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Fire – The Element of Summer
  • ‘Fire is associated with the qualities of dynamism, strength and persistence, and with restlessness and a sense of peacefulness.’

    The essence of the Fire Element is the warmth and love of the sun on a hot day. The Fire Element is about coming into maturity, the celebration of life at its zenith, the joie de vivre. For me summer is a time of warm, long lazy days outside socialising with friends. It is about partying and having fun and not taking life too seriously. It is when the natural world is in full bloom, the flowers are open to the sun, the leaves are full big and open, and the animals are maturing and growing strong. Life is easy and everything is bright and showing off. It is that time of year when the mind turns to holiday romance and everyone seems happier. There is nothing better than spending time with friends sat around a warm fire on a hot night. 
    Joy or happiness is very important to fire causative factor, it is something they constantly striving for and sometimes it seems impossible to achieve. They enjoy making people happy. But sometimes happiness is something they can really struggle to achieve, they can often easily fall into deep unhappiness, and are very sensitive to others which can mean other people’s moods have a big effect on their own, they can sometimes start to wonder if happiness is even possible but even then they tend to try and look at the positives in life and can come across to others as happy and positive even though they feel empty of joy inside. Without happiness or joy a fire causative factor can find relationships with others difficult. They can be quick in love and slow to trust, or shut people out all together in the fear of getting hurt. Often there is a vulnerability to fire causative factors and they often find it hard to receive love from others, although they can easily give out warmth themselves.
    A fire causative factor can be desperate for stability and reassurance from others, which is why for some it is good to be still and spiritual to calm the Shen and create stability within. The spirit, which is associated with the element of fire, is the Shen and the Shen translates as the mind & spirit and it is housed in the heart and can be seen in a person’s eyes. It floats in the blood. Panic and anxiety disturb the Shen, which is extremely detrimental to the heart. The Shen has four functions, clarity of thought, good memory, it makes us conscious and helps us sleep well. When Shen is disturbed it can be an extremely devastating experience which takes a long time to calm down from, it rocks one to the core and can make a person feel that everything is off balance. The first of the fire officials is the organ that houses the Shen, the Heart. The heart as the lord & sovereign, the radiance of the spirit stems from it. The heart through the Shen is the body’s connection to the heavens. 
    The heart makes and presides over the blood vessels and distributes the Qi through the body’s circulation. In the heart’s position as supreme controller it arbitrates and mediates over all the other officials, and because of this it needs to be protected from disturbance and shock. To do a good job the Heart needs not to worry about its safety so the heart not only rules over the other officials, it also depends on them. The emotion that stem from the heart is joy, and it is the bringer of love, it enables interaction between others. If a heart official is imbalanced then a person will often wear their heart on their sleeve, be prone to panic, burn out or hysteria, suffer depression, palpitations, sweats, sleeplessness, high blood pressure and in extreme cases, this will lead to cardiac arrest. The Heart opens onto the tongue, and when in distress it can affect the power of speech. A person with a distressed heart can suffer from stutters, stammering and slurred speech. Sometimes when deeply shocked a person can temporarily loose the power of speech altogether, which is the impact of the shock on the heart. We use the tongue in acupuncture to help to get a better picture of the patients health. 
    As the Heart Official is so important and vulnerable it has its own protector, which is the Pericardium. The pericardium is not in the western sense an organ; it is in fact the sheath or membrane, which surrounds the heart. The pericardium’s job is to protect the heart from insult or injury. From the heart protector comes joy and pleasure. It as like gates, which let the good in and protects from the bad. It is particularly important in helping a person develop appropriate relationships. It not only is a protector but also an ambassador to the heart. When it is not working well it leads to either everything being allow to hurt the heart and often people with Pericardium imbalances have histories of bad relationships and difficulties with finding love. This is because either they let the wrong people into their heart by opening themselves up to everyone, leaving themselves vulnerable or close up altogether and shut themselves off from the chance of joy altogether. Physically the pericardium controls the arterial and venous circulation and helps with flow of Qi, it also controls sexual secretions. If this official is in trouble it can lead to a defensive patient with lack of joy, who may try and feed off others joy, which is why some fire causative factors suffer from inappropriate joy and laughter, as they need others to be joyful to support them. 
    The yang official which is paired with the Pericardium is the Triple Heater, again this is not a physical organ. If it were to be related to any western physical function of the body it would be that of homeostasis. The body needs warmth to function and this is the job of the Triple Heater through the three Jiao (burning spaces). The Triple Heater also regulates fluids. The upper jiao should be a type of mist, the middle jiao a muddy pool and the lower jiao a drain ditch and the triple heater is responsible for opening passages and irrigation. Most symptoms of the triple heater overlap with symptoms of other organs however, by treating the triple heater you can stabilise the fire element. Treatment also supports a patient with personal interaction and someone with a triple heater imbalance might find non-intimate contact, such as parties and business meetings, difficult. They also can be accused of blowing hot or cold, which makes relationships difficult. 
    Lastly the yang official that is paired with the heart is the small intestine and this is the sorter. It separates pure from impure and therefore supports the heart by making sure it only receive the best quality Qi. The small intestine in the process of digestion absorbs most of the goodness (mentally and physically). However if put under pressure, with for example the modern diet (or the modern media), it gets full of impure rubbish and the small intestine will find it difficult to find pure Qi within the dross. If a person is lucky however and their small intestine is working well, they will be able to extract pure Qi from the most disgusting circumstances and this is why some people can eat rubbish and still feel fine. However if the small intestine is in difficulty it becomes incapable of finding any goodness and will start to become confused, fuzzy, indiscriminate, and ambivalent. In extreme cases a small intestine official can fall down so completely that the patient may lose any boundaries or moral code, which may lead to insanity. Physically problems with the small intestine can lead to pain and problems in the digestive tract, painful joints due to the poisons entering the body, lumps, swellings and also, pain along the small intestine meridian. 
    I think it is clear that the fire officials are vital to our health and happiness. They enable us to form bonds, relationships and find the good from that which is offer around us. When these officials are not working well it hurts us to our core and a person can burn out, feel depressed, isolated, or desperate for love. This can lead to issues around love and happiness, which can cause low self-esteem and make a person question their own sanity. A fire person can be the most wonderful person to know, loving warm and open but often they have a hidden sad side. They can often blame themselves for other’s faults and hope others can make them happy. They are often the most fun, sparkly, flawed, sensitive, charismatic people who can be desperately vulnerable to life’s knocks. This brings me back to fire but not the roaring happy fire but the burnt out ashes that are left.

The Author

Genevieve Hurst

Lic. Ac BA Hons MBAaC

Accredited with the British Acupuncture Council

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