The Gall Bladder: The Official of Decision Making and Judgment
By Neil Gumenick, MAc (UK), LAc, Dipl. Ac
The Gall Bladder, with its paired official, the liver, is the element wood within us. Wood grants us the power of birth – new beginnings, growth, breaking through boundaries and surging forward. It is the vigorous, exuberant energy of the Spring season.
The early Chinese referred to the twelve organs and functions as "officials." As such, they were metaphorically seen as ministers of an imperial court. There was a king or queen – the supreme controller and eleven ministers, each of which had specific tasks to perform in service to the king and the kingdom. The kingdom, in fact, is the body, mind, and spirit of each and every person. Each official has the innate ability to perform its own natural functions – physically, mentally, and spiritually for the benefit of all. No minister can effectively replace another, and if one falls sick, all will feel the effects.
Making Decisions for All
The Gall Bladder Official was created by nature precisely to make decisions, evaluate, and provide wise judgment for all in the kingdom. If failing, the entire being – all twelve officials - body, mind, and spirit, will begin to fail. No official will have the ability to well-organize its own functioning or make decisions for its own operation. For example, if the gall bladder is failing, the Stomach Official's job of properly secreting the right amount of enzymes and gastric acid at the correct time will be impaired; its normally smooth motor function can become irregular, erratic, and spasmodic. A whole host of stomach and other digestive symptoms may result, as well as symptoms on non-physical levels.
The gall bladder makes decisions for every official. It organizes, coordinates, and carries out into expression the plan of operation of every official, every plan we make, and every goal, however small, to which we aspire. From the minutest decisions and choices, even those that are made unconsciously, to our highest conscious aspirations, the Gall Bladder Official is always active. Even the seemingly simple act of standing is a result of continuous adjustments - decisions as to when and where to shift weight, which muscles to contract and relax, so as to maintain physical balance. Constant decisions are also being made from the deepest levels of our functioning. Whether it is digestion, circulation, respiration, intercellular exchanges, or any other bodily function, everything follows a design – a plan for operation (the Liver function) and has a means for carrying it out (the gall bladder function).
If we remember when we learned to write, we first saw the letters drawn out properly. This was the goal – to make our letters look like those. Every movement of our pencil was a decision – up, down, across. Now, we write without consciously deciding each stroke of the pen. Now, those once painstaking decisions occur beneath the level of conscious awareness, but still are decisions. These functions markedly expand on the Western medical understanding of the gall bladder's function. Physically, it is a hollow, pear-shaped organ situated under the right lobe of the liver, about three inches long and one and a half inches in diameter. Its main function is to store bile, which emulsifies fats in ingested food. Emulsification, in this case, means breaking up the fat globules into smaller droplets, thus aiding digestion by assisting in their absorption.
In this system of medicine, we assert that any symptom can come from anywhere, as all officials are related as in a family, and it behooves us to diagnose and treat the primary elemental imbalance (AKA causative factor or CF) where the imbalance originated, and where we must re-balance, support, and harmonize in order to effect cure.
The diagnosis of wood as the CF, would be based on the patient's predominantly rancid odor, green facial color (best seen lateral to the eyes), vocal sound of shouting, and predominant emotion of anger. As the gall bladder is responsible for the metabolism of fats, when impaired, the smell becomes one of old butter or stale olive oil – rancid. In nature, the color of things young and not yet ripe is green. It is not difficult to see how the perceived stifling of our innate desire to grow and move forward toward a desired goal would result in frustration, anger, and a shouting voice. In some cases, the shout and/or the anger are suppressed rather than expressed. We would call such manifestations lack of shout and lack of anger. Whether expressed excessively or strangely absent, either extreme is indicative of an imbalance in wood and its officials.
In this system, we must also attend to energetic blocks, as well as the needs of the mind and spirit, which often requires the use of points on meridians other than the CF. However, once having diagnosed the primary elemental imbalance (wood in this case), we would, in fact, treat both officials (liver and gall bladder) within the element, on every treatment. They are akin to siblings, and we must give to both in order for harmony to prevail in the family. Though one of the two will be the core cause of the imbalance, we cannot ignore the sibling, who is also suffering. Treatment would be based on pulses, symptoms, and the mental and spiritual needs of the patient – the latter determined only through our verbal and non-verbal interaction with the patient.
Purity of Mind and Spirit
The idea of "purity" is central to the understanding of the gall bladder's function, particularly at the levels of mind and spirit. Purity is the basis of clear vision, wise judgment, and good decisions. At the mental level, we may, for example, aspire to earn an academic degree. This sets a multitude of subsequent plans and decisions into action. There is an application process. There are choices as to where we will train, how we will pay, how we will get there, where we will live, what classes we will take, and in what order, what books we'll read, how we'll arrange our time so as to have adequate study time, rest, meals, recreation, etc. With clarity of mind, decisions are simple and obvious; we live in a state of real creativity, mental agility, with the power of well organized logic and reason, the ability to clearly follow a line of thought, to draw realistic conclusions, to be appropriately direct and assertive in our communication, and to be in right place at the right time.
Unclear, every step is fraught with the struggle of frustration, anxiety, and uncertainty. The mind, instead of being quiet and simply seeing the correct course of action, is plagued by all manner of internal chatter – memories of the past and fears of the future. In our mind's eye, we do not see reality as it is, but through veils of subjective beliefs, assumptions, and opinions.
Stuck in our positions, we fail to see alternative points of view, or we randomly and chaotically change our mind. We cease to move. We may tend to become bossy, inflexible, and overbearing, insisting that our way is the only way, or in the other extreme, feel hopeless, incapable of decision or action, and ultimately resigned.
As regards the spirit, all ancient wisdom affirms that there is a divine plan, destiny, higher purpose – call it what you will – for every one of us, leading to the spiritual goal of what has been called enlightenment, divine realization, freedom, liberation, clarity of consciousness – to name a few. And, as in every other realm, we have choices and decisions to make. Which spiritual practice is right for us? Which teacher? How will other choices that we make help and support us on our spiritual path? These might include what we eat and drink, how we spend our recreational time, what we do for a living, who we choose as a partner, with whom we choose to socialize. The Gall Bladder Official is pivotal in making such decisions.
I must emphasize that when we use points for their spiritual connotation, their uses suggested in the point names translated from the Chinese characters, we are not treating the spirit itself. Pure spirit is simply conscious awareness – witnessing changing phenomena, but itself the unchanging observer. Thus pure and having no components, spirit can neither be balanced nor unbalanced. It is balance itself. Our level of perception of spirit, however, can be (and often is) compromised and obscured. Examples of such obscuration would include superstition, idolatry, religious fanaticism, racism, sexism, and myriad other forms of prejudice that deny the essential unity of all.
In the state of pure, unobstructed consciousness, there is really no choosing. Seeing with brightness and clarity, we simply know what path to take. We choose the path of the Tao, (or nature, or divine will, call it by whatever name) – the path that is right for who we uniquely are. Without the distractions of the chattering mind, we are oriented toward health in its fullest expression – love, happiness, peace, wisdom, hope, and strength. Our natural inclination becomes service to benefit all.
All of the 44 points on the gall bladder meridian assist in the restoration of the physical, mental, and spiritual functioning of this official. Each point has unique gifts to bring to the patient in need, suggested by the translation of the point's name. (See "The Spirits of the Points: The Gall Bladder Offical", Acupuncture Today, June 2013 issue). The following two points are not as commonly used as those in the above referenced article, but have gifts of tremendous importance and insight to offer.
Gall Bladder 17 Upright Living
To live "uprightly" means to live in accord with nature, one's spiritual principles, consistent with the good of oneself and the well being of all. The evaluations we make, the decisions that we make within – must be expressed in the world through action. The inner world and the outer must be consistent in order to live on earth as if in contact with Heaven. Uprightness means living, having understood and embodied the rules of nature, as well as society, such that one can "use" the rules while expressing oneself as he/she truly is. One is able to live in harmony with natural law and society, and be spiritually free. Upright living does not mean blindly following the dictates of society (family, social, professional) as a "good boy," nor relishing in being a "rebel." Neither is "upright." Both are poses – false attitudes based upon defensive ego positions. If there are no poses, except those we choose consciously in order to smoothly interact with the world, we become what we always were, upright, spiritually straight, and strong. Upright Living helps the patient make good choices – taking the wise plans given to us by the Liver Official, and translating them into appropriate, decisive action. Similarly, we consider the point for those who cannot manifest their best intentions in the world - who may "talk the talk" but cannot "walk the walk." It orients us away from narcissism (thinking only of ourselves) and toward brotherhood (being of service to others).
Gall Bladder 24 Sun and Moon
The two sources of light in this point name remind us that both (apparent opposites) exist in harmony with each other, making a cycle. Life is served both by the light and heat of the sun, and the relative darkness and coolness of the moon. We learn both from the brightness of the day, as well as the darkness and shadows of night where the inner, mysterious, and more subtle experiences reside. We consider this point for the wood imbalanced patient who is stuck on one side or another, stubborn, clinging to one point of view - unable to consider all sides of an issue impartially. As well, it could be a patient needing to make smoother transitions from stage to stage in life or needing better coordination between levels: body, mind, spirit – as in a case where the spirit is strong, but the body weak. Such a person might decide to compete in a challenging athletic competition in spite of a weak or injured body – a bad decision, and one likely to lead to further weakness and injury.
Sun and Moon harmonizes all our parts: upper and lower, right and left, in front and behind. When we coordinate all smoothly, seeing all clearly, integrating all - we perceive the beauty in all aspects of our process as we grow, and as it unfolds.
The following questions are useful for self-observation and can appropriately be modified to inquire about the state of a patient's Gall Bladder Official, particularly at the mental and spirit levels. It is important to remember that a problem in this Official does not necessarily make a patient a wood causative factor, nor does it mean that the major problem is Gall Bladder Official.
As we have seen, any symptom can come from imbalance in any element, as imbalance spreads from one official and element to the next. We determine the source of the trouble, the CF, only through odor, color, sound and emotion. Yet, if you suspect a problem in a patient's Wood element and specifically with the Gall Bladder Official, here are some questions to consider in assessing its state:
When have you been unable to come to a decision?
How are you organized – your desk, closet, drawers, financial records, and other important papers?
When have you been utterly lost?
When have you been late or unprepared?
When have you wandered aimlessly, with no idea of where to go or what to do next?
When have you been bossy, pushy, and inflexible?
What decisions have you put off?
When have you been angry at being told, "No, you can't?"
When have you felt like your life was running as smooth as clockwork, with everything being in the right place and at the right time?
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