ABC to Perception in Chinese medicine


“In a world where our attention are put to the test every day we need to know how Chinese medicine treat this potentially harmful element. Attention are one of the fundamentals in our life. So, enjoy.”

Nils Volden

Chinese psychology uses yin/ yang to indicate conscious and subconscious. The hidden are considered yin and the manifest are considered yang. The two aspects will always exist within us giving an understanding of the presence of the Freudian concept of subconscious.


The other aspect, regarding conflict solution or decision making, are when you have two equal options or equally good options; 均 Jūn. The concept of Jun (equal) normally concerns about the fact that many people freeze when they have to select between two options that is perceived as totally the same or equal for them. Creating a dilemma in the moment where you have to select between yin and yang. When you have to select between the equal options, it does not really matter which one you select. Given a situation like this simply pick one. Do not hesitate and waste time with analyzing aspects that really do not matter. They will steal both your time and energy, and in the end it did not really matter what you selected. When the outcome is equally bad or good, just take one without thinking.


On one side we have the ideal 千挑万选 Qiāntiāowànxuǎn, to think something very careful; the Yin type. On the other side we have 翻拣 Fānjiǎn to glance through and select; the Yang type. Yin Jun (equal) is the everlasting thinking between two options. Normally observed among I personalities (Spleen personalities). Yang Jun is never ending superficial selection; common among Roun personalities (Liver personalities).

Let us quickly analyze a complex case. In a business there are many workers and a few bosses. They have to interact to perform the best as possible for the company. Here we have aspects like personality, interaction, mood and so on afflicting their result. The 100$ question: “How should the boss behave?” Workers will react different to the same leader style. An extroverted, talk active and attention seeking boss is not perfect for all occasions. Chinese psychology will normally analyze the persons according to the personality types and the mental model. On a superficial level, the Chinese psychology approach tells us that yin and yang have to be harmonized. Meaning extroverted bosses will do better with passive workers; meaning a boss in a yang state and workers in a yin state. Where we find active workers the leader style of the boss should be passive; workers in a yang state and boss in a yin state. If we combine active workers with an active boss we often see a rice of problems. The same goes for a passive boss together with passive workers. In other words, Chinese psychology states that unbalanced levels of yin and yang among workers and boss causes problems, but in the balanced levels we find success. The best boss is the active one that activates the passive workers. When the workers are energized the leader need to pull back and the workers are pulling the company forward. The core for a boss is to both know his workers and to know when he has to accommodate according to them.


Chinese psychology connects 注意 zhùyì, attention, to our focus and our ideas. Zhuyi tells us that humans only have the ability to focus on one aspect at the time and not more than one; meaning that we can only think about one thing at the time. If we have several operations going at the same time, we need to constantly swap between them. Men are slower in swapping than women. Making women capable to have more operations up and running at the same time than men. Remember if we compare men and women we will find that women are Yin in nature; making them Yang internally, and men are Yang in nature; making them Yin internally. If a man focus at one aspect he will focus deeply and well, but he does not have the ability to go in and out of this focus that easy. Women can go in and out of focus a lot faster than a man. A man will therefore be very obsessive in his focus and women less obsessive. The mind is simply connected differently; Yin and Yang. Zhuyi explain for us that humans can ONLY compare two aspects, Yin and Yang, but not more.


If a third variable arrive it will be overseen. The mechanism is like this. Let us say that we got three objects to compare. The mind only got the capacity for TWO; making this tricky for the mind. Remember we only got Yin and Yang; we do not have a third alternative. This makes our mind develop systems to help us in the difficult moments when a third variable occurs. First the mind searches for similarities in the three objects. Let us say that two of them have similarities; same color or shape. In that very moment, the mind excludes the third object from further processing; this object is of NO importance whatever. Left with two alternatives the person will select the best one.


The attention that Zhuyi describes is a type of mental money. It is what we see and what we choose not to see. When we focus on something we get blind to everything around. This is the back side of  缩放 Suo fang (Zoom lens) that describe our minds way of focusing into details, and of course 瞩目 Zhu mu; the ability to change size inside the focus. When we see Yang, we stop seeing Yin. In general we will focus more on one aspect 一定 Yi ding (one area) and practically ignore the rest. Well, ignore is not the correct word since we simply do not have the ability to focus on more than Yi ding. Depending on the psychic qi in Yi we will focus deeply or superficial.


The attention control that guides a person’s Sou fang (spotlight) towards Yi ding (one area) solves one mystery before moving to the next. We are doomed to a limited attention. All that happens outside the attention area are happening in our blind zone. Changed blindness is the normal psychological term for this blindness; we do not have the ability to see small changes. Remember that our attention is limited and outside our attention we are blind.


Since we only see one item at the time, we have some real issues related to our analysis and details related the item. Because, did we get it right? The brain runs on an estimated 12 watts of power; like a fridge light bulb. Since it has a limited power source it needs to economize. Making it take short cuts. This is the origin to the Yin/ Yang of Sou fang (spotlight); focus on the important and not focus on everything. When in Sou fang you will amplify your 感知 Gǎnzhī, perception. When Ganzhi (perception) is strengthen we find the person get an elevated attention and thereby absorbs more details; if you want think I personality and hyperactivity in Yi. The back side of this is that you only see in Sou fang and is blind outside. Biopsychology sees this as a type of interaction between the prefrontal cortex and the parietal lobe. When attention changes the brain need to switch station between different parts of the brain. Every time a person needs to change station or go out of Sou fang we find a rearrangement in the brain. The focus changes and what were will be lost; the memory normally last for about 10 seconds. If you want to preserve the memory, you need to go back to the old Sou fang within the magic 10 seconds. This Sou fang memory is stored in the short time memory connected to Yi, and not the long term memory connected to Zhi. Depending on the switching time you might operate several items at any given time, but if you are slow in returning to Sou feng you might experience to go blank. Your Ganzhi (perception) will be altered.


Attention is limited, and need to be guided in the direction of important elements. For example you see something, then you see away, and then you look back on the first thing you saw. If any changes have happened in the meantime, you will not see it. Your attention is Sou feng, and you are lost. Many changes are impossible to see. Changes in colors, persons and items are practically totally impossible to grasp. You might focus on the main colors and see changes in them, but you will lose the change in people and others.  We do not spot changes as easy as we believe. Chinese psychology name this alterations or changes for 变化 Biànhuà, transform – change. The magicians change our focus a little and do whatever they want out of our focus area, but perhaps in front of our eyes. If a person makes somebody else focus on something different in more than the 10 seconds Yi manages to store information, we might believe it were magic. A manipulation of focus is the main trick of a magician. Sou feng manipulation makes Bianhua possible.


We got two main types of attention in the brain. The first one are自底向上 Zìdǐxiàngshàng or上行 Shàngxíng that means attention from the bottom and up; Yin moves in the direction of Yang. The second are下行 xiàxíng that means attention from the top to bottom; Yang moved in the direction of Yin. In western psychology this is normally termed as top-down and bottom up. Xiaxing (the Yang aspect in Shen), Top-down are normally connected to an advanced decision in the pre-frontal cortex. Shangxing (the Yin aspect in Shen), Bottom up are normally connected to more primitive decisions in the sensorial orifices. Meaning if the decision is of a complex and advanced nature we find Xiaxing (top-down) to be preferred, and if something is more of a basic and primitive nature we find Shangxing (bottom up) to be preferred. In short, if you show a person something an item or a sound; something that stimulates the senses the person uses Shangxing (bottom up); automatically he increases his activity in Yi. If you inform a person to focus about something you use Xiaxing (top-bottom); automatically he increases his activity in Shen. The difference is in one you think and in the other you only sense. Thinking is activity in relation to sensing; making thinking Yang and sensing Yin. One is active and the other passive. Since we are very bad in multitasking we will have great difficulties in changing between Yin and Yang, or Xiaxing and Shangxing. It is just an illusion that we can easily switch between and back and forward.  You are in one or the other one! Our Ganzhi (perception) of our thinking will not grasp this fact. Only after being exposed to the mental error we might understand the extent of Sou fang (spotlight) and our abilities to only connect in Yi ding (one area).


Shen only give attention to the most important, and ignores the rest. Shen or the mind if you want, is designed to focus on the core information; making Shen the source to the automatic selection of Yi ding (one area) for Sou fang (spotlight). It is not about what you look at what matters, but what you see. Our Zhuyi (attention) regulates our thoughts. Shen gives Yang to Yi, and thereby regulates the gathering of information. If a person suffers from a Shen Yang xu we often find a Yi yang xu; something that results in a lack of Yi ding and a loose Sou fang. This is seen in the insecurity of a Yin Chen personality and in the information searching I personality. A classical test to look closer to this is the Stroop effect. Write a color name with another color. Then ask the person tell you the name of the colors. People will normally become 50% slower. Yin and Yang are mentally separate.

 The article are to be continued…


The writer of this article gives seminars in Chinese medicine and Chinese psychology all over the world! Go to this page to find out how.

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