The language of symptoms Pt.2: Into the body

December 8th, 2014





It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.

– William Osler




Last week we looked at the relationship between some of the main body structures and what symptoms arising in these areas might symbolise as a message from our emerging awareness. We saw that symptoms could serve to awaken our awareness and therefore provide a potential for personal growth above and beyond ‘fixing’ the physical problem.



This week we will examine some common issues and illness that manifest deeper in the body as disease. Of course there are many physical and environmental factors that can give rise to these too. What we are looking at here however is how they can also be an expression of disharmony within ourselves.


Courtesy of

Courtesy of


By translating the language of these symptoms we may gain some insight into the issues surrounding them that we need to address. We can also use that information to help resolve the physical problem, gain greater insight into our part in its creation and use that knowledge to prevent their recurrence in the future.



One thing must first be made clear: an understanding of the language of symptoms is not a way of assigning guilt or blame to anyone for being sick. It is not a crime to be ill. It is something we all experience at different stages in our journey through life.



What such an understanding gives us is the chance to become wiser from the experience and hopefully avoid the necessity for its repetition. With that in mind, let us begin.




Headaches and migraines



We have already given this problem its own discussion (click here) What headaches and migraines (and even more serious issues like epilepsy) have in common is that they are threshold mechanisms.



That is, they attempt to discharge a build up of energy after it reaches a certain peak threshold. The result is a kind of ‘negative orgasm’ which manages to discharge the overload but at a cost of suffering and discomfort followed by an unpleasant ‘energy hangover’.



A more important question perhaps is why did the energy have to build up to such critical levels in the first place? The internalised pressure of energy comes from a conflict between different levels of consciousness. That is, our conscious mind may feel we are, for example, being reasonable or diplomatic while our unconscious mind is screaming at us to say ‘no’ or respect our own integrity in a conflict instead of allowing others, situations, guilt or a misplaced sense of duty to push us around.






In a similar way it can be also be due to our inflexibility to adapt our idea of what ‘should‘ be in any given situation to the prevailing reality of what is. “Those children shouldn’t behave like that.” “I should have said something at work to my boss/coworker when I had the chance.” “How could I let my family emotionally blackmail me again?” “Why must it always me that has to pick up the pieces for others mistakes? “Life shouldn’t be so unfair.”






All of these scenarios come from unconscious assumptions. That is because assumptions, by their very nature, are unconscious. As we established in part one of this short series, what is unconscious is always trying to become conscious and can use the physical discomfort of symptoms to make itself heard.



When we hit the limits of where our assumptions conflict with our experience of the world something has to give. An explosion like this cannot go any higher than our head.



Message from our emerging awareness



  • Where and what is the conflict between our thoughts and actions?
  • What or whom are we judging?
  • Where are we unnecessarily giving our power away (thoughts, emotions, actions)?
  • How are we reinforcing feelings of powerlessness and shifting responsibility to others for our own feelings and wellbeing?
  • How and where are we limiting ourselves (and projecting that onto others as them limiting us)?




Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and digestive disorders



Just as trapped energy-consciousness in the body could not travel any further upwards than the head it cannot get much further downwards (in the torso at least) than the lower intestines



The colon partners both the lungs and skin in the Metal element of traditional Chinese medicine (for a deeper discussion of the Metal element click here ). Its title is ‘The Minister for Change and Evolution’. Its message it that no true change can happen until we let go of something we already possess but are unnecessarily holding on to.




The colon also provides an effective way to release large charges of energy from the body quickly as heat. Sudden diarhoea, blood or mucus discharge, while disturbing and sometimes painful, bring short term relief. Over time however it can be very debilitating to the body to deal so crudely with energy overcharging.



All of which begs the question: Why is such a charge building up in the first place that it must be released as heat so quickly and dysfunctionaly? The simple answer is because it is not being dealt with elsewhere.



‘Hot’ emotions like anger and frustration, sudden anxiety along with the assumption that these need to be tightly controlled can result in them being pushed down into the body. Many of us have negative associations with strong emotion which can range from fear to shame and humiliation or a reminder of a negative role model that we wish to avoid becoming at all costs. Emotions are energy and therefore must do work of one kind or another – if not as emotional expression then as physical release.



Bowel problems often begin higher up the intestinal chain as stomach acidity, changes in bile production and release with the accompanying negative effects on digestion. Not dealing with uncomfortable feeling only means we have unconsciously agreed to let the body deal with it. It is not uncommon for this situation to be accompanied by a history of eating disorders and poor digestion.



Behaviorally, this can manifest as a need to control external circumstances to remain ‘safe’ and minimise the risk of (perceived) loss. It can even extend to the need to control others so that we can avoid having to take responsibility for our own feelings and responses. A rigidly imposed self control (with its attendant guilt and shame when we ‘fail’) and compulsive habits, particularly in relation to food, exercise and body image, is just the internal expression of the same behaviour.


body mirror



Message from our emerging awareness


  • Where are our ‘no go’ areas emotionally?
  • What is our relationship with our and others expression of emotion?
  • What past hurt or injustice are we not releasing?
  • What parts of us are still identified with our childhood self and resists or resents our role as adults?
  • What part of us is angry and why?






Panic attacks


While not a disease as such, panic attacks are more common than one might think and adversely affect many people in the day to day navigation of their life. To add to the problem there is often a sense of shame and embarrassment around it which only encourages people to seek out symptom dampening medications but not address the central issues involved.



In traditional Chinese medicine, the curiously named Heart Protector plays a well meaning but dysfunctional role in this problem. (For more on the Heart Protector click here).  Simply put, the Heart Protector is the go between the Kidney-adrenal complex controlled by the Water element and the Heart energy controlled by the Fire element.



Stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline have a stressful affect on the heart muscle causing it to contract more strongly and beat faster. Prolonged stress will age the heart muscle itself. To the sufferer of a panic attack they may even feel they are having a heart attack – which of course increases their stress level.





Physical symptoms like shortness of breath, claustrophobia, profuse sweating, pressure or pain in the chest/heart area and elevated pulse reflect the emotional state of fear. Fear is a natural survival response. The question then must be: What is it that we think is threatening us?



Most of us lead reading this at least lead lives where our physical safety is rarely threatened directly. We may not be hunted by wild animals or a deadly enemy but we can feel hunted in other ways. In modern life, pressures like our economic survival can trigger our survival responses as can deep, emotional triggers. Let us look at the latter.



The Water element controls our base level security and sense of belonging. It is our relationship to collective security – the family and the ‘tribe’. When we feel separated, abandoned or abused by our own support structures it is tantamount to our very existence coming under threat. After all, abandonment for a human child (in the wild at least) would almost certainly mean its death.



Those who have a history that includes these elements (separation from family, refugees or immigrants displaced culturally, victims of family trauma and so on) may need only an external trigger like stress at work, threatened economic circumstances or social humiliation and rejection to trigger the body’s survival instincts.



Typically, those in stressful jobs that have a high level of responsibility coupled with a compromised level of authority and power to act can find themselves in this frightening ‘no win’ situation. It reminds me of a description of typical managerial responsibilities given to me by a client: “A manager is like a swan. Someone who appears calm and in control on the surface but paddles furiously underneath.”






When a sense of failure is hardwired to a sense of (ego) death a panic attack is almost inevitable.




Message from our emerging awareness



  • Stop identifying what we do with who we are
  • Learn to spend time just being in the Self removed from a sense of performance pressure
  • What is really our worst fear and why?
  • Is how we see ourselves and our perception of how others see us in strong conflict? Why?
  • In what areas are we telling ourselves we are not good enough?
  • What do we consider as ‘failure’?
  • What are we assuming we must do or live up to in order to justify our existence?
  • What parts of ourself or our family or cultural background are we ashamed of?




On that note I fear our time is up for this week. No need to panic however as, in the third and final installment of this short series we will look further into the language of symptoms and their surprising usefulness in learning more about ourselves.





Until then, may Mondays hold no fears, for anyone.






© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:




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