one’s mind or being overwhelmed, fear of appearing irrational or crazy. There can be a fear of closeness to others for this reason. They are highly sensitive and highly reactive to their environment and too busy maintaining stability to be aware of any depression. Love is a problem due to controlling the vulnerability and inside leading to overwhelming feelings.

2.) Heart Yang: Expression, organized, conceptualized and utilizable communication.

  • Heart Yang Deficiency: Enjoyment of creative ideas but without expressive execution. This progresses into many beginnings but few endings. This is a bright individual who never lives up to their potential, bursting with inspiration but unable to transform it into organized execution. Many fine ideas will fall the wayside due to disorganized, scattered, unfocused expression. Frustration. These repeated failures lead them to be the underdog and unconventional, bohemian and anti-establishment activities. This daredevil seeks excitement and addictive feel love but cannot express love. Expression will always be a potential provocation of danger and anxiety phobias including stage fright, public speaking and events of a similar nature. Accumulates pain and frustration due to lack of expression. Suicide may be the only outlet.
  • Heart Yang Excess: Expression becomes the overriding energy and life agenda and far outruns creative material available. Quantity overpowers quality. These repetitive and compulsive communicators run out of their own ideas. Clear and sharp minded, they need to keep an audience. Anxiety will rise of being found out to have no ideas. They end up in mediocrity and may lead to depression. Love is unfulfilling for partners who feel there is nothing behind their words. Mood swings.


Security and restoration to allow safety and growth. The realization of successful interpersonal relations with the quality and quantity of contact with the outside world that enhances individual development. Safe human contact, unification of love and to keep complex relationships.

1.) Pericardium Yin: Continued nurturance and prevent the spirit from being drained. Balance passion and reason.

  • Pericardium Yin Deficiency: This person is unable to fend for themselves in love, sex and creative aspects. They are easily exploited and eager to please in order to be accepted, therefore, focusing on others rather than grounding themselves, they engender superficiality, emotional instability restlessness and desperation. Submission. They wear their heart on their sleeve. Impulsive in relationships but short lived, promiscuous and looks for affection and do not trust their own judgment.
  • Pericardium Yin Excess: They have difficulty opening their heart to give or receive, feel empty and isolated. They also have difficulty opening their mind to consider new ideas and give little to their real selves and make no sacrifice. Scrooge, bitter, cheated, vengeful, loneliness, emptiness, and sadness. Nothing is real sacred in their lives. Love is a painful experience. Suffer exhaustion.

2.) Pericardium Yang: This energy provides energy for acquisition and shield. Provides thrust, direction, precision, timing and appropriateness of expression. To reach the correct mark with intense, focused communication and to seek and find appropriate fulfilling response for expressed love or creativity. Persuasive! Right place, right time, right people and message. Good lover and fighter and use of words and very convincing.

  • Pericardium Yang Deficiency: There will be plenty ideas and ego but this person will be unable to do so when it counts. They will be out of synchronization and will fail constantly due to a weak presentation or performance. This leads to the feeling of emptiness and frustration spiraling into rage and blaming others for failure. Domination and manipulation may be used to make up for failure.
  • Pericardium Yang Excess: Rely on style, words and promises and too little on substance and action with the overcorrection of others.

Small Intestine

The minister of Information and the separation of ideas: Good from bad, nourishing from destructive, clarity and confusion. Contribute to safe, effective and intelligent statements of a creative and loving being. Purify and transform heart yin energy and remove excess heat from the heart to calm the spirit.

  • Small Intestine Yang Deficiency: Difficulty separating thoughts and feelings and setting priorities. Less discerning to taste in all areas of life and unwilling to be flexible and consider change. Will cling to what is known and limited by lack of depth and growth. A subtle rigidity.
  • Small Intestine Yang Excess: There will be a too black and white outlook on life with no grey areas. Compromise and creative change is difficult. Emphasis is primarily on analysis. Excess drain on heart fire will reduce joy and can lead to depression.

San Jiao

Balance, accurate flow, integration, harmony and orientation, perception and socialization. Equal both sides of brain: Creative and logical. Social bonds especially with friends and family.

Upper: Reach out to the world with the strength to communicate and protect, maintain mental and emotional stability.

Middle: Centered and balanced in life with the ability to handle stress and to replenish the body.

Lower: Rooted and ability to heal.

  • San Jiao Deficiency: Difficulty integrating the inevitable discordances of being. The lack of integration, coldness, hardness and the tendency to go to extremes. Writers block. Wide variations in performance, problems of perception, disrupted personal relations, poorly integrated and coordination.

Spleen & Stomach: “Bonding and Separation” 

IMG_1394Dr. Kim from North Korea and myself at a “Quan Xie” farm in Southern Shandong, 2008

The Spleen and stomach coincide with the survival in life. Quietness, peace, calmness, compassion and grounded, serenity and reflection evenness and easiness over trouble are its balance. Trust and self worth come from this along with positive initiative, bonding with others and to fulfill developmental destiny.

  • Earth Deficiency: Unstable, immature and inadequate. This deficiency is the inability to maintain and understand boundaries between the inside and the outside world. Confusion with the loss of boundaries lead to attention, concentration, memory, organization and reality are compromised. This person will develop obsessions, worry, depression, no confidence, show little expectance, have addictions and cravings, be compulsive and show bizarre behavior, have feelings of inadequacy, general avoidance, paranoia, borderline personalities, narcissistic personality and too little or too inflated self esteem. They are overly concerned and have inordinate compassion. The thoughts will be unfocused and scattered, information will be overwhelming, there will be difficulty digesting thoughts and will lead to confusion because one cannot digest information into organized thought. When they are older and have to go out into world, their immediate needs will influence emotional thought processes towards concrete concerns. Later on, they are unable to establish self in the real world of work and finances. The lack of preparation and frustration is part of daily life. They become envious, the demands are endless, satisfaction is short lived and resentment remains. Lastly, they are unable to care for themselves of all kinds including financial support.
  • Earth Excess: Tend to break bonds rather than form them. At times, this pattern is developed from being an only child who lived at the center of attention, a spoiled child, endlessly demanding and frustrated with expectations at all times. Endless frustration and confusion, thinking they know everything and do little. In actuality, they are quite inadequate. They are opinionated and have a superiority complex but can be quite immature, clinging, vengeful, and burden others with concerns. Guilt trappers.

Lung: “Transformation”

IMG_0473Summit of Hua Shan, 2007

1.) Lung Yin: “Refined Individuation” Interactions to bond two people, attraction or grief. Guide us to a self-identity, self-confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. I Am. This yin is further enhancement and refinement. Responsibility, push beyond limits and fulfillment. The ameliorating factor is the renewal of ideas, ideals and values.

  • Lung Yin Deficiency: Unable to form new attachments and lasting relationships, experience meaningless relationships or one-sided relationships being the recipient of the love and not the giver. They are incapable to sustain strong feelings, have low self-esteem, Complain, grumble and groan. Life will be insipid and wan, cognition stale and repetitive, spiritual development uninspiring with insufficient support for growth or creativity. Self-development and awareness will not occur without a period of testing authority and obeying others authority over one’s own is normal. Their buried hurt, pain, resentment will yield illness from grief.
  • Lung Yin Excess: This type of person will over attach themselves, be all consuming and engulfing, draining energy, ideas, spirit and emotions and replace them with their own. They are domineering and possessive. Acquisition for purpose of possession and all devouring, but they are self-absorbed and makes heavy demands and lack originality. They live off of plagiarism and exaggeration.

2.) Lung Yang: Nourish relationships with individuals and society-shared responsibility. Centrifugal, expansion, release, letting go of attachments to ideas and beliefs as well as emotion and people. Socialization. The excitement in interpersonal and intellectual vistas and the forgiveness, surrender, survival and satisfaction through society and culture. Rite of passage.

 Large Intestine

  • Large Intestine Yang Deficiency: The inability to let go of people, ideas, beliefs and cling to the known. Reluctance, prolonged development, cautious, resistant and avoidance, preservation and immaturity, dependent on outside authority. Inadequate socialization. Does not forgive easily and problems of letting go. Grievance is difficult. Clinging relationships.
  • Large Intestine Yang Excess: Labile and change. Live in the moment! Sincere and energetic, relationships and curious carried away. Love is new and excitement, powerful affairs and passion. They avoid intimacy. Lacks grounding and can be a pushover.

Dr. Brian Grosam