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A friend of mine sent me this gorgeous clip of his baby daughter laughing. As well as making me smile, it made me think about babies and emotions. The relationship that babies have with their emotions is so different to that which we have as adults.
The first thing that struck me is how wonderfully spontaneous the baby’s laugh is. There is no part of her that is questioning whether she should laugh or not, looking at how others might respond to her laughing or wondering whether she should not be doing it. She is laughing because she finds something funny, and she stops when it no longer is. It is her amazing lack of self-consciousness that enables her to do this. When self-consciousness begins to emerge in children, they often start to inhibit their natural, emotional response to things. In Chinese medicine, emotions are seen as a potential cause of disease. One way that an emotion becomes a cause of disease is when it is repressed or held on to for too long. If we could all continue to be as emotionally spontaneous as babies, we would all be much healthier (as well as happier).
The other thing that struck me watching the video is how the baby almost becomes the emotion. When she is laughing, it is as if the whole of her is laughing. This made me think about the strong connection in babies and toddlers between their body and their emotions. If a baby’s body is uncomfortable because, for example, her tummy is too full of food or milk, she is likely to be grouchy and unhappy. Conversely, if she is feeling lonely because she wakes up to find she is alone in her cot, then she will often feel and manifest the distress in her body. Chinese medicine does not really distinguish between the mind and the body, but babies are a fantastic example of how truly inter-connected these two parts of us really are.
This is the view in front of my house at the moment! Very beautiful but very damp! Wolvercote is always a particularly damp part of Oxford – nestled on the flood plain between the river and the Canal, with the odd lake thrown in to boot. But the amount of water at the moment is exceptional.
Deeply embedded in Chinese culture and thinking is the idea that the external environment has a big effect on the internal workings of our body. So when it’s damp outside, we become more Damp on the inside.
In children, Dampness most commonly manifests in any of the following symptoms: a snotty and running nose, a mucousy cough, puffiness, bloated tummy, mucous in the stools, flabby limbs, the needs for lots of sleep.
There are various simple things that we can do to help prevent our children becoming too Damp – and these things are especially important when the external environment is so damp. The first thing is to avoid Damp forming foods. The worst culprits are dairy products (milk, cheese and yoghurt), refined sugar, bananas and peanuts! The second thing is to keep moving! It’s tempting when there are rain and wind storms outside to hunker down, watch more TV than usual and not really move much. And although it is appropriate at this time of year to hibernate a little and conserve our energy, we do need to balance this with movement.
So, get the kids well dressed up in hats, coats and scarfs and take them out to do some splashing around in puddles. Just make sure they don’t stay in damp clothes for any length of time though………!!
Most of us feel a mixture of relief and happiness when the first signs of spring appear. We get a bounce in our step and sometimes a surge in vitality too. In Chinese Medicine, spring is a time when yang (the warm and active part of our energy) rises.
One would think that the end of winter would herald the end of pale, pasty and snotty children. And it often does. However, over the last couple of weeks I have had a lot of children come through the doors of the Panda Clinic with “spring diseases”. In Chinese Medicine terms, when spring arrives pathogens that have been lurking in our bodies throughout the winter, are often brought to the surface. Just as, in nature, bulbs flower and blossom appears on the trees, the extra heat brings things to the surface of the body. Yang is rising, but in children it sometimes rises a bit too much and a bit too quickly!
This manifests in different ways in different children. There is an increased incidence of febrile diseases, such as chicken pox, at this time of year. The pock marks are literally a manifestation of heat that has been lurking in the body coming to the surface. Children with skin diseases such as eczema may have a temporary flare up.
I have heard a lot of parents recently saying they “don’t know what has got in to” their child. They aren’t sleeping so well, are more ratty, cross and irritable. Springtime is related to the Liver organ in Chinese medicine. The Liver Qi (energy) has to work quite hard to adapt to the change in the external conditions that come in spring. What’s more, as if often the case in the UK, there is often a period of a few weeks when it’s warm one day, and cold again the next. This constant fluctuation in temperature puts the Liver Qi under more strain. These emotional changes that parents notice are a reflection of the Liver Qi trying, but struggling, to adapt. In Chinese Medicine theory, we say that “the Liver hates change.”
In a few week time, however, both the weather and our children should be more settled. The heat that is coming to the surface needs to be expelled and it is the sign of a robust child that their body is trying to do this. The Yang will have risen, the Liver energy settled back down and calm will once more reign!!