“To look at flowers in the fog” Information overload in Chinese medicine




“Respect and information are key words today. Chinese medicine analyze this in a special way. Enjoy.”

Nils Volden





Filial piety is one of the great pillars within Chinese culture. It is a general term about being good and taking good care of ones parents. A good person is supposed to extend Xiao (filial piety) out of the home; by doing that he will show respect to their ancestors. This concept is regarded to be the ONLY constant in Chinese behavior, and is therefore one of the guiding concepts for understanding of Chinese psychology. To practice Chinese psychology you need to understand that Xiao is an integrated part of the theories.


An important game theory is the Butterfly economy. In this theory we see a widespread use of metaphors related to the insect world; just as Chinese medicine are filled with metaphors from the nature (example wind, earth, fire, metal and water). Metaphors are used to describe the economy function as a living organism; all living organisms can process information and learn from experiences. The integrated complexity of everything is the base of understanding Chinese medicine and psychology. Only through understanding that everything is complex we can start grasping 精 Jing, the essence. As the Butterfly economy theory tells us that any economic systems can be seen as a living organism.


We might pay some attention to the crucial point in the Butterfly economy theory, the understanding of that individuals use cost and benefits analysis of retrospective choices, and in addition butterfly economics also adds interaction. In this Butterfly theory we think that players gain new information through their interaction with others; information that will influence decision making and pursuing of their personal interests. In other words, the most important aspects are interaction and the new information (others do not have).  Successful people search information 24/7.  Xìn Information is a currency and a key to benefits and growth.  Compared to the normal economic theory we see that butterfly theory adds more importance to information, and with that complicates the theoretical totality. The key is Xinxi – information. This will of course delay our decision making. A perfect game happen where everybody knows the previous moves of the opponent/ other players; a situation that do not exist in real life. It will always exist players that do not know something. A perfect game is not the same as having all the information. Complete information include that the players know the strategies of the other players and their results, but not necessary also the actions. It is important that it exist a consistency in strategies sometimes known as Nash equilibrium or the yin strategy. Unpredictable changes and uncertainty will destroy the important equilibrium, or the influence of yang strategies.


超负荷 Chao fu he or overload is another important aspect when speaking about information. The classical Chao fu (overload) happens when Yi have filled up Hun with too much information and Shen have sent much information for rethinking; making Hun slowly fill up. We have to note that it is two different sides to consider, too much information and to sensitive to information. Let us first look at the concept of “Information overload” that occur when a player get too much information (Yi related) or have accumulated information due to difficulties of understanding or solving matters (Shen related). When we have too much information in circulation or 投放 Tou fang as Chinese psychology like to put it we will get hyperactivity in Hun; if this activity surpasses the tolerance in Hun we might call it a liver qi stagnation or Hun mirroring itself in Po. The problem of Tou fang is the amount of information, and not really the content of the actual information. In the west we find information overload first described by Alvin Toffler and Bertram Gross in the sixties. They used infinity of information (Later: Think internet) as one of their angles to get the reader to understand what information overload means.


Sensibility to information or 懂事 Dong shi have for a long time been seen as one powerful pathogenic factor within Chinese psychology. Meaning when the mental aspect Yi gathers more information than it should; Yi yang shi or a Yi yin xu. Shen is simply flooded with information. As a result Shen need to fight to find the important information among the less important. Sensory overload or Dong shi (Yang) is the antagonist to information overload or Chao fu (Yin). Sensory overload is connected to both observation (our psychic qi levels) and perceiving information through our senses (the qi in Po and all the zang organs). When we perceive too much we get disoriented due to the Chao fu (overload). Shen does not know how to connect all the information, and choose to send the information back to Hun for rethinking. Making a situation of Chao fu develop in Hun. The activity increases in Hun and if it accumulates sufficient we find the activity to pass 度量 Du liang (tolerance for information in Hun) creating 反映 Fan ying (mirroring) from Hun to Po. When this situation starts heating up we find our reactions to slow down. Yang in thinking creates Yin in the system. We simply start to react more slowly to inputs.


Dong shi or sensory overload will result in a type of lack of responsiveness; psychic qi xu. This is explained as an inborn safety mechanism and thereby connected to our congenital Jing or Ben if you want. When the activity in Hun passes the limit (Duliang) it will start to mirror (Fanying) itself in Po. In that moment we say that you got hyperactivity in Hun. This hyperactivity might also be seen as liver qi stagnation. Liver zang gives yang to spleen zang. If you have liver qi stagnation we will experience that the liver does not send its product as it normally does. The result will be a spleen yang xu. Since spleen zang is intimately related to Yi, we will find a Hyperactivity in Hun creating a reduced the activity of Yi yang; named as Yi yang xu. Resulting in that the person will lose sensibility, and therefore absorb less information.


On one side, we have the world giving us too much information (information overload – Chao fu), and on the other side we have a hypersensitive nervous system that making our senses over absorb information (Sensory overload – Dong shi). The latter 内 Nei internally – and the first 外 Wai externally caused. Nei origin related problems are often more mental than Wai origin problems that are in most cases are related to external factors that creates stress for the person. It is important to separate Wai and Nei since they give a great insight in origin and thereby information about how to construct a proper treatment for the patient. What complicates is the fact that they normally will give the same cluster of symptoms. Due to this we need to conduct Cluster analysis of symptoms to find if it is a Wai or Nei. That is why any practitioner of Chinese psychology always has to go in depth when analyzing. It is indicated in Wai persons more cognitive problems. Meaning in persons that have Chao fu (information overload) we might observe more problems in thinking clearly. It is indicated in Nei persons more frustration related symptoms. Meaning in persons that have Dong shi (sensory overload) we might observe problems related to irritability, frustrations and irritability. Dong shi comes from hyperactivity within Yi, and Chao fu gives hyperactivity in Hun; making Dong shi being a problem orienting within the person, and Chao fu being a result of different external stimuli.


Another important aspect are if a person get to much information and at the same time is hypersensitive to information; Dong shi combined with a Chao fu. This will create a total chaos in Shen, Hun will be filled in the speed of light and multiple problems occur. What complicates more is the impossible task to know if the information that reaches Shen is valid and correct. A person that senses everything and is overflowed with all kinds of information will of course have problems with interpreting this. The risk of misinformation and misinterpretations increases in the pace of information overflow. Regardless of reason, information in itself is a risk factor due to the increased probability that something wrong would be trusted by a mistake in the forest of information; information full of contraindications and inaccuracies. As we know that an increasing quantity of information creates poorer decisions; a Shen qi xu. As the amount of information increases the Shen over consumes its qi to hang on in the information processing. At some stage the qi in Shen become deficient; Shen qi xu develops. Poor decisions will again create more profound problems. When you discover that something is wrong you will not know what caused it and that will cause more mental chaos. The quantity of information going between Hun, Shen and Zhi will grow with an astronomical speed. After a short time span the system breaks down by itself and safety mechanisms starts hitting in. The most common mechanism is Fan ying: Hun mirroring itself in Po.


We all need to have a proper base or techniques for information processing. Because today even the simplest things start to get complicated, and the complicated questions more assessable. When easy and difficult weighs the same in our mind we struggle to separate them. Something that results in an increased chance for problems related to the information processing or as named in Chinese psychology, an increased chance for Hun mirroring in Po; Fan ying, creating a physical manifestation of a mental activity.


The chances for developing the True believer syndrome increases as we drown into the ever-growing world of information. True believer syndrome is defined as persons that believe in something even after it have been proven to be wrong. Just imagine this scenario. Person gets information about that person A is bad and finds this plausible and starts to believe this. Later this is proven to be wrong, but the person is convinced that person A is bad. It does not matter what he read and hear about person A; because no smoke without fire. In the constant flow of information the person continues to believe in “the bad person image” and he will not change it even if he hears the opposite. Because what are we to believe? This information cluster or the other one; true and false, yes and no, exist at the same time. We automatically develop 焦急 Jiāojí an anxiety for doing wrong.  Jiaoji (anxiety) rooted in doing things not being acceptable for others; especially our kind or group. Often we feel good when buying something, but bad after. The bad feeling is called buyer’s remorse. This often have its roots within the fact, that before buying the product you can do whatever, but after you have limited your options. Reductions in options are always a problem for us; and this will often provoke remorse. Some might say this is to stop a circulation of qi. When you buy something, you stop the circulation of options, and the options in a way die. In the continuous flow of information the chance of making wrong decisions increases. As a Chinese idiom nicely puts it 雾里看花 (Wu li kan hua) or translated: “To look at flowers in the fog”.






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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