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The Spiritual Meaning of Pain in the Liver and Gallbladder

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In TCM, the liver creates and the gallbladder implements. The spiritual meaning of pain in the liver and gallbladder relates to a disruption of this synergy.

When we feel pain in the body, we instinctually know it’s an indicator that something is wrong. Whether you just stubbed your toe or accidentally touched a hot pot, it’s typically quite obvious why you’re experiencing that pain. But what if you have unresolved pain, for example in your liver and gall bladder, for months or even years? What if doctor after doctor assures you that nothing is wrong and even makes you feel like you’re imagining it?

[Read: “All in Your Head: Are You Just Imagining Your Chronic Pain?”]

Allopathic (Western) medicine generally focuses on the treatment of pain symptoms and not the root cause of the pain. And while this approach is imperative in an emergent situation, chronic pain requires a more complex, multi-faceted approach. And so, understanding the spiritual meaning of pain in the liver and gallbladder, namely from a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, can help alleviate it.

Qi Energy, Organ Synergy

TCM supports the idea that qi (energy) flows along 12 main pathways in the body. These meridians or “energy highways” are responsible for carrying, holding, and transporting qi, blood, and other fluids around the whole body. Because the meridians are so receptive to energy, it is believed that illness can occur when there is stagnation or a blockage of qi along these meridians. But what can cause such a disruption?

Every organ in TCM is associated with particular emotions, and the liver and gallbladder have a very energetic, synergistic relationship. The liver is responsible for the flow of qi, blood, digestion, and emotion. But when there is stagnation (usually caused by unfulfilled desires), this can create heat which gets transferred to the gallbladder. This heat can lead to anger and frustration.

According to licensed acupuncturist Robert Keller, the liver is responsible for planning and organizing, while the gallbladder is involved in decisiveness and execution. In other words, the liver creates and plans and the gallbladder implements and executes.

Liver system

When the gallbladder is balanced, it acts like an anchor that provides a safe place to make clear and concise decisions that resonate with your soul. (On a soul level, if you feel safe enough to make sound decisions, you probably feel safe enough to trust yourself.) But when your unfulfilled desires get energetically transferred from the liver to the gallbladder, it will show up as procrastination and hesitation. Suddenly, the courage and bravery you felt to make sound decisions, turns into fear about the potential choices you might make.

Manage the Disconnect, Manage the Pain

When you can’t trust yourself enough to make decisions that fulfill your soul, this can certainly lead to resentment, if only on a subconscious level. Nan Lu said, “Everything that appears in the physical realm is always connected with energy flow at the invisible level.” As a result, you might make decisions that are not aligned with your spirit. This could eventually show up as anger and irritability, and you might find yourself overreacting to events disproportionate to the actual scenario in front of you. It can be challenging to stay centered and grounded while dealing with life’s everyday stressors, and even more challenging when those stressors start to impede on making the right decisions for yourself.

4 Ways to Prevent or Manage Pain in the Liver and Gallbladder

1.) Radical honesty. You can only lie to yourself for so long until buried emotions start to affect your organs and overall health. The key here is recognizing your pain as your greatest gift and truly understanding its purpose. Energetic pain is your soul whispering to notify you that either you haven’t dealt with your emotional pain, or you are lying about the life you truly crave and desire. For example, you might feel overwhelmingly frustrated and angry at your partner for not doing the dishes. However, you need to be radically honest and discover if it is really about the dishes, or if, in fact, the resentment you feel relates to following their dreams and not yours. Finally recognizing and admitting the source of your pain is paramount, but until you are ready to implement your realizations, you will potentially still struggle with pain. Sometimes we have to suffer to the brink to finally have the courage to change.

2.) Acupuncture is an incredible preventative and restorative modality in bolstering the balanced flow of qi along your meridians. There are over 400 acupuncture points along these energy highways that can be stimulated to enhance the flow of qi. Acupuncture can regulate and restore any system or organ that is out of balance, while addressing the physical and emotional aspects associated with that system and/or organ. Even one session can produce a sense of calm, peace, and balance.

3.) Qigong, which translates to “life energy mastery,” is part of a category of exercise called meditative movement. Qigong combines exercise, movement, posture, breathing, and awareness.

4.) Bitter greens. What you put into your body is crucial, especially when it comes to the health of your liver and gallbladder. The liver loves anything green and a little bitter, so think broccoli, kale, dandelion greens, arugula, beets, and turmeric. If you cringe at the thought of a bitter salad, you can still keep the base of a softer lettuce such as romaine or baby spinach with a sprinkling of arugula or dandelion greens. The gallbladder does not like anything greasy or fried; these types of foods can lead to the development of gallstones. Eating smaller and more frequent meals that are highly plant-based and focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds will help keep your gallbladder in tip-top shape!

Mmmm, see our video for how to make a delicious arugula and roasted beet salad!