Chinese Medicine and Courage: Cultivating the Liver and Gallbladder


LRGBPOSTERHIGHThe internal organs of the human body are responsible for more than just physiological functions in Chinese Medicine. A robust or deficient organ can lead to different mental emotional states. This is often a confusing topic in Chinese Medicine when explained to people raised in Western culture however, it is not an entirely foreign idea. Americans say “You have a big heart” as a way of describing someone who is very kind and generous. We also say “He can’t stomach it” if someone was unable to handle a task or we were describing someone who is weak and fragile. In this way we can start to see how internal organs play a larger role in our health, not just physical but mental as well.

In Chinese, saying someone has a big Gallbladder is a compliment; it means they are courageous. Much like the saying in the West, “having guts” means that a person is bold and brave. The Liver and the Gallbladder are a pair.They have similar functions and work closely together in our ability to walk bravely forward in life. The Liver is responsible for foresight, planning and looking ahead, but it is the bravery associated with the Gallbladder that enables you to act on those plans

A good business manager embodies the qualities of someone with a strong Liver and Gallbladder.. They are able to make plans and take risks. They are able to juggle a lot of information, people, ideas and direct them all towards a future goal. They feel confident in their decision making but are also flexible. They are able to deal with unexpected circumstances and strategically plan gracefully.

A person with a deficient Liver/Gallbladder has a difficult time planning. They feel “stuck” and have a hard time looking forward to the future. When unexpected circumstances arise they may succumb to panic. They tend to have a higher level of anxiety. Sometimes a person may experience a deficiency in the Liver and Gallbladder after a sudden trauma. Other people may naturally have more deficient Liver and Gallbladders, therefore they may struggle with some level of indecisiveness and anxiety throughout their lives.

Below are three imaginary people, Paul, Rachel and Susan. Each is an archetype example for the mental qualities of the Liver and Gallbladder.

Strong Liver, Weak Gallbladder: Paul

Paul is not happy with his job. He would like to quit and go pursue his dream of becoming a veterinarian. Paul spends a lot of time planning how he could make his dream come true, he talked with the veterinary school’s admissions council, he saved money, and strategized how he could support himself while going back to school. But  Paul is unable to take that step and say “I’m quitting, I’m going back to school,” because he lacks the courage to follow through despite all his planning.

Weak Liver, Weak Gallbladder: Rachel

Rachel is works as a manager of a retail store and unfortunately is not very good at what she does. She is always late planning the store’s work schedule, much to her employees dismay. She is responsible for planning the store’s daily operations but she often puts off planning until the last minute and feels panicky under pressure often resulting in her shortsighted in her plans. She has a hard time seeing the bigger picture. She is seen as narrow minded, flighty and has poor follow through.

Strong Liver, Strong Gallbladder: Sally

Sally runs a small start up company and is very good it. She is flexible to sudden schedule changes and is calm in the face of pressure. She delegates well and is not afraid to take risks. People describe her as a good leader, fearless but flexible.

So in summary we can divide deficient and robust Liver and Gallbladder symptomology like this:

Deficient Liver and Gallbladder symptoms

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Feeling “adrift”
  • Lacking foresight
  • Fearful
  • Panicky inclination

Strong Liver and Gallbladder

  • Ability to plan
  • Ability to make decisions
  • Having courage
  • Ability to take risks
  • Being decisive

Chinese Medicine is very helpful for people who feel Liver and Gallbladder deficiency symptoms. Depending on individual circumstances, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet therapy and even exercise can help the mental symptoms of the Liver and Gallbladder. People may experience Liver and Gallbladder deficiency symptoms after a period of sudden trauma or throughout their entire lives. Having courage or lacking courage is a multifaceted and complex issue. Courage can be cultivated, like the housecat in this blog’s photo we can choose to move forward in our lives as lions. Everyone’s circumstances are unique but the more we understand about ourselves the more empowered we are to make plans and move courageously forward in our lives. Chinese Medicine is beautiful and complex in its seamless understanding of the human body and human nature. It does not divide us into the physical, mental and emotional but views our health as connected to every part of our lives.

May you all have strong Livers and Gallbladders and cultivate the lion within.


The Liver: Views from the Past. ITM Online. Date Retrived: 3/15/2016

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