Finding Balance

Acupressure for Blocked Emotions

By Wolfgang Luckmann
[Energy Work]

According to an old Chinese medical principle, emotional balance is the ability to feel all emotions appropriately. When a client is feeling challenged and stressed out, he or she can get fixed in one emotional state, the result of which can be fatigue, pain, depression, and lack of self-esteem. 

Such an emotional state of imbalance is mirrored in the physiological and anatomical systems of the body. A client in this state might exhibit posture that slumps forward and a kyphotic back with rounded shoulders. Tendons become tight and muscles can atrophy because of insufficient energy pushing blood and lymph. 

There is a connection between qi, or universal life energy, and blood and lymph. According to the ancient Chinese medical text The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, “Qi motivates blood and fluids,” which means that there is an energy that drives the heart and circulatory system. Ultimately, without balance, there is dysfunction.

The Taoist Perspective 

A healthy emotional state can be observed in early childhood. A toddler will be happy one minute, screaming and frustrated the next, and then happy again before the tears have time to dry. Unfortunately, as we age, our emotional responses become more and more predictable, rigid, and even neurotic. We have difficulty adjusting our patterned responses, and the free flow of emotions becomes blocked.

So how exactly can emotions affect and harm physiological and anatomical systems? According to ancient Taoist philosophy, our emotions and soul inhabit our internal organs. There is a whole physiology associated with how the emotions circulate from organ to organ and to larger physiological systems. The organs contain the very essence of our emotional, physical, and spiritual life force and form an invisible web that influences our bodies right down to the cellular level.

It is important to understand that it is only when we feel our emotions excessively, and they become chronic, that emotions, even good ones, can harm us. For example: anger weakens the liver and gallbladder; grief weakens the lung and large intestine; worry weakens the stomach and spleen; joy weakens the heart, pericardium, and small intestine, and ultimately the brain; and fear weakens the kidneys and bladder. 

Fatigue, low motivation, and lack of self-esteem flow from such excess, and the client can feel stuck as a result. 

From the Organs to the Tissues

According to the five-element theory in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), internal organs also control corresponding tissues. When the qi in an organ gets weakened, it becomes blocked and there is no life force or universal life energy moving the blood and lymph. For example, in addition to being influenced by anger, the liver and gallbladder also control the tendons and attachment sites. Therefore, when the liver and gallbladder qi becomes weakened by the emotion, tendons show tightness. The lungs and large intestines control skin and hair. When the lung qi becomes weakened by grief, there could be acne, eczema, psoriasis, and hair loss. The stomach and spleen control the muscle bellies. Deficiency of qi in the stomach and spleen can give rise to atrophy and weak, painful musculature; what comes to mind is the client with fibromyalgia. A weakness in the heart, small intestine, and pericardium qi results in circulatory and brain problems. The client could be suffering from high blood pressure or Raynaud’s syndrome, lack of focus, concentration issues, hysteria, and toxic digestion, for example. The kidneys and urinary bladder control the bones and brain. If qi in the kidney and urinary bladder is weak, the client may have arthritis, osteoporosis, and a poor memory.

The task of the therapist is to unblock the flow of qi, strengthen it, and ultimately keep it balanced for the health of the client. 

Using Acupressure Points

There are certain key acupressure points linked to the different internal organs, and subsequently, the emotions. Each point can be used to evaluate and treat emotional imbalances, together with concurrent issues in the tissues.

To begin, press and palpate lightly for evaluation. The pressure is the weight of a coin (roughly 5 grams). On a pressure scale of 1–10, with 10 signifying extremely painful pressure and 1 hardly any pressure at all, the pressure should be 2–4. For treatment, increase the pressure to 4, holding the point or rotating on it for a minute or longer, depending on the emotional state of the client. (Counterclockwise rotation, as seen from the therapist’s viewpoint, has a sedative and grounding effect.)


Stomach and Intestines

I recommend starting with the mind and its connection to the rest of the body through the stomach and intestines. This consists of connecting with the extra point, Yin Tang (also known as the Third Eye), which is situated between the eyebrows. In reiki, this point is in the area of the sixth chakra; in TCM, it is known as the Higher Dantian. At the same time we place our hands on the Third Eye, we connect with Conception Vessel 12, which is on the third chakra halfway between the navel and xyphoid process (Image 1). Conception Vessel 12 is the master point of the stomach. Therefore, we are also addressing worry, anxiety, and hysteria. 

We always want a bipolar connection, which is based on the idea of linking yin and yang, or two opposite and mutually supportive properties. For example, we link the qi of the brain, representing yang, with the internal viscera and fluids of the stomach and intestines, representing yin.


Blood and Circulation

Next, we connect with the master point of the lower body, Spleen 6, to ground the client by using a yin point that controls blood and circulation. Simultaneously, we are addressing worry and anxiety by rooting or anchoring the energy of the mind and emotions in cooling liquid, which is symbolized by yin. Spleen 6 is a hand-width above the tip of the medial malleolus. Treat bilaterally every time. 



Move to the Back-Shu points of the lungs for depression and grief. Back-Shu points are found directly above the organs on the Urinary Bladder channel and directly infuse energy into them. The two points are Urinary Bladder 13 and 15, and are in line with the root of the spine of the scapula and two finger-widths lateral to the spinous process of thoracic vertebra 3 (Image 2). 

Back-Shu points are always bilateral and are situated on the Urinary Bladder channel. They can be likened to jumper cables in cars, since they charge up the organ and balance the emotions immediately. 



A good next stop would then be the Back-Shu points of the kidneys, or Urinary Bladder 23. The kidney qi is ultimately responsible for the energy in all the organs, and although the kidneys are associated with fear and fright, the power of the kidneys is such that it controls willpower as well. Urinary Bladder 23 is also known as the Gate of Life and represents the Lower Dantian, or principal energy center of the body. The kidneys belong to the water element and therefore cool the heart, with its associated emotion of joy and hysteria. Urinary Bladder 23 is level with lumbar vertebra 2 and 3 (Image 3). 




For clients with anger, frustration, or even hate, Liver 3 is an excellent balancing point. Sensations felt by the client on this point can be sharp, like a thumbtack pushed through, depending on their heightened emotional state. This point treats the stress from the anger that manifests itself in tight tendons. The point also treats headaches, like migraines and tension headaches linked to the stress of anger and frustration. When you link it with the Yin Tang point between the eyes, it can calm the sympathetic nervous system and also lift chronic depression. The point is between the first and second metatarsal bones, slightly below the cleft where they split. Often just doing a finger walk toward the cleft, from the web between the first two toes, evokes the desired sensitive response (Image 4). 


Going Full Circle

We have gone full circle in our choice of organs according to the Nourishing Cycle of the Five Elements in TCM. Each time, we have connected with an organ that was probably overnourishing or overstimulating its partner. The connections and sequences are better understood in reference to the diagram of the Five Elements (Image 5).

In the cycle of generation shown by the outer ring, the heart, small intestine, triple burner, and pericardium belong to the element fire. The qi of fire feeds earth, which includes the organs of the stomach and spleen. Earth feeds metal with qi, which contains the lungs and large intestine. From there, the qi travels to the water element, which consists of the kidneys and urinary bladder. Then, the qi feeds the element wood, which contains the liver and gallbladder. Finally, the qi ends back in the element fire. 

This constant, cyclical movement and flow is symbolized by the Taiji symbol and represents the opposite of stagnation and blockage. Movement and flow represent health, whereas blockage and stagnation represent sickness.

It is the therapist’s task to restore the natural flow of qi throughout the mind and body. Regardless of the symptoms of pain, depression, or stress exhibited in the tissues, the guiding principle of TCM acupressure is to free the flow of qi to promote harmony and spiritual health. 


  Wolfgang Luckmann BA, AP, LMT, is a licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist based in Fernandina Beach, Florida. He inspires his clients to take an active role in their healing through medical qigong, exercise, acupuncture, and massage. He is also a continuing education provider for massage and acupuncture and teaches more than a dozen courses across the country.