The Shen Mind Connection

Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at things differently and while it may be a little confusing, there is usually some common ground that can be found upon examination and explanation. One such area is the idea of the mind. The mind in Traditional Chinese Medicine is commonly referred to as the shen.

In Chinese medicine, the shen is interpreted as the spirit or consciousness. The shen lives in the heart organ system and it is considered to be one of the vital substances of the body. The shen is said to preside over activities that take place in the spiritual and mental planes. For many TCM practitioners, shen actually refers to the mind. If we look at serious mental illnesses  ie., schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, the shen/mind is where the dysfunction actually appears. Chinese medicine calls this “misted” or “clouded”. However, it should be noted not all practitioners agree that the mind and consciousness are the same thing.  This is because many mental processes are considered subconscious.

As stated, the theory is that shen lives in the heart. So if a person has a disturbed shen, there may be anxiety, stress, difficulty breathing, heart palpitations and more.  Many people with a disturbed shen experience insomnia. Chronic insomnia can lead to actual mental illness. Following this logic, we can see how the shen (in TCM) and the mind (Western psychology) are related and somewhat interchangeable.

Approaching the shen from the standpoint of Western psychology, it is hard to deny there is a lot of shen disturbance in the modern world. This can be range from anxiety, depression and addiction to the aforementioned serious mental illnesses. A person with balanced shen will present as healthy, harmonious and level-headed. A disturbed shen person will present with a lack of spirit or emotion, illogical reasoning and symptoms of mental illness.

Ultimately, we want to have a balanced shen. This means we may have emotional responses to external stimuli or internally generated thoughts or feelings with the capability of controlling and recovering from these situations with little incident.  Somebody who has a disturbed shen, would not know how or be able to deal with a similar situation and may act out irrationally while drawing attention to themselves. An example would be when a person with a balanced shen becomes angry or cries for some reason, relief is felt after the emotion has passed. While somebody with a disturbed shen may continue the irrational behavior for quite some time without ever feeling relief.  Intervention may be needed to return to a somewhat balanced state.

Maintaining a healthy shen also means maintaining a healthy body.  A strong shen is fundamental to good health.  When the shen is weak, the body eventually fails.  To keep shen healthy we should focus on maintaining a positive mindset, getting enough rest, seeking peace, connecting with nature, meditating and showing compassion. This means we ultimately need to avoid overwork, chronic stress, an erratic daily schedule, lack of sleep and volatile emotions i.e., anger, hatred, resentment.

Shen can be changed over time with regular treatments and herbal support.  Call today for more information.

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