Water regulates fear and motivation at each stage of development. Balancing Water is essential for us to grow into healthy people at each stage of our lives.
In our first article on the Water Element, we talk about how water is the source of procrastination, as well as creativity. It’s a philosophical well-spring deeply connected to our life force, or Jing. Water is also associated with Fear. This sense of fear is essential for life, motivating us and giving us an appropriate sense of caution when we are afraid at the right level. If we have too much fear, we may feel debilitated and cannot take any action; too little fear and we risk our lives, as well as the happiness of ourselves and those around us.
At each developmental stage, Water affects our bodies and emotions in different ways because the tasks and physical growth during each stage of life vary. Fear and motivation are critical aspects of each stage of development, so Water plays a significant role who how we interact with and take in the world.
Water has a deep spiritual aspect. Water seeks wisdom, manifesting early in childhood through questions about life and death. If these questions are left unanswered, or children’s fear about them not assuaged, fear can dominate. Fear is the emotion linked with Water, and without careful listening to and care for children’s worries, adults may inadvertently heighten children’s fears, leading to hearing and urinary tract problems.
Water seeks adventure and is courageous, willing to take risks. During adolescence, if in balance, Water can create a sense of confidence and willingness to try new things, whether joining a sports team, trying out for a school play, or going to college. If out of balance, Water can reign uncontrolled. In this case, Water may lead to risky activities, such as drug use and gambling in excess, or may cripple with fear, preventing healthy risk taking necessary for this stage of development. The beauty of Water is that if brought back into balance, it can allow us to reflect on our past actions and learn from them, allowing us to grow and expand in positive directions.
During early adulthood, Water can move someone to leave a miserable job, motivate positive changes, and help build new relationships. A balanced level of Water’s dominant emotion, fear, can motivate positive changes, such as beginning an exercise program to live longer. We may also be better parents, or even take the risk of having children at all, when Water is in balance. If too fearful, we might never have children. If not fearful enough, we might create a unsafe environment in which to nurture our children and families.
Middle and Old Age
Middle age and old age are often associated with a Water crisis. Our body’s ability to reproduce changes, and we draw nearer to our death. Our body’s ability to effectively store and use water diminishes as our Jing Qi diminishes as well. Loss of fluids means changes in our body – achy joints, tight tendons, wrinkled skin, etc. Food, exercise, and lifestyle changes can off-set some of the effects of decreasing Jing Qi, but our bodies will continue to change and age.
If the philosophical nature of Water is allowed to surface, we can contemplate these changes and our mortality is a healthy way, noticing our fear of death but not letting it consume us. We can embrace our physical changes by strengthening our body in appropriate ways for our age.
If Water is out of balance, fear may drive us outward to take unhealthy risks, obsessively exercise, overindulge in food, use chemicals and surgery to alter our physical appearance, engage in excess sexual activity, and more. Fear may also turn us inward, shutting off all outside contact and emotional connection because we fear losing loved ones or dying ourselves.
Water is essential for survival, just as with rivers. Rivers cannot flow without a constant supply of Water. A healthy body, nourished with food, fresh air, water, and movement, more effectively produces Water. When young, Jing Qi can help off-set a lack of any one of these other sources of Qi.
As we age, finite Jing Qi stores are depleted and eventually our Water will stop flowing, and we will die. Taking unnecessary medicines and other toxic chemicals stresses our organs and makes it harder for Water to flow. Even essential medicines stress our systems, so eating the right foods, living a balanced lifestyle, and moving our body is critical for longevity and health as we age. People aging in China have a cultural advantage over people gaining the West. It is the norm for older people to spend almost their entire day outside in fresh air. Parks are filled with people exercising every morning, afternoon, and evening. It’s harder but not impossible in the West, and hopefully one day we can change western norms.
Growth and Change
In all developmental phases, Water wants and needs change. Not all changes have to be large. Changing colors and texture in your wardrobe or home décor, trying new foods, and listening to varied styles of music can satisfy Water’s need for change, movement, and expansion. Since Water connects to the Ears, paying attention to little sounds can help bring balance and promote mental and physical well-being, regardless of a person’s age.
We must remember that Water can get carried away. Remember the river? When Water is present, it wants to flow and move and do whatever it wants! We must recharge our General Qi so Water does not continue to deplete our Jing Qi. Rest, especially in Winter, nourishing food, and calming exercises to move Qi and fluids in our body will help keep Water in balance. Staying in balance helps us regulate our feelings of fear and increase our ability to do what needs to be done, versus just playing and doing whatever we want, or being so afraid that we do nothing at all.