Metabolizing Anger

Metabolizing Anger

In the TCM conception of holistic health, emotions are understood as Qi (vital energy) that moves bidirectionally. Thus, emotions can both affect and be caused by physiological conditions, reflecting an integrated approach that includes the mind-body-spirit levels. This significantly differs from Western medicine, which generally upholds the belief that emotions affect changes to the autonomic nervous system, then rippling out to our physiology. Perhaps this partially explains why many who suffer from largely misunderstood chronic health issues report being advised by doctors to seek psychiatric help, rather than examining all symptoms to understand the root cause(s). 


Associated with the organ system of the Liver and the season of Spring, anger is a sign of disharmony, suppression, and stagnation that can lead to further emotional and physiological dysregulation if not properly metabolized. Anger injures the Liver, which is responsible for storing and purifying the Blood, overseeing the peripheral nervous system, safeguarding our vision, nourishing the tendons and ligaments, and regulating the smooth flow of Qi—including the processing of our full range of emotions. Although each emotion has a physical domain in its respective organ system, it is the Liver that is ultimately responsible for our overall emotional regulation. Indeed, it is considered a crucial organ for detoxification, in terms of both physical and emotional accumulations. 


When we suppress and therefore fail to process emotions, they can be “stored” instead of released, causing density and Qi stagnation. Of course, physical disharmony can in turn cause emotional turmoil. If Liver function is compromised, so too is its capacity to effectively process emotions. The good news is: “By regulating the Liver energy, it is actually possible to dissipate and dissolve old anger and rise above the things that generate anger,” according to TCM expert Ron Teeguarden. That is to say, not only does tending to the Liver support emotional balance, but tending to our emotional well-being enhances Liver function, which in turn supports our continued capacity for emotional regulation (and so on and so forth).  


Tools for processing and releasing anger include:


  • Acupuncture is a wonderful way to release anger stored in the body in a supported way. Because anger is exacerbated by chronic or acute stress, the reprieve from a constant assault of stress hormones that acupuncture provides effectively supports the downregulation of the nervous system, allowing for the release of anger. It can also offer direct support to the Liver and relieve stagnation. 
  • One of the best herbs for releasing anger is Albizia Bark, found in our Shen formula. It is nourishing to the Heart and the Liver, as well as the connection between the two – this is important as it is the Liver that processes all emotions and the Heart that feels them. It has traditionally been utilized to free stagnant Liver Qi, relieve insomnia, support memory, and release suppressed irritability and anger. 
  • Practice acupressure to stimulate point Liver 3 with your finger or reflexology tool to move stagnant Qi and help release emotions like anger, resentment, and frustration. This point can be found on the top of either foot, in the depression between the base of the bones of the first and second toes. Apply gentle pressure while focusing on the breath for about a minute, before switching to the other foot. If it’s a little tender, that’s a sign your Liver needs some care.
  • Anger is a hot emotion, and can also be related to an imbalance of Yin and Yang energies. As we move more deeply into the Yang phase of the year, it can be beneficial to incorporate cooling herbs. Pearl in particular is cooling to Liver heat and Liver Yang rising, helping to regulate those who are quick to anger. It also tonifies the Liver and Heart, facilitating the release of pent-up emotions.