Your inner warrior - why the liver is associated with anger
Lots of therapies say the liver is the organ that stores and processes frustration / bitterness / anger / rage etc. What does this even mean? How can an organ hold anger?
The key here is to appreciate that our liver is not just a mundane gland. It actually has a profound intelligence and is connected to your whole body, working with your gallbladder, small intestine and heart all the time. It's warrior energy is determined to keep you alive and moving. It is our loyal inner warrior. Here's why, and here's how it relates to anger.
Our liver is huge and is busy almost all the time. When we make it harder for our liver to do what it needs to do, an innate frustration starts to build up. With a to-do list of more than 500 items from cleansing to fighting infection, breaking down food and hormones and everything else in between, this is kind of natural. It's like a warrior doing everything it can to protect and keep you alive. Our liver ensures that our body's metabolic functions are carried out so we have enough energy, and crucially, the right type of energy to survive and thrive..
It even does this whilst you're busy trying to kill yourself.
What do I mean by that? Well, If your liver had a voice (which is kind of does) it might say, 'I'm pretty important but most of the time you ignore me. You definitely ignore me every Saturday night when you're down the pub/club or up the rooftop bar and also every Sunday night when you're bitching about your boss and the job you hate but won't leave. Or when you're wolfing down medications to numb your symptoms. I speak to your gut, I'm always checking in with your heart but I don't really speak to you anymore, mostly because you don't hear me. Sometimes I wonder if you even know I exist. Or whether you know what I do for you.
Maybe I can tell you: On a basic level I clean the filthy blood that comes from your gut. I mop up your Thursday night one-too-manys with the team and I try to prevent your body freaking out after your 11pm sugar binge fests that nobody knows about because you empty the bin the same night. I sort through what you eat and figure out what I need to secrete in order to process it and make it more manageable. Yeah, you thought that was just your gut, but that's me too. It's quite exhausting work sometimes. So here I am, trying to make sure you don't poison yourself to death.'
As you can tell, the liver is pretty serious, and doesn't mince it's words. It's like a warrior on a mission. The gut-liver axis is a direct pathway and toxins taken into the body result in cellular stress and inflammation in the cells of the liver, called hepatocytes. If you keep getting in the way of the mission the warrior will start to fight back.
The liver is responsible for your ability to 'let go' and your ability to flow
A big part of our liver's role is to help the body drain physically, emotionally and energetically. Drainage is super important and so is being able to let go of things that no longer serve us. Without it, we would experience stagnation and eventually we would die. Drainage is therefore key to allowing flow or movement, and movement is central to being alive and not dead. Flow includes cerebrospinal fluid, lymph, blood as well as emotions, perception, ideas, inspiration and creativity. Everything is supposed to move and flow.
Drainage is therefore key to flow or movement, and movement is key to life.
When we hinder our natural flow by refusing to let go of habits, people, situations, jobs, thoughts, emotions etc we start becoming stagnant. Just like a pond that gets stagnant, it starts to stink. The way a human stinks is by becoming toxic. The body and mind become toxic and after a whilst, stagnation gives rise to stuckness. Being stuck is so against our nature as beings that are constantly flowing or in motion (we are the universe in ecstatic motion - Rumi) that we start to feel frustrated. We are destined for freedom and flow and yet here we are, stuck, stagnant, toxic and stinky. And we don't even know how this happened. We're successful! We have good jobs, pretty partners and a nice house. We take nice holidays. Why do we have this feeling of being stuck?
When stuckness is not resolved it starts to make us feel trapped, which creates a natural instinct to break out and to set ourselves free. Often the chase to find a freeing activity or lifestyle is a quest to get unstuck inside and get the inner flow feeling back.
Breaking free, becoming unstuck requires energy. Anger is a way of discharging energy and the liver works so hard, producing heat energy to help us break those prison walls
In order to break free from the self imposed prison, energy is required. Queue the liver. Imagine someone has trapped you behind steel bars, you're desperate to escape so you try anything you can. All that takes energy. In all likelihood you have trapped yourself, and so anything you do externally to escape your own prison proves fruitless. Your prison is in within. So what's the natural reaction here? The natural response is to use energy to break out. Anger is a way that we discharge energy from within.
In Chinese medicine the emotion of the Wood Element is anger. In order to break out of prisons we need to grow both deeper into it and beyond it. Eventually we will become too big and the prison bars will no longer be able to contain us. Wood is symbolic of the inevitable growth and resilience that resides in every human being. I'm not talking about the type of growth that 'makes us better people' or gets us a promotion, but an expansion within that allows us to hold, experience and move through a wider spectrum of life with compassion and understanding.
In order to break out of our prisons we need to grow both deeper into it and beyond it. Liver is the element of Wood which is symbolic of growth and expansion- an innate aspect of being human
So here we have the liver constantly trying to save us from getting stuck in our own self mixed quicksand by working overtime, generating heat energy and desperately trying to get us to discharge it so we can expand.
So of course, we don't. We hold it in. Make polite conversation. Tell people we're fine and buy a 'cheeky red' bottle on the way home on a Wednesday night. We fake it. As humans we are constantly evaluating the safety of staying put with the promise of letting go. Changing vs remaining. And so the battle rages on within. The liver works overtime and is frustrated because there has been no change, and yet change is too terrifying to imagine. So the energy isn't discharged and the expansion never comes. Which keeps us feeling small and powerless which makes us frustrated and gets the back up of our inner warrior - the Liver.
Understanding this as a natural process, and anger as a release of energy can help us when we work with clients. Expressed anger can be the body discharging preparing to outgrow it's own prison. Suppressing the anger means the growth is also suppressed because the energy behind the anger remains stagnant. As for the liver, it has a harder time trying to get it's jobs done because instead of allowing our emotions and energy to drain we hold on.
Helping clients to acknowledge their body, their anger and reassuring them that emotions are a valid, natural and clever response to what they have been through is often the first step. Assuring their bodies and the cells that they are no longer going through that event is part of this acknowledgement. This takes time. For people who have been smiling through life for decades hiding how they really feel because that's for them, how they stay 'strong', acknowledging their anger is a huge internal shift. One that can leave them feeling all sorts of other emotions - failure, weak, guilty, self hatred (aka more anger) etc.
Assuring their bodies and the cells that they are no longer going through that event is part of this acknowledgement
The next step is to allow the sensation within the body. When sensations are blocked, the liver is in turbulence but the client is unable to feel it. I mean why would they, they've spent years trying not to feel it so they won't suddenly start because they're lying on your treatment table. The sensations need to be introduced, slowly and safely. The first sensation to allow is is safety, so helping a client to find a place in their body that they feel that is safe, peaceful, joyful and taking them into their body from that starting point. Then the more uncomfortable sensations can be introduced. Once a client can let a pain or emotional or movement sensation through and realise it's not going to overwhelm them, their body will start to become more comfortable with releasing and draining.
The important step then is the emotional congruence. Often the sensations come through the body but the emotional body is still asleep or has left the room and is hiding in the car. There is either a denial, a distance or a complete disconnect between the emotional body and the physical body which means anger can be acknowledged and yes the sensation and movement within the body can be felt but the emotion cannot be accessed or felt easily.
Creating a safe container for a client to be able to feel angry so that their system drains is key. This is the part that I find takes the most time. The mind usually jumps in and rationalises the sensation. After all, it's trying to protect and is fiercely defensive of any intruders. However when the anger is felt and allowed to be expressed it dissipates relatively swiftly, creating more space in the body and allowing a new balance and harmony to be found.
When anger is felt and allowed to be expressed, dissipates relatively swiftly, creating more space in the body and allowing a new balance and harmony to be found.
All this takes time. That's what a process is, of going back and forward between acknowledging, feeling, really feeling and integrating. This is why I work with my clients in sessions of 3,6 or 10 weeks - to provide a container for this sort of process. To go deep with someone into their fears and resistance, potential and gifts takes time and requires a field of safety and holding.
If you'd like to explore your body, connect to your liver, find a safe way to express anger or frustration or you're feeling stagnation within and around you in your life, contact me to book a session.
The liver is our most loyal warrior. It's the only organ in our body that will regrow itself when it gets taken down in battle. Let it fight - but for you, rather than with you.
The liver is our most loyal warrior. It's the only organ in our body that will regrow itself when it gets taken down in battle. The liver is too busy to talk but when we overload ourselves with toxic situations, food, thoughts, environments and emotions it will find it harder to fight. After all it's protecting us and we're trying to destroy it. The liver shows us when we are getting in our own way, giving ourselves a battle to fight that we simply could allow to drain away. The balance between holding on and letting go is a constant dance between identity and annihilation and the liver plays a key role in that.