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APRIL, 1999


(Copyright Stemmler, 1999)

On Harm from Inside, and on Affections from Outside

"Illnesses related to the seven emotions are called "harm from inside." Illnesses caused by an intrusion of any of the six excesses are called "affection from outside."

"…If two persons suffer from such illnesses, it may be that the physical manifestations of their illnesses are identical, while the causes of their respective illnesses are different."

"…Harm from inside originates from one’s spirit and mind; affections from outside emerge from the conduits and network vessels. The resulting illnesses may be minor or serious, they may be near the surface or in the depth, they may manifest themselves immediately or later. They may develop slowly or fast, and they may have to be treated individually or together."

"…If even one mistake is committed, serious harm will be inevitable. To anyone who is familiar with the Nei-ching, …and who strives carefully for a thorough understanding, the central principles within all illnesses will appear straightforward, even though these illnesses may manifest themselves in countless variations."

"…and no matter which direction an illness takes, …one’s therapies will always be successful."

"…If one fails to gain a thorough understanding, though, one will be confused and hesitant in one’s therapeutic efforts. One will toss various drugs without following any rule, and since not a single one of one’s attempts will show any effects, …one blames the drugs for not responding to one’s intentions in the treatment of the illnesses! Patients who die as a result of such misguided approaches were killed by their physician."

(Excerpt from The I-hsueh Yuan Liu Lun of 1757 by Hsu Ta-Ch’un, translated and annotated by Paul U. Unschuld and published under the title of Forgotten Traditions of Ancient Chinese Medicine by Paradigm Publications, Brookline, Massachusetts, U.S.A., 1990.



In Chinese medical theory, the 7 emotions: joy, anger, pondering, fear, fright, grief and sadness, are considered internal causes of illness. And the ancient concept of the 6 excesses: wind, fire, summer heat, cold, dampness, and dryness, include the external courses of illness, and roughly correspond to today’s "invading organisms" causation of disease.

Although diseases originating internally may also be accompanied by illnesses with an external cause and vice versa, it is important to understand the sequence and patterns in which a disease originates and progresses. In Western medicine little attention is devoted to the origins of disease. Fifty patients with chronic stomach pain or acid indigestion will be treated with drugs "for acid", "for pain", and "for digestion". That the cause of such symptoms may be totally different from one patient to another is not even considered. Therefore, medicine is practiced through a trial and error method, which is far from thorough and often very inadequate. "Let’s try this and that, and see what happens" is a common comment one hears when handed a set of prescriptions. Yet the rudimentary understanding of each patient’s condition only encourages the disease to prevail and, as I-hsueh Yuan Liu Lun already pointed out three centuries ago, "one blames the drugs for not responding to one’s intentions in the treatment of the illnesses". Many of you may be quite familiar with such a situation.

It is my hope that, perhaps even during my lifetime, that we will see a major shift from this mass-treatment approach of symptoms which appear to be similar in a vast number of patients, to a deeper, thorough understanding of what ails each of us as complete, individual beings. Combining this ancient wisdom with our modern technological advances will most likely bring about the cure of diseases we do not even dream of resolving today.

Christina Stemmler, MD

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