The Language of Symptoms Pt. 3: The Women’s Room

December 15th, 2014







“I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.

I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much.” 

– Mother Teresa



During my time in formal acupuncture training[1] my professor and main acupuncture mentor was often heard to state that when one could understand the energy dynamics of the female menstrual cycle the rest of Chinese medicine would not be very difficult to master. While she said this partly in jest, it was an accurate summary of the complex and changing energy mechanisms at work.


This week, to round off this short series on the language of symptoms (and the Monday Conscious Health blog for this year), we will look at two specifically female health issues and the interplay in the body-mind. that occurs.




The state of play in women’s health


Socio-cultural shifts in Western culture, like the enormous changes the last 50 or so years of the feminist movement, has introduced yet more complexity to issues surrounding female health. Once such effect I have noticed is the interplay of masculine and feminine energies within my female clients which reflect the changing external dynamic that has taken place in the culture. This should not be underestimated.[2]



© Evans

© Evans



The politically correct arm of the feminist movement, while correctly trying to redress the imbalance of rights and opportunity for women, makes the subliminal assertion that men and women are the same.


From a therapeutic perspective this is simply not the case in terms of energy – and that is a good thing. To confuse rights, opportunity and ability with physiological and energy gender differences is to ignore the unique strengths and vulnerabilities that each gender possesses.


It can also lead to some very unreasonable demands being placed upon our health and genuine shock and suprise when the body becomes imbalanced or sick as a result. So let us see if we cannot bring a more conscious approach to women’s health.




The energy of gender difference


In traditional Chinese medicine women are said to be ‘cooler and moister’ energy-wise while men are said to be ‘hotter and dryer’ comparitively. I must emphasise here that this largely concerns the ages between puberty and menopause (and man-opause?) when sex hormones are at their peak activity and the otherwise androgenous character of the human body is differentiated most strongly.[3]


What might happen then when say, a woman’s cool, moist energy is disturbed by hotter, dryer, more masculine energy patterns? In a word: ‘problems’. So much of a woman’s menstrual cycle depends on this cooling, moistening energy.


Let us now look at the most common of these issues.



Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS)




The organ system of traditional Chinese medicine most active in PMS is the Liver. Of course I am referring here to the Liver energy and not the physical organ. It is a member of the Wood element and exerts a controlling influence over the Earth element. (for more on these elements click here and here )


While the Earth element’s contribution to the menstrual cycle is to keep everything cool, moist and fertile, the Wood element, in its imbalanced state at least, can disrupt this delicate balance by introducing too much heat.


In normal, healthy function the Liver energy is said to be responsible for the ‘gathering, release and distribution of blood’. One such application of this is the gathering of menstrual blood before the release of the period itself. If this is allowed to build up for too long it becomes painful with the resulting menstrual blood featuring clotting and often followed by strong, copious bleeding.


In addition,  the Liver chi also has a strong effect on the sides of the breasts resulting is swelling and over-sensitivity in this area. The Yang qualities of Liver energy are associated with testosterone while the Spleen meridian (of the Earth element) that traverses the sides of the breast themselves is associated with estrogen. The interplay between the masculine, warrior-like Wood element and the maternal energy of the nurturing Earth element plays out in this area too.


Perhaps it is less a ‘battle of the sexes’ and more a battle of the sex homones.




Baby’s on Fire: Heat and hormones





The emotion associated with the Liver energy is anger and frustration. PMS symptoms such as mood swings, anger and depressive states and even violent behaviour can be the result of the strong dominance of the Liver Yang upsetting the more gentle Yin balance of feminine hormones.[4]


Other reasons for excessive liver heat that can trigger this liverish imbalance to the menstrual cycle:

  • Situations of powerless and frustration (for more on this see the three-part series on anger here,  here and here )


Original source unknown

Original source unknown


  • Heating substances like spicy food, drugs and alcohol
  • Heating activities that exhaust our Yin reserves
    • Excessive ‘yo-yo’ dieting, anorexia, bullemia, over-training
    • Prolonged illness, recovery after childbirth, sustained survival stresses, separation and greif processes
    • It is not uncommon in the above situations that the menstruation can cease all together for while. It may be helpful to see this as the body doing the best it can in trying circumstances to conserve our energy.



It is no suprise then that the usual prescription offered by medicine for these symptoms is the cooling, moistening quality of female hormones in the form of the female birth control pill, hormone spirals, plasters and so on.


Even assuming one does not suffer from side effects of these methods it is still only masking the underlying issue. It is the equivalent of continuosly adding water to a boiling kettle instead of turning off the heat.



The internal gender war and PMS


Both genders possess masculine and feminine qualities. The Yin female also possesses a seed of Yang and visa versa for the male. The external gender upheavals, that have become more overt in Western culture at least, can also be mirrored internally as an energy conflict between our Yin and Yang nature.




Rebellion against an external negative Yang dominance – patriachal societies, violence, war, heirachical structures and the active fear and repression of more feminine Yin values – can trigger what Ekhart Tolle refers to as ‘the collective female pain body’.


Ramifications of this can be:


  • Identification as angry victim rather than with our own power and creative possibility.
  • Imitating existing examples of male power in an attempt to reclaim power in oneself.
    • This invites in very conflicting energies that play havic on the most obvioiusly differentiating level of the sexes: hormones.


The result of this is an internal war with the Yang components of ourself. In the case of women’s health and the menstrual cycle the result is angry, moody, painful and aggressive PMS and problematic menstruation.


To only challenge male power is to move away from the soul and centre of feminine strengths and ultimately leads to the heat of frustration, hoplessness and the sadness of defeat at the loss of one’s true nature.


One of the challenges for our collective feminine energy then, is to create new archetypes for power, creativity, conflict resolution and spiritual focus.



Message from our emerging awareness:



  • What I am I fighting within myself?
  • What triggers my anger?
  • What triggers my self-doubt and insecurity about my own power?
  • When do I feel powerful?
  • When do I feel a victim?
  • What are my attitudes to and relationship with masculine energy?
  • Am I over indulging in heating energies from (spicy) food, drugs or alcohol?
  • In what way am I sabotaging, dishonouring or exhausting my own energy?




The Kick Inside: Fertility and inner connection





A week after I had treated a client with acupuncture for a fertility issue she became pregnant. Unbeknown to me she enthusiastically sent a friend with a similar problem to me.


Without much by way of introduction the new client walked straight into my clinic, lay down on my shiatsu mat and declared: “I want you to make me pregnant like my friend!”


Humorous midunderstandings aside, having children is not always a straightforward process. The ‘spam mail out’ our reptile brain receives to reproduce is probably not personal – even though we may take it very personally. Neither is fertility a right. It is a point worth making. I have witnessed many times where a client throws her life and health into turmoil based on just such an assumption in a relentless pursuit of becoming pregnant.[5]


Fertility may not be a right but it is still a rite in many cultures

Fertility may not be a right but it is still a rite in many cultures


Throughout this series we have seen how symptoms can be an attempt by an unconscious part of ourselves to become conscious of something. The following serious and humorous examples show how the drive to have children at all costs can sometimes divorce us from ourselves.




 Case 1: IVF SOS


“When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer I began laughing. The doctor’s thought I must be in shock at the news. The truth was I felt releived. I immediately knew I was expecting it.”


These were the words of a former student who had put herself through five years of in vitro fertilization (IVF) under different doctors. By her own admission she had abused the medical system to continue multiple IVF programs and put her body and psyche through stressful side effects like strong mood swings, water weight gain and bloating, and what eventually turned out to be a fatal cancer.


Part of her unconscious mind knew that she was courting danger but she did not listen and pushed ahead anyway. A cautionary tale to listen to the language of symptoms.




Case 2: Amour or armor?


Many years ago, while assisting my shiatsu teacher in his Sydney clinic, a client came in for treatment. Despite her and her husband having a clean bill of health they could not fall pregnant.


The custom of that clinic was for clients to change out of their outer clothing before a session and put on a supplied Japanese ‘yukata’ – a light cotton robe.


It was immediately obvious that the client had on a neck to kness wool body suit underneath. When my teacher commented on this she enthusiastically replied: “Oh yes, it’s really warm! I knit them myself for me and my husband. They make great pajamas too!”


During the course of the treament my teacher tactfully approached the idea that such clothing may not perhaps be the most romantic, amorous or practical choice for her intended goal.


In traditional Chinese medicine the Heart Protector is the internal communicator between our heart and sexuality, our conscious and unconscious mind (click here for more). Sometimes these parts do not communicate so well with each other. Or maybe they are trying to tell us something we are just not listening to.



Case 3: Double vision


‘Anna’ (not her real name) was a healthy woman approaching her mid 40’s. She was recently married after a long and winding road reuníting with an early love. She had been vascilating for and against having children for some time. Initially she thought it was because of career concerns but a healing session in my clinic revealed a suprising dimension.


Some way into the treatement she had a vision where she saw herself as a very young woman living in the countryside somewhere back in history. In the narrative of this vision she had become pregnant to her equally young lover and was shamed and humiliated for it by her mother. It resulted in her boyfriend and her having to part.



Evolve...a woman's journey. © Patrick Stull

Evolve…a woman’s journey.
© Patrick Stull



Her association with this in her life today is that, while she thought she wanted to get pregnant, she has also been harbouring an irrational fear that, if she does, her husband will leave her.


An interesting denouement to this vison story is that, during the session, we were able to stay with her mother (from the vision) and go into her thoughts. To my client’s suprise she found that her mother actually supported her right to have a child but felt the morality of the time compelled her to take a strict, censorial line with her daughter.


I then asked my client to visualise what would have happened if her mother had spoken her true voice and supported her. The storyline then shifted very easily and naturally so that the mother now took her daughter’s lover and her into their humble country cottage and supported them through the pregancy and raising the child. In return, as the mother grew old, they supported her in an equally loving and caring way.


After the healing session Anna felt physically changed in her body. The inner tension she realised she had been holding onto as long as she could remember had eased and she felt relaxed and at peace. The whole issue of whether or not she now would or should become pregnant also relaxed within her.




Message from our emerging awareness


  • Is our desire to have children necessarily our own?
  • What are our reasons to have children?
  • Do we harbour a fear of rejection by or isolation from our peers if we don’t have children?
  • Are we split by conflicting and/or sabotaging desires in regards to having children?
  • Is it possible that our current partner is not the one with whom we want to have children but we cannot admit this or justify ending the relationship?




  • Have we other fears we are avoiding by focusing on getting pregnant?
  • Do we want children as a projection of our own wounded inner child? If so, the demands of children and parenting may be particularly difficult for us.



A cautionary tale from all of this perhaps is to heed the old adage:


“Be careful what you wish for.”



A pregnant pause in the conversation





After such a long final installment to this series on the language of symptoms it is time to stop and enjoy the silence for a few weeks over the Christmas/New Year break.


Rest assured though that the Monday Conscious Health blog will be back bantering brightly in the official International Year of Light that is 2015.





After all, there is always another Monday




[1]  One is a life-long student regardless of when we finish formal education

[2]  I have also noticed a corresponding energy shift within men but that is another blog

[3]  Have you noticed how those lying outside of this hormonal window, children and senior citizens, revert to this androgenous similarity between the sexes?

[4]  In some states of the U.S., PMS is considered a mitigating circumstance in murder and can result in a downgrading of the criminal sentence from murder to manslaughter. Depending on the state and its laws, this can be the difference between a jail term and a death sentence.

[5] It may be argued that what our planet urgently needs now is a conscious reduction in our population. It could also be possible that, from the viewpoint of Mother Nature, higher rates of naturally occuring infertility and sterility in humans may be the gentlest, most non-violent solution to the over-population of our species. From this perspective, sterility and infertility may not be a problem at all but a solution.




© 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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