The Bladder Official is the official who controls the storage of water. The Bladder Official works very closely with the Kidney Official, however their roles are unique. The Kidney filters impurities out of fluids and then sends them onward. The Bladder and the Kidney govern all the major aspects of our vital fluids. The Bladder is often thought of as the storehouse for excess water, but it does far more than that. Neil Gumenick writes, about the western physiology of the bladder, “…[it] collects the urine excreted by the Kidneys. During urination, the muscles of the Bladder contract, opening the sphincter to allow the urine to flow out via the urethra. Excess water, sugars, soluble toxic wastes, and other compounds are contained in the urine are eventually eliminated in this process.”
The Chinese believe that it is a conscious process of the bladder to decide how much water, extracted from the water we drink and the food we eat, is kept and how much is excreted. This translates to our ability to maintain adequate reservoirs of fluid in our body. We lose water in a variety of ways: perspiration, breathing, defecation and urination, the bladder adjusts for these losses by adjusting the volume of urine. Fluids include tears, urine, sexual fluids, stomach acid, saliva, synovial fluid, plasma, perspiration, etc. The Bladder Official decides on the concentration and ratio within these fluids. Urine contains acids, urea and alkalis which are products of the Kidney’s filtration process. The Bladder has the responsibility to dispose of the waste.
The Nei Jing states that the Bladder is responsible for regions and cities, storing the Jing. The Su Wen states that the bladder stores and conserves for the interior; that which is below directs and controls the whole. Within The Yellow Emperor, the Bladder is described as the magistrate of a region or district, storing the overflow and the fluid secretions which serve to rejuvenate vaporization. In ancient China, the man who figured out how to control the waterways, controlled the country.
The Bladder Official possesses the ability to hold fluids and store them, which goes beyond the physical capability of the organ; it has the ability to be supportive and provide containment. In nature, the Bladder can be likened to a lake. Earth serves as a dam for water and can help to control it. The Bladder, as the controller of storage of fluids and controller of reservoirs, reminds us that reservoirs are necessary for our survival on the mind, body, and spirit level. In balance, the bladder provides an ample supply of fluids, not too much, not too little. The role of the Bladder serves to control the flow of fluids so that our system does not experience flooding or drought. In order to maintain vitality, we need reserves of energy, blood, and water.
The Bladder Meridian is the longest meridian in the body, demonstrating that every part of the body needs water and that water is connected to each part of the body. The Shu or associated effect points along the bladder line on the back have associations to each organ or function. The Bladder Official stores the reserves for all of the other Officials. And it helps the other Officials to contain themselves. The Bladder can be thought of as the manager and allocator of
Body fluidity is a function of the Bladder, along with going with the flow and living in accordance with the Dao. Mentally, the bladder gives us the capacity to store ideas and the means to set boundaries and limits, as things are contained appropriately. The reserves of water stored in the channels allow the mind to grow and flourish. Through this, the Bladder leads to movement and growth of all the other Officials. The Bladder gives us a particular strength to hold and contain mentally and spiritually. Memory is a capacity of the Bladder, the retainment within one’s mind. The Bladder gives us the capacity to store prosperity. Spiritually, full reserves give us access to ambition, perseverance, determination and resolve.
When our reservoirs are empty, we experience the emotion of fear. We can become terrified of being barren, dry, or stuck to the point that we fear for our survival. When there is no reserve of energy, there is nothing to call on in crisis, nothing to give others; we contract into ourselves. The Bladder Official has nothing to give to the other officials, it tries to hold onto whatever it has within itself. With the reservoirs empty, there is no movement, which can lead to stubbornness within the mind, body and spirit. We can also see dysfunction of the Bladder manifest as being unable to hold onto anything, “pissing it away”. Water poured away too quickly can lead to dryness within, likened to the cracked parched earth. Depletion within the reservoirs leads to deep fatigue and exhaustion. There is a lack of will/backbone as well as frailty associated with the Bladder. Lack of fear is also important to consider as an imbalance.
Worsley states about the Bladder imbalance, “They are no different from Nature around them, and the panic which we see in Nature will be just the same within them: eyes fixed ahead in a blank glaze, overcome by the sheer terror of it all, or daring everywhere looking for an escape route; body and limbs still and unchanging or as frantic as the flow of the rapids or the mountain streams after a storm; voice monotonous, groaning and frozen or babbling and uncontrolled.”
The concept of flooding is associated with the bladder, overwhelming others, becoming overwhelmed, drowning in fear or having no control or container. The concept of freezing can be associated with the bladder, frozen in fear, stuck, inability to go with the flow, and even infertility. When impurities of metabolic waste (filtered out by the kidneys) are not cleared out emotions can become confused and intense such as jealousy. Essentially, the system becomes poisoned gradually by retaining impurities and unwanted minerals.
Physically, symptoms can occur anywhere along the meridian (eye problems, headaches running over the head, back aches, sciatica, calf/ankle problems) and can include the inability to stay in alignment. Edema, swelling and bloating are the tissues holding onto water can be attributed to an imbalance in the Bladder, just as leakages can. Due to the water element’s association with the bones, joint pains and arthritis can be linked to the bladder. Speech impediments can be associated with the bladder official. Any lack of fluid within the body structures can be associated with the bladder.
The correspondences of the Water Element and hence the Bladder and Kidney official are:
Classical Five Element Acupuncture, Volume 3 by JR Worsley
Personal Class Notes ITEA 2019
The Urinary Bladder Official by Neil Gumenick