Anxiety and the Nervous System
The virtue associated with it is wisdom and the way to think about wisdom would be trusting or acting in the face of fear. When you’re in that deep place of unknown, of mystery, of potential fear, because you’re in the darkness, that’s when we have to trust the flow of life. We have to trust that life is taking us where it wants us or needs us to go and water is very primal. It’s related much more to our hindbrain, which is part of why it gives rise to these instincts and we’ll talk about the nervous system a little bit more in just a second here. But it’s primal in that sense of, we all share this innate ability to stay alive, to want to stay alive. We will fight and do whatever we have to at any cost to stay alive, that survival instinct exists amongst all the species, all the beings, all the entities on the planet, whether you’re a plant, an insect, a human doesn’t matter, we all have that. We all share that really deep kind of survival; it’s survival, but it’s all this instinct is there. It’s also this impulse to want to evolve. Let’s talk about the nervous system then.
If you’re new to me and how I relate to and talk about Chinese medicine you’ll know that there’s never a one to one correlation between Western systems and Eastern systems and that’s very important to remember, and it’s important that we honour the Western system for all of its beauty and its wisdom and we honor the Eastern system for all of its beauty and all of its wisdom. Of course, over the years we’ve started to understand where there might be overlap, where there might be sort of synergy amongst how the sort of themes of the five elements or the themes of the organ systems show up in relationship to the themes and the systems of the in the Western medical system. The nervous system is heavily related to the water element. It’s not the only one, but it’s very related to it and in the case of anxiety, which is of course the purpose of this video, we need to get deeper into the nervous system. You’ll remember from the five element piece that we just did, that there are two components to the nervous system. We have the central nervous system, which is our brain and our spinal cord and then we have our peripheral nervous system and the peripheral nervous system is all the nerves that supply the body. So they come out from the brain and the spinal column and they supply the body with nerve impulses; they don’t actually supply that, but they are like a conduit for that back and forth of information going to the brain and the spine.
Then from this peripheral nervous system we have the somatic and the autonomic and so the somatic stuff is what is under our voluntary control. I can very clearly tell my hand to come and cup my face. I know I’m telling my body to do this so everything’s being recruited the muscles and the neurons, and the information is all telling me I can do this. Autonomic nervous system is all of those things that are not within our conscious control, they’re automatic, blood pressure, immune system, respiration rate, heart rate. all of the things that we don’t need to think about. There’s a big association then with water and all of those autonomic processes because again, it’s all about the hindbrain and those responses from the hindbrain. Then further to the peripheral nervous system, we have a sympathetic and parasympathetic, and this is a lot to do with our stress response and the sympathetic is when we are in danger and we need to get the hell out of somewhere. It will kick up into high gear. It’s putting the gas on the pedal. It’s activating and basically mobilizing muscles, blood, it’s doing everything; activating your heart rate, it’s doing everything it can to get you that F out of the situation so that you can survive because again, that’s the whole point is to survive and evolve and grow.
The parasympathetic is what happens when we’re not in sympathetic and we’re not meant to be in sympathetic for long periods of time. Sympathetic is rest digest, heal. It’s that space when you’re just chilling out and you’re not in any kind of threatening situation, really important to be there because healing, digesting and resting are incredibly important. There’s also another piece, I guess we can bring this in now. These responses with the sympathetic and the parasympathetic are typically fight, flight or freeze. We talked a little bit more about the freeze response in the kidney video, because again, no hard fast rules, but the kidneys have more of a tendency to maybe go into a freeze response if they’re the ones that are being affected and the urinary bladder is more of the fight or the flight actually is a big one. Flight is a really big one with the urinary bladder.