How the kidneys relate to anxiety according to acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
Let’s talk a little bit more about the kidneys specifically and how that can show up when it comes to anxiety. Speaking of fear, this is something that has a tendency to take over and/or our interpretation of what is fearful can get quite skewed. I like to use the examples of social anxiety, because I know a lot of people suffer from that. A lot of people that I know also feel very overwhelmed when they’re in a social situation. When you’re in a social situation you can be interpreting something as fearful that’s not actually fearful. Think about how much of your internal resource is going towards trying to maintain your safety.
So, what happens in the body when we do that, posturally we have a tendency to maybe kind of contract inwards. We do that because there is this subconscious knowing that if I can somehow conserve my energy, so this speaks very much to the freeze response, is we go into this response like this, we want to contract and we want to go inwards, and if we think about it from the freeze response, the freeze response is essential because it helps us conserve energy and if you are in an actual danger situation, an animal that plays dead is going to be much less appealing to an animal that is attacking. So, there are sort of two functions, I guess, with that. So, we go into this kind of like fearful mode.
Now, what happens is that when we start to experience anxiety, we feel very, very overwhelmed from all the information that’s coming in and we just want to go into that contracted state. This is very much like the kidneys, if you have more kidney dysfunction as opposed to the urinary bladder dysfunction, there is a tendency to go into a little bit more of a freeze mode where you kind of just feel paralyzed, you’re frozen in fear.
And then what happens, we say to ourselves, okay, I’ve got to get the hell out of here, I’ve got to get the hell out of here, and you’re assessing, there’s this constant assessment that comes along with anxiety and with the water element, as well. We’re in this constant assessment of our environment, am I safe, and this is what’s happening at the subconscious level, we’re constantly saying am I safe, am I safe, how do I get out of here, what I do, what I do, what I do. There can even be in very extreme cases a paranoia that comes along with it.
So, what happens is that we remove ourselves from that situation. Let’s just say there’s one person in the room that we really are getting bad vibes from or we’ve had an attraction with and we have this fear response that we can feel this anxiety arising within us because of a past experience with them and we’re fearful that we’re going to have another experience with them that ultimately doesn’t have us feel safe. That may not be how those words occur to you, you might not be thinking, oh, I don’t feel safe around that person, because logically you can probably see, well, there’s no reason for me not to feel safe, but the point of the water element, this will be a good sidebar, the water element is more related to our hindbrain, so those are going to be more of those autonomic very, very primal responses.
That’s not in our forebrain which is going to be more of our conscious thought where we can take space and take a minute to pause and reflect. These are instantaneous autonomic responses. You may not actually know that person is not fearful, but your body is responding in a way that is driving up the anxiety before you even have a chance, typically, to notice it. What happens is that we get ourselves out of that situation, the nervous system rebalances itself and your whole body/mind complex says yes, that was amazing, do more of that, get out of that situation, you survived, that’s amazing.
So, what do we do next time we feel that, maybe it takes us less time to leave the situation, and less time to leave the situation, and less time to leave the situation, until we don’t even end up going out, or we don’t put ourselves in positions where we’re going to be around those types of environments or people. If it’s a genuine threat, obviously, you don’t want to do that, but if there’s not an actual tiger in the room, then what you’re doing is you’re basically training your nervous system and your water element to become more anxious. Your zone of resiliency in terms of what you can tolerate becomes smaller, and smaller, and smaller, and smaller.