Sketchbook entry

The heat generated by our liver when we are angry

by Fletcher Kovich


I’ve noticed recently that when I recall a past injustice, I feel a distinct heating-up sensation at the location of my liver (under the front, lower edge of my right ribs). This even happens with an injustice from years ago. And along with the heat, there is a feeling of irritation at that location, similar to the feeling of an itch. What is this heat, in anatomical terms?

The reason it is produced, and the mechanism whereby thoughts can trigger it, are now clearly understood. Our liver processes our thoughts (just as our other organs do). In our body, our liver regulates the flow of substances, by creatively managing the production and supply of energy. When this function is applied to process our thoughts, this creates many “rules” about the most efficient (and “correct”) way of doing things, and monitors our thoughts to ensure those rules are obeyed. When we become aware of one of these rules being broken (such as when a person treats us unjustly in some way), this obstructs the flow of our thoughts, which our liver experiences as an obstruction in the flow of physical substances in our body. From our liver’s point of view, this is an urgent, almost emergency situation in our body, so our liver generates a powerful force to attempt to shift the obstruction (which force we experience as the emotion of anger).

But why do we feel this as heat and what is the nature of this heat?

In Chinese medicine terms, the heat is not “Yin deficiency” heat (the heat that occurs in any damaged tissue, possibly due to the extra cellular-repair activity that takes place). But instead, the heat is suddenly produced by healthy liver tissue—in the same way that we warm up when we exercise, which is another example of heat being generated within us. Is this “liver-heat” (which we experience as anger) simply due to the generation of surplus energy—in the same way that when our organs and muscles work harder, they also generate heat?

Originally (our thoughts aside), this heat in our liver is generated as a by-product of whatever measures our liver takes to attempt to shift a physical obstruction to the flow of substances in our body. But how does this blockage-removing mechanism work in our body?

An obstruction would usually be due to the poor function of one or more of our organs. Our liver is responsible for regulating the supply of energy in our body, and when there is this type of poor organ function, resulting in the sluggish movement of substances (which could also include energy, as well as blood and body fluids), it may be that the liver’s immediate response is to generate a surge of energy to attempt to boost the function of our organs and tissues and thus shift the stagnation. And, as when we exercise, it may be that the production of this extra energy by our liver has the side effect of generating heat.

The generation of heat and other symptoms due to stagnated liver function

In summary, when we become aware of an injustice (or of any sort of rule being broken), this obstructs the flow of our thoughts. Our liver is responsible for creating most of these rules, and one part of its regulatory activity is to monitor that all such rules are obeyed. It carries out this function in our thoughts, just as it does in our body. Our thoughts are processed by the “brain-matter representation” of our liver function, and there is an immediate, two-way connection between our liver and this representation, such that when the flow of our thoughts are obstructed, this causes our liver to behave as though the flow of physical substances in our body were obstructed.

 In response, it adopts its emergency measure, which is to generate a surge of energy to attempt to shift the obstruction. And a by-product of this is the generation of heat in our liver (which heat can often be clearly seen in a person who becomes angry, in such signs as a reddened face).

We experience this surge of energy as the emotion of anger, which may cause us to start shouting at the offending person—to attempt to get the “rule” obeyed. More often though, we suppress our anger (due to social constraints), and we simply feel the irritation and warmth generated by our liver. We may simmer for a short while, until the physical discomfort becomes such that we feel the need to stand and walk around, even sighing and panting, which may remove the obstruction to the flow of physical substances in our body and thus solve the problem—as long as we then forget out the “rule” that was broken and do not dwell on it.

However, if the same rule were broken again (in our workplace or socially, by people or even by objects such as machines or computer software), or we kept recalling the injustice, the mental obstructions would recur, causing our liver to act as though physical obstructions were still present, and it would continually generate this powerful force to attempt to remove them. But since the mental obstructions could not be shifted in this way (by us becoming angry and simmering silently about the issue), the corresponding physical obstructions would remain, causing our liver function to become permanently stagnated, which may eventually produce a whole range of powerful physical symptoms, such as constant irritability and anger, melancholy, depression, migraines, painful and difficult periods in women, poor digestion, muscular cramps, stiff neck, shoulders and other joints, and so on.

Secrets of the Hidden Vessels

Chapter 9 of my book, Secrets of the Hidden Vessels, describes every aspect of the above processes in detail, along with every other aspect of the liver function, the causes of liver-related conditions, and how acupuncture treats these, including the mental and emotional aspects.

20 July 2016