Causes of Disease
You might have noticed that my usual Wednesday Note didn’t land in your inbox yesterday. I had something mostly ready to go, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish it after learning about the school shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.
My heart broke. Again. It broke like it did 12 days ago after the mass murder at Tops supermarket in Buffalo. It broke like it did in 1999, when I was walking through an airport and all the television screens in the gate areas showed the same images: streams of teenagers running out of Columbine High School with their hands on their heads. It keeps happening, and our hearts keep breaking.
My heart is broken for the educators in my life. It’s broken for my patients. It’s broken for the children in my life. It’s broken for parents, for families, for communities.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine we separate causes of disease into three broad categories: exogenous, endogenous, and miscellaneous factors. The exogenous factors are the things that invade the body from the outside—we use the metaphors of wind and cold and heat and dampness but what we really mean is environmental pathogens like viruses and bacterial infections.
The endogenous factors are the emotions. Each emotion is said to have a different effect on the qi: fear causes the qi to sink, anger causes the qi to rise, worry stagnates the qi, fright scatters the qi, grief and sadness consume the qi.
And then there are the miscellaneous factors. Our classical textbooks list these as weak constitution, overexertion, diet and nutrition, physical trauma, parasites and poisons, and incorrect treatment. In modern times we have a few more. Racism. Intolerance. Bigotry. Hatred. Guns.
This newsletter is about health and wellness, not politics or current events. But health and wellness occur in the context of larger society. Health and wellness are informed by more than individual decisions; they’re the product of much broader influences, including public policy, shared values and community action.
Disease comes in many forms. It may affect the individual or the collective. But always, when treating disease, we start with a differential diagnosis, which means first identifying the root cause. Only then can we heal.
Love and gratitude,