Emotion: Joy and Lack of Joy
Struggle with: Appropriateness
Need: To be Loved
Strength: Receptivity and Openness
Organs: Heart, Pericardium, Small Intestine and Triple Burner
Nature of Fire:
The nature of Fire is light, warm, and expansive. It can guide and protect or burn and consume. Fire is intangible and unpredictable, shifting from a tiny flame to a deadly inferno. It cannot exist in isolation; it requires fuel to burn. Fire has been associated with the heavens, transforming solid objects into dust and turning earthly things into flames that reach the sky.
Nature of Summer:
Summer is a time of expansiveness and freedom, of light and warmth, of joy and fun. Like Fire, the beauty of Summer is ephemeral. Flowers bloom and fill the world with colour, but they are delicate and short-lived, giving way to the practicalities of fruit and seed. Summer is a time of celebration, socializing, sharing and play. For our ancestors it would have been a time of abundance, with plenty of food around and no need to do very much, offering a few scarce months free from the drudgery of survival. This time can still allow us a chance to reflect on our luck and rejoice in the privilege of being alive.
The summer solstice, the longest day of the year, symbolizes Ultimate Yang. It marks the peak of high tide and the moment when days gradually become shorter again.
Heart – The Emperor
Revered as the “Emperor” or “Supreme Controller” in Chinese Medicine, the Heart represents Ultimate Yang and houses the Shen or Spirit. The Shen is our highest potential, it is where all our greatest truths, our grandest thoughts, our greatest dreams and our highest wishes come from. It epitomizes the Buddhist concept of Sacca – truthfulness. The Shen upholds the highest values in us and yearns for purity, truth, love and joy. Also contained within the Heart is the place of pure potential where our consciousness can connect to the Great Tao – the truth of all nature. If we follow our Hearts and live according to our Shen, we experience joy. However, the Shen is so ephemeral and refined it can easily be disturbed. It is said that for the Shen to shine the Heart must be serene and for the Heart to be serene, the rest of the body must protect its peace and tranquillity. The Heart also governs the blood, dominates the vessels, and manifests in the complexion. This function again links to the Shen, as it is said that when the Shen is strong it radiates from the eyes and the face.
Pericardium – The Heart Protector
The Pericardium shields the Heart, filtering emotions from other organs to maintain the Heart’s balance and prevent overload or distress. When it is functioning well, it percolates just the right amount of positivity and negativity to enable the Heart to experience joy. If the Pericardium is not functioning well, either the Heart can become too open and exposed leading to acute vulnerability; or it shuts down becoming joyless and cold. Pericardium malfunction can also impair judgement, making it difficult to behave appropriately.
Triple Burner – The Official of Balance and Harmony
The Triple Burner is an ‘organ’ unique to Chinese Medicine and is, therefore, the most difficult to define and understand. It is often referred to as the Sanjiao or the Triple Warmer, because its major functions are to allow communication between, and coordination within the three ‘sectors’ of the body: The Upper, Middle and Lower Burners. Each burner serves as a functional summary of the organs within it, particularly related to fluid management
The Upper Burner is like a Mist:
Location: Above the diaphragm, housing the Heart, Pericardium, and Lungs.
Function: Disperses fluids throughout the body as a fine mist or vapour.
The Middle Burner is like a Muddy Pool:
Location: Between the diaphragm and the belly button, containing the Stomach, Spleen, and Gallbladder.
Function: Digests food and beverages, distributing nutrients to the body.
The Lower Burner is like a Drainage Ditch:
Location: Below the belly button, including the Kidneys, Bladder, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Uterus, and Liver (functionally).
Function: Separates waste, reabsorbs useful fluids, and eliminates waste through the Bladder.
The Triple Burner coordinates and regulates fluids, heat and Qi (energy) among the Upper, Middle, and Lower Burners, ensuring a harmonious flow. This regulatory role is often likened to a thermostat, which functions both physically and emotionally. This has also seen the Triple Burner likened to the endocrine system, which through hormone release holds a similar position in Western medicine, delicately regulating physical and emotional balance.
Small Intestines – The Separator of the Pure from the Impure
The Small Intestine physically separates food and drink, but emotionally, it discerns and filters information from the world. It must decipher pure from impure, right from wrong, truth from untruths and friends from foe, helping the Heart make clear decisions. If the function of the Small Intestine is impaired, decision-making becomes cloudy and difficult as too much conflicting information is presented to the Heart.
Joy: The emotion of Fire is Joy. Brene Brown defines joy as, “an intense feeling of deep spiritual connection, pleasure and appreciation.” (Brown, 2021, p.205). Joy bubbles up in our lives when we feel connected to something greater than ourselves, like nature or each other. Like Fire, joy is ephemeral and fleeting. For years human happiness was thought to be linked to the dopamine reward system of the brain. But dopamine, it turns out is much more to do with ‘wanting’; wanting that can’t be satiated: craving. The happiness system is more akin to the feeling of “I like this!”. It comes upon us in fleeting moments and is fed by internal opiates such as oxytocin that have a more diffuse, systemic effect on the brain. (Etcoff, 2004). This is joy.
Lack of joy: Fire is also associated with the other end of the spectrum, lack of joy. This can be a feeling of numbness or dullness, as though the flame of joy is down to its embers but it can also manifest in another way. As theologian Ann Robertson points out, the Greeks said the opposite of joy is not sadness, but fear (Brown, 2021). Lack of joy is also often associated with the acute vulnerability of the over-open Heart which is experienced as debilitating anxiety.
The Heart is linked to the tongue, representing communication from the Heart and speaking our truth. It is also associated with the sense of touch and feeling what we hold to be true.
spect of the Spirit:
As we have said, in Chinese Medicine the Shen is our spirit, the most sacred and timeless part of us. It is that which makes us who we are, unique in all the world. It is the essence of our spiritual self and when we have strong Shen it is said to bring great joy. The Shen is associated with feeling, being, remembering, and empathising. Unlike Western thought that places the locus of control in the brain; in Chinese Medicine, this is held firmly in the Heart, via the Shen. The Zhi of the Kidneys, which is linked to the brain, gives us the drive and determination to follow our dreams but it is the Heart that shows us the way, igniting with delight when it recognises the path.
Story of Fire:
Meet Sophia, a person whose life embodies the essence of the Chinese Fire element. With a magnetic charm and infectious enthusiasm, she captivates everyone around her, drawing people towards her like moths to a flame.
Passion flows through Sophia’s veins, driving her to excel in her endeavours and nurture her relationships. Her warmth and empathy create deep connections with others, making her a loyal and attentive friend.
In social settings, Sophia’s extroverted nature and charisma light up the room, uniting strangers and creating unforgettable moments. Her artistic pursuits serve as a channel for her emotions, allowing her to communicate profound thoughts and feelings to the world.
While her fire burns brightly, Sophia also values balance and personal growth. She learns from both successes and failures, inspiring others to embrace their inner fire and fostering teamwork and collaboration.
Beneath her vibrant personality lies a sensitive heart, allowing her to form authentic connections with others. Sophia embraces life’s adventures, seeking opportunities to expand her horizons and embrace the beauty of the human experience.
Sophia’s life is a symphony of passion, warmth, and creativity, leaving a trail of inspiration and joy in her wake. She reminds us all to embrace the flames within and live life to the fullest.
The Emotions of Fire:
Fire within us mirrors the ever-changing nature of fire itself. Balanced Fire is highly intuitive, capable of sensing what’s right and empathizing with others’ feelings. Individuals with strong Fire energy often exhibit warmth and generosity. They are sensitive, open, and easily connect with others. Their honesty is fierce, and they embrace vulnerability, expressing themselves openly. However, their emotions can be as volatile as fire, quickly shifting from highs to lows due to external triggers, like hurtful comments, worries, or confusion, leading to self-doubt.
Balanced Fires are very trusting. As they are ruled by their Hearts, they value this emotional innocence and openness but they have to be aware that this is not always seen as a strength by others. Their caring nature can be exploited, causing deep emotional wounds. They may also struggle to distinguish between excitement and anxiety:
“Anxiety and excitement feel the same, but how we interpret and label them can determine how we experience them…Similar sensations are labelled “anxiety” when we perceive them negatively and “excitement” when we perceive them positively.” (Brown, 2021, p.12)
Unlike Waters who tend to feel fear when they should be excited, Fires can feel excited when they should be cautious. They are so comfortable with emotional vulnerability that, they can sometimes put themselves at physical or emotional risk.
Fire element imbalances often occur when people with predominant Fire energy get too hot, leading to Yin deficiency. This can result in restlessness, fragility, and difficulty functioning. Overheating can also cause the Heart to lose perspective, feeling overexposed and hypersensitive, leading to social anxiety and fear of rejection.
Social anxiety can lead to self-doubt and self-recrimination. Fires beat themselves up for all the things they shouldn’t have said or done and fall into agonizing shame. This all becomes so painful that they start to self-isolate, withdrawing from others and retreating into themselves.
Sadly, this deprives Fires of much-needed human connection. Connection is a need for all people; but Fires, particularly, need the fuel of connection to shine.
Key Question: Am I Lovable?
At the core of Fire’s anxiety lies a burning question: “Am I lovable?” They often seek a ‘soul mate’ to prove their lovability, but this insatiable desire can become needy and overpowering, affecting intimate relationships. This craving for love can backfire leading to more evidence of being unlovable, resulting in shame.
“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging and connection.” (Brown, 2021, P.137)
Shame is another universal emotion. It is the emotion we are most resistant to looking at and talking about. It grows in silence, secrecy, and judgment but can be healed through empathy and sharing. One of Fires’ great gifts is their ability to be vulnerable enough to share their experience of shame. If they find the right people to share honestly, they will build strong bonds of friendship, that allow all involved the opportunity to heal.
In summary, Fire’s emotional nature can be a double-edged sword, offering warmth and connection but also vulnerability to emotional turmoil and shame. Understanding and managing these emotions can lead to deeper connections and self-acceptance, which in turn allows these individuals to be a huge asset to those around them.
Brown, B., (2021) Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience. 1st edition ed. London: Vermilion.
Etcoff, N., (2004) Happiness and its surprises. [TEDTalk] Available at: https://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_etcoff_happiness_and_its_surprises [Accessed 17 Feb. 2020].