Pandemic Panic and Apocalyptic Dread
All quotes are taken from Dragon Rises, Red Bird Flies: Psychology & Chinese Medicine by Leon Hammar, M.D.
“‘fight’ or ‘flight’ […] each can be characterized in physiological terms, the former, fight, as a sympathetic autonomic response and the latter, as a parasympathetic reaction [described] respectively as “stiff” and “limp”. 282
Overstimulated or collapsed: in a world characterized by pandemic panic and apocalyptic dread, some of us tend towards one or the other, some of us are caught in a cycle of both extremes. That is a normal, logical consequence in the face of overwhelming odds.
Let us then try something radical and not seek to circumvent or change our outlook – if you are seeking the cult of positivity you can find it from myriad other sources and it has done plenty of people plenty of good. But this is not that: knotted root is about dealing with what is here.
Within a Chinese Medical framework, there are a number of organs that will be struggling to function under the strain of these overwhelming odds. But the good news is we can take steps to alleviate that burden and in so doing help ourselves breathe a little easier, feel a little more space inside, and make life a little more bearable.
If you read Grief and the Body part II you will already be familiar with the concept of Chinese medical organs performing metaphysical and emotional labor. I will not seek to demonstrate it again here, we proceed with this as a given.
So, what organs are at work in pandemic panic and apocalyptic dread? Of course the heart is a big player. An excess of any emotion injuries the heart. The lung, certainly- if you read Grief and the Body part II you know all about that. What may not seem obvious but is a crucial player is the kidney.
We will address the treatment of each in the accompanying video. For now let’s look at how these organs are involved.
First, the heart:
“Anxiety has a physiological side (disturbed breathing, increased heart activity, vasomotor changes, musculoskeletal disturbances such as trembling or paralysis, increased sweating) and of a psychological side (perception of specific unpleasurable feelings and sensations, apprehension) Fear, the Chinese say, is an emotion that descends to the Kidney, and anxiety is an emotion that ascends to the Heart. 281
As we said, any excess of emotion affects the heart. Anxiety is the current focus in the case of pandemic panic. Anxiety has a kind of agitating effect on the heart, which can lead to an almost manic presentation. Take note of how connected or “grounded” you feel in your body. If pandemic panic is affecting your heart, once you tune in you may feel a sensation of “headiness” or a frenzied sensation rising upward. This is a sign the heart is agitated and you need to find silence and calm to come back into your body.
Also, please try the self treatment in the video! We treat the pericardium and heart channels but you could argue for treating small intestine and triple warmer as well so I will include those point locations on the knotted root facebook page.
Next, the lung and kidney which are really addressed together because they are so closely linked, especially when dealing with the relationship between fear and dread.
The fear housed in the lung is that of moment to moment vigilance and assessment: am I safe? Can I breathe? Is this environment one in which I can let down my guard? In pandemic panic, the answer seems to be alternately yes and no, without really knowing when is which is what. This profound disorientation makes the job of the lungs very difficult and therefore extremely taxing.
The kidney and lung are interdependent, “kidney qi assists the lung in the ‘reception of qi’. This involves the inhalation of air and qi from the atmosphere for the entire body […] a breakdown in this contribution to respiration may result in asthma.” 111
Their interdependence is not isolated to the qi dynamic, however, but extends into their metaphysical and emotional duties. It is my belief and observation that the lungs, or the Po, the spirit of the lung which is what we are actually discussing (see previous article the Po of Grief), can become exhausted by the constant vigilance described above. If we ask ourselves, am I safe? without knowing the answer enough times it communicates a sense of dread that seems to settle deep in our bones. This is the domain of the kidneys: the sinking feeling, it’s hard to articulate but looming at the back of our minds, something ominous. In our current state I label that apocalyptic dread: we have no idea what the world will look like, we only know that we do not recognize what it looks like now.
I do not have an answer to offer that dread. I have nothing to soothe the source of that panic. All I can do is to focus on helping my patients breathe a little easier, feel a little more space inside, and try to make life a little more bearable.
What we might do with that space will be the topic of an upcoming article
Resurrection and the (Re) Evolution of Being
R.M Brown LAc