River Gibeaut

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Maciocia Online: SHEN AND HUN: THE PSYCHE IN CHINESE MEDICINE

Maciocia Online: SHEN AND HUN: THE PSYCHE IN CHINESE MEDICINE

For the rest of Maciocia's incredible and helpful  blog click on the link above.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2012

SHEN AND HUN: THE PSYCHE IN CHINESE MEDICINE


This article will discuss the nature and functions of the Shen and Hun in the human psyche. This will be based on classical texts and on my own thoughts and clinical experience. There will be five parts to this
discussion:

1) The nature of the Shen
2) The nature of the Hun
3) The Shen and Hun and the pre-frontal cortex
4) The Shen and Hun and mirror neurons
5) The Shen and Hun and Jungian psychology.

The longer I practise, the more I think that in clinical practice we can interpret most mental-emotional problems in terms of the "five spirits" as well as of "patterns of disharmony".  The "five spirits", in Chinese called the"Five Shen" [五 神], are the Shen, Hun, Po, Yi, and Zhi residing respectively in the Heart, Liver, Lungs, Spleen and Kidneys.

For example, irrespective of the pattern of disharmony involved, I see depression as a manifestation of lack of movement of the Hun and manic behaviour as a manifestation of excessive movement of the Hun. To give another example, I see bipolar disease mostly as a Hun disharmony while I see anxiety mostly as a Shen and Po disharmony.

Please note that I am not advocating treating mental-emotional problems purely by treating the "five spirits" and not the patterns of disharmony.  I am advocating treating such problems using both approaches.  To give an example, if someone suffers from depression, I interpret that as a lack of movement of the Hun and I would nearly always stimulate that movement by using G.B.-40 Qiuxu.  However, it is also important to treat this person by addressing the pattern of disharmony which may be Liver-Qi stagnation, Heart- and Lung-Qi deficiency or many other patterns. 

When discussing the nature of the Shen, I will in particular explore the Confucian and Neo-Confucian influence on the concept of Shen and Xin (Heart) in Chinese medicine.

1) THE SHEN 
The word "Shen" can be translated in many different ways such as "mind", "spirit", "consciousness", "vitality", "expression", "soul", "energy", "god", "God", "psychic", "numinous".  From a grammatical point of view, it can be a noun, adjective or verb.

The Chinese character for "Shen" is composed of two parts, one on the left, the other on the right. Often when a character is composed of two parts, one part gives it a meaning and the other is purely phonetic, i.e. it tells a Chinese speaker how that word is pronounced. Let us look first at the left side which gives the character its meaning.

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