Fear and Fearlessness: The Water Element in Five Element Acupuncture

The Water Element in Five Element acupuncture theory embodies the season of Winter and the will to endure through hardship, both in nature and in the human spirit. A robust Water Element within gives us the resolve to face unthinkable fears that threaten our basic survival.

The legendary phrase, “Nothing to fear but fear itself” paraphrases Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address in 1933:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

I can’t think of a leader and a time that more thoroughly embodies the spirit of the Water Element in Five Element acupuncture: unflappable courage and resolve, the will and determination to survive the most difficult hardship, and an ability to draw on reserves and create flow.

Roosevelt, Your Grandma, and the Water Element in Five Element Acupuncture

When FDR took office during the Great Depression, there was plenty to fear. Money panic had snowballed into years of bank failure, rampant unemployment, and homelessness. Drought in the agricultural heartland deepened the despair. Basic survival was at risk for millions of people.

Yet, people believed the new President when he told them “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” They put their money back in the banks. They felt FDR had their backs covered. Slowly, with the help of New Deal programs, the country got moving and economic flow was restored.

The strength and flow of the Water Element have a cleansing power that flushes impurities and brings out the best in the human spirit. We look back on FDR as one of our greatest leaders. The generation that grew up during the Great Depression has been called the Greatest Generation.

Admit it: your great grandma was much more badass than you! Pull up your socks and get on with your life. Call on the strength of the Water Element in your own spirit.

Winter, Survival and the Water Element in Five Element Acupuncture

Five Element acupuncture theory associates the Water Element with the season of Winter. Three essential qualities of the Water Element — survival, reserves and flow — are seen in nature during Winter.

Winter is a harsh and challenging time for plants and animals. It’s about survival, making it through to Spring. Blanketed with snow, the landscape appears barren, frozen and lifeless. Even in more temperate climes, like Portland, Oregon, life slows down and returns to the root. Plants die back, trees are bare and dormant, and animals hibernate.

Winter holds reserves of potential energy. Life is concentrated down to essentials, like a seed buried in the ground, waiting for the right amount of heat and light to burst forth. The seed appears lifeless, but it is full of potential.

Oregonians pay attention to the Winter snowpack on Mt. Hood. Glaciers, snow, and ice are truly the Water Element in potential form. Like money in the bank, the snowpack is a reservoir of energy, to be released in the spring melts. The purifying flow floods rivers and streams and washes impurities downstream.

To learn more about Winter and the Water Element, watch the video, or read about the Mind of Winter.

Fear and the Water Element in Five Element Acupuncture

The Water Element is both vital and powerfully dangerous. Our bodies are mostly made of water, and we can’t survive long without it. Yet, too little or too much brings disaster — drought, flood, tsunami, hurricane, blizzard. For this reason, humans have long sought to control its flow and ensure a steady supply.

No wonder the Water Element is associated with fear in all its forms, as well as the impact of fear on body and mind: shock, fright, terror, horror, panic, apprehension, anxiety. Someone overwhelmed with fear loses control. He/she may become paralyzed and freeze up, like a “deer in the headlights,” unable to act. Alternatively, panic takes over and the person may bolt mindlessly.

Years of ongoing hardship and stress can deplete our reserves and weaken the Water Element within. A person may become stuck in “fight-or-flight,” a state of constant anxiety and alarm that wears down physiological systems.

Healing and the Water Element in Five Element Acupuncture

Times of economic collapse and times of war, like the Great Depression and the World War that followed, are the Winter of human affairs. The fabric of society is torn to shreds, and our very existence seems threatened. We are faced with the unspeakable horror that can pull our lives apart.  A robust Water Element in the human spirit gives us the courage, prudence and resolve to find our way through the greatest hardship.

Even in the best of times, we each face hardship and trauma in our personal lives. We may feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear. Five Element acupuncture can help restore the strength and flow of the Water Element in body, mind, and spirit. Acupuncture treatment can ease anxiety and fear, calming the mind and helping to pull the nervous system out of “fight-or-flight.” Strength and will are restored, releasing us from fear and empowering us to endure and carry on.

Inner Works Acupuncture is a Five Element acupuncture clinic in Portland, Oregon. Contact us today at 503-227-2127 to schedule an appointment.

Photo by David V. Hoffman on Visual hunt /  CC BY-NC-SA