Whether or not you dream, and even what you dream about, is an important diagnostic sign in Chinese medicine pointing to what organs in your body may be out of balance. It is normal to dream, but when dreams become repetitive or disruptive to your sleep or you are bothered by nightmares, it is time to assess the bigger picture. A good practitioner of Chinese medicine will always ask about the frequency and nature of dreams and will use this information along with the other signs and symptoms in the health history to determine the pattern of imbalance.
In Chinese medicine, the Heart controls the mind and is closely related to our ability to think clearly, sleep soundly and have a good memory. All dreams are in some way related to a Heart disharmony, but some are more specifically related. According to the Chinese classic, “Simple Questions”, “When the Heart is weak, one dreams of fires; if the dream takes place in the summertime, one dreams of volcanic eruptions”. Another reference in the classic “Spiritual Axis” states that “When the Heart is in excess, one dreams of laughing…when the Heart is deficient, one dreams of mountains, fire and smoke”.
The Kidneys have a close relationship to the Heart in Chinese Medicine. The Kidney energy is the source of all warmth and energy in the body. The Kidney energy supports all of the other organs. This energy has to be strong to ascend from the Kidney to communicate with the Heart in order for the Heart to house the mind. The Spiritual Axis states that, “When the Kidneys are in excess one dreams that the spine is detached from the body…when they are weak, one dreams of being immersed in water.” “Simple Questions” states that “When the Kidneys are weak, one dreams of swimming after a shipwreck; if the dream takes place in the winter, one dreams of plunging in the water and being scared”.
The Liver is responsible for storing Blood and ensuring the smooth flow of Qi in the body. If the Liver is able to perform its functions, the Heart will have enough Blood to nourish the mind. If the Liver Qi is stagnant, Heat may be generated and rise up to harass the mind. “Simple Questions” states that “When the Liver is in excess, one dreams of being angry”. And “When the Liver is deficient, one dreams of very fragrant mushrooms. If the dream takes place in spring, one dreams of lying under a tree without being able to get up”. The “Spiritual Axis” states that, “When the Liver is deficient one dreams of forests in the mountains”.
The Lungs control the Qi which is closely associated to the Blood and how the Blood flows to nourish all of the organs. “Simple Questions” states that “When the Lungs are in excess, one dreams of weeping”. “If the Lungs are deficient, one will dream of white objects or about bloody killings. If the dream takes place in the Autumn, one will dream of battles and war”. “Spiritual Axis” states that “When the Lungs are in excess, one will have dreams of worry and fear, or crying and flying….if the Lungs are deficient one will dream of flying and seeing strange objects made of gold or iron”.
The Spleen also has a very close connection to the mind. The Spleen influences our ability to study and memorize. “Simple Questions” states that, “If the Spleen is deficient, one dreams of being hungry; if the dream takes place in late summer, one dreams of building a house”. Spiritual Axis” states that, “If the Spleen is in excess one dreams of singing and being very heavy…if the Spleen is deficient one dreams of abysses in mountains and of marshes”.
The Gallbladder has an influence on the length and quality of sleep. If the Gallbladder qi is deficient, a person will wake early in the morning and not be able to fall back asleep. Chinese texts state, that “When the Gallbladder is deficient, one dreams of fights, trials, and suicide.”
The “Spiritual Axis” states that “When the Small Intestine is deficient, one dreams of large cities”, and “When the Large Intestine is deficient, one dreams of open fields”.
Now, I know I have had dreams and none of them sound like any of the ones mentioned here in the Chinese classics. But the point is, Chinese medicine has centuries of documentation about the subject of our dreams and how it relates to the organs in our body. If there is a pattern to your dreams, Chinese medicine could logically explain a correlation according the the Five Element theory. If they always occur in a specific season it could be significant. Heart is summer, Lung is fall, Kidney is winter, Liver is spring and Spleen is late summer. If they always are associated with a specific color it could be significant. Heart is red, Lung is white, Kidney is black, Liver is green and Spleen is yellow. If they are always associated with a particular emotion, it could be significant. Heart is joy, Lung is grief, Kidney is fear, Liver is anger, and Spleen is worry. If they are always related to a particular element it could be significant. Heart is fire, Lung is metal, Kidney is water, Liver is wood and Spleen is earth.
Along with other symptoms concerning appetite, diet, energy level, pain, bowel and urination habits, and how the tongue looks, your dreams could be trying to tell you how to heal your whole body!
About the Author:
Joyce Marley is a licensed acupuncturist who provides acupuncture therapy in New Hartford, NY. She writes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) health articles about acupuncture and Oriental medicine.