Fear, Depression & the Water Element

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) 5 Element Theory, unprocessed, repressed, and unhealed emotions get stuck in our organs. With the Water Element, it's the Kidneys and the Bladder (read here for more on the Water Element). The Kidneys hold fear while the Bladder holds lack of faith and giving up on our dreams. Here's a video I did on the Water Element.

The Water Element is the beginning and the end of the cycle (birth and death, the darkness between sunset and sunrise, the abyss between completion & new beginning), it is the intention setting phase. It is the space of introspection and Shadow healing. Water is creativity, it has no boundaries. Water is dreams (both daydreams and sleep dreaming), it is stillness, silence, and rest. It is the most Yin of the Elements, it is Winter and coldness, it is our Life Force. It is Inner Strength, potential, and awareness.

Water in Deficiency (Yin)


-low back pain

-not much urination


-anxiety, hysteria, palpations

-feelings of nervousness and restlessness

-hot flashes or feelings of "false heat"


-lack of creativity

-secluded lifestyle

To balance bring in some of the Metal Element to strengthen (heart openers and deep breaths, process of letting go), drink plenty of fluids, spend time in or near the Water, add cooling foods, find a balance between spending all your time alone and being social

Decrease Earth & Fire Elements (sweet, bitter, and warming foods)

Water in Deficiency (Yang)



-cold limbs

-water retention

-trouble following through on ideas

-manic depression

-frequent urination

-poor appetite

To balance bring in some of the Earth Element (add warming, sweet foods, root vegetables; grounding practices and twists; warm colors), add a sense of playfulness, find a balance between spending all your time alone and being social, self care!

Decrease the Metal Element (see above)

Where does fear show up for you? For me it feels like it's ingrained in my body and soul. As a survivor of childhood trauma, there is still a lot of fear stored in my organs. Fear can show up in many ways- fear of vulnerability, fear of being hurt, fear of taking a chance, fear of trying something new, fear of change... the list goes on. We all experience fear, many times on a daily basis. It can show up in the body as tightness in the chest or abdomen, short quick breaths, rapid heart rate, fight flight or freeze response.

I find that sitting with my fears and exploring them is so helpful- what do they feel like, when was the fear triggered, what is the origin of the fear? I allow myself time away from distractions and time to sit in silence. I try to give myself time every morning for journaling and writing down dreams. I also plan for at least 30 minutes of quiet before bed every night- time away from the distractions of social media, texting, tv, etc.

But I have to be careful to not seclude myself too much since that is my comfort zone- some alone time is important but it's also good to connect with friends and enjoy life.

Recently I realized that I’m afraid of my Light. I have spent so much time healing trauma, unearthing buried pain & repressed memories that I neglected my Light. While I do believe having a healthy relationship with and acceptance of your Shadow Self is needed, the true balance comes from acceptance & love of both Shadow & Light. I realized that I am subconsciously sabotaging my own Greatness, that I know my purpose & stand firm in it but was still hiding in the shadows, afraid to be seen for all my Brilliance. I would distract myself with DVDs or tv or social media. I catch myself saying- why bother? No one is interested in what you’re offering. And when that manifests, I’m not surprised. Now when those thoughts come up, I clear them & charge them with positivity.

Another big emotion for the Water Element is depression. While there are different kinds of depression, Water Element type depression is potentially the most dangerous. "Not only does the water element house our deep-seated fears -- it is also responsible for our genetic makeup. Therefore, often these are the types of depressions that run in the family. This is the deepest and darkest of all depressions, and the one for which medication is most helpful (and often essential). People suffering with this type of depression are sometimes suicidal." Barbara Esher

"In these cases, the patient is depressed and does not have any insight into why or any reasons that may have caused the descent into a depressive illness. These patients are most susceptible to severe psychological imbalances, such as schizophrenia, psychoses, and severe major depressive episodes. In many cases. the patient will become despondent and unable to do even the simplest of chores for themselves. Their depression seems to reach down into the very core of the person's being - their spirit and soul. These patients become incommunicable, and sink rather deeply into their illness." Stephanie Schneider-Guild

I have suffered from depression most of my life (as have both of my parents). Water is my main Element and the above 2 articles really resonated strongly for me! A majority of my depression is fear based and I don't always know what causes it. It seems to hit out of nowhere and there I am despondent, lonely, and not taking care of myself. There really is no way to explain to someone that I can't find the energy to take a shower or make myself food, that I just can't "snap out of it".

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255

If you have someone in your life who is depressed, please be there to support them. There are warning signs. Our loved ones don't always know how to reach out for help.

One of my favorite book references is Wood Becomes Water by Gail Reichstein.

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