Beauty, they say, comes from within. Inside is not just what we eat and what is on the physical level. Beauty is also the way we think and feel. Oh, how easier it is to put foundation or cream than to think about yourself! And to change? Yet nowadays, thinking about oneself, understanding the world of emotions, and changing oneself is not a luxury, but a necessity. Through the language of modern psychosomatics and the prism of Chinese traditional medicine, let’s see what our skin can tell us to get to know ourselves.
The meaning of symbolism in psychosomatics
Before we embark on the world of “surface”, meaning making preparations for external use, let’s take a look at something you do not expect here. In times of crisis, in which we reap the stupidity and untruth that civilization has been sowing for centuries, we peek for a moment into ourselves and our psyche. Beauty, they say, comes from within. It is reflected in the eyes, on the face, lips, in walking or posture and is not only a reflection of diet, but also of our emotional, ethical and spiritual life. It is not only the luxury of alternatives and new age, hagiotherapists and others, but it has become a necessity if we are to survive the changes in this world.
Each organ has its own symbolism, which was understood long ago by the ancient Chinese. And our ancestors understood that, and not only the Chinese. “Fear crept into my bones,” “I can’t digest her statement,” “he spilled bile”…these are all expressions that have existed since the beginning of time and that describe how the symbolism and function of an organ is reflected within our psyche.
First of all, why all this? There are reasons. According to Chinese, but also many other traditional medicines, each organ carries certain segments of our psyche and emotions. The healthier the organ, the healthier these segments of behaviour are. The reverse is also true! So let’s get to know what our skin, the largest organ of our body, bears, to help it function better.
Authority is the first skin symbol. Deep inner authority. In an age of pseudo-authority, which, according to the cliché, includes politicians, media stars, people with academic degrees, religious leaders, managers and many others, very few people really understand what authority is.
It has become normal for imposition and domination to be considered authority. That is incorrect. True authority only encourages, inspires another authority. It has no need to prove itself to anyone at all, there is no need to point out- what it is. First, therefore, comes authority, and only then, from it, as on foundations, grows- ego. In the modern age, on the other hand, the ego grows out of nothing, or grows out of partial authority. When we look at real authority, it does not diminish our value. Jean M. Auel put it beautifully in her book The Valley of Horses: ” Sometimes, when you look upon the essence of a powerful spirit, you see your own heart.” When we look at pseudo-authority, then we think we are not capable of being like that. It may fill us with a sense of admiration for pseudo-authority, but deep down we feel anger because someone else is more capable than us. That rage against someone, who is more capable than us, boils in the collective consciousness through newspaper articles that speak in an insulting way about the juicy details of that pseudo-authority’s private life, with endless gossip. We begin to rejoice at the failure or demise of that pseudo-authority. Then all the anger towards those we seemingly adore or admire comes to the surface. Everyone is to blame, and those who present themselves as pseudo-authorities, but also we who are constantly looking for someone better and more capable than us: a football team, a famous singer, a top scientist, the president of the state.
Now forget about that kind of behaviour. The skin does not tolerate it. It is interesting how the denial of authority is expressed in cosmetics. Advertisements shower you with ideas what you have to apply to your skin. Ginger extract. Double the amount of Q10 (so the amount was too small so far?). Calcium and magnesium. And on and on indefinitely, year after year. And what do you think is best for you? Reject that notion that someone else should thinks instead of you. Take the advice, let it encourage you to learn and think for yourself, but don’t be silly. Make your own cosmetic. It may not be as perfect as buying cosmetics, but it will be yours. Just the process of making a cosmetic product will agree with your skin.
Time is a very philosophical aspect of the element metal, but nowhere is it more intertwined with reality than here. I remember one monstrous advertisement: “use (…) cream, and immediately look 5 years younger “. “Give me 10 minutes and I will make you ten years younger ”. This is the biggest crime from a skin point of view.
Who doesn’t love your wrinkles doesn’t love your life either, that has a lot of bitter experiences in it, but also a lot of wisdom. Who tells you that you have to look like smiling puppets? Authority and respect for your past time are the essence of healthy skin. That doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with wanting to look prettier. But NOT if it means denying the time of your life. You have invested too much in it, too much of your soul. Respect it yourself, for a start. There is another segment of time that is very important- grow up. Don’t worry, I tell that myself every day. Ever since the time of Sigmund Freud, psychotherapy has been making its living from human immaturity. A lot of people grow up physically and mature sexually (I mean human fertility), but all people stop somewhere. On some segments in the third year of life, on some in the twelfth, but in any case it always stops. It teaches us about the nonlinearity of time.
In Star Trek DS9, Captain Sisko encounters beings who do not know what time it is. He tried to explain to them how time flows linearly for us and how there are events that were before, that will be, but that he exists now in this moment. And, wham!, they suddenly take him back to the moment when his wife dies in his arms, with all the pain it brings. And they said to him, “How, when you still exist at this moment? How can it be linear? You exist here also!” In other words, in some moments of life we stop, most often in pain, but sometimes in extremely beautiful moments. And we spin the present on those matrices of the past. Very complicated, but here are the practical consequences: we want to realize our childhood fantasies and dreams, it’s sad’s fault who was rude, mom still cooks the best, all men are pigs, we order people to love us (as if love can be ordered!). Basically, we live in shabby patterns of past pain in the present with a slightly altered stage and all the compensation of that pain. There is greed, arrogance, sick careerism, insensitivity, fantasies about the impossible and ideal future, we dream of winning the lottery to be happy, and above all a prince or princess on a white horse, even better in a white Porsche, we live programs we think we have to. Then we are in apathy, depression, “creative stagnation” and we don’t even know what makes us happy. And where the hell is the present?
The world is full of little girls and boys in puberty or early childhood, but in adult bodies. Some disguise it super well, so they become successful managers, top models, MPs, people with power and influence, big shots and hot shots. Or are we successful family people? Is proof of adulthood when we get a job, are married with children? Or when we are very stern? Working in a very large and very serious company, I had the opportunity to be at important meetings and turn on my psychoanalytic mind. Oh, what fun! Some were quite professional, obviously it was their job, but their real life is something more than that. Some made big decisions with ease, because they had at least an awareness that this was probably not the biggest decision in the world. But my favourites were the colourful fish caught in a glittering web of importance, the little kids in ties, with expensive Cuban cigars in expensive hotels, making decisions with equal zeal and importance, and still having little cars and dolls in their hands. They always wanted to be the most important. It didn’t take me much imagination to put those meetings on the kindergarten stage. My late father called it to take a step into the gap, to jump from the stagnation of childhood into some structure that looks very solid and serious, but has no inner foundation.
In order not to be scared, it is the same with everyone. Just be aware of that. Now you know where the expectation from cosmetics comes from to make us not prettier, but younger. Because we really stopped at that level. I also use the term anti-age, but I am aware of the complete sinisterness of this term. There is a whole subculture, especially urban, that opposes growing up. People who are already in their thirties or forties, and can still be found on regular binges during the week, as soon as they have the opportunity to roam like dogs released from a chain on all the narcotics available. Sometimes they do the job they love, but most of them dream of big things. They would like to be Spielberg, Orf, Dali, or their role models are withering marketing messiahs and gurus who still sell their stories in more backward countries. Art, marketing, management and PR are especially favoured in such grandomania, but aromatherapy also ranks quite high because it looks very “ethereal”, just like “spiritual work” with people.
It is also popular to go to India where some bearded spiritual man will tell them some great truth. The truth which, if they really wanted it, could be found at their doorstep. I respect that some profound answers can be found elsewhere, but such departures are most often futile attempts to escape from oneself, and that is nothing but an escape from one’s own authority. Respecting the passage of time teaches us that each age brings its own pleasures, but also responsibilities that are most often abhorred. Clutching the patterns of happy youth is nice for two days, but not 365 days a year. The lack of deep content and love for something, even the usual, completely non-grandiose jobs, usually goes with the lack of responsibility and joy that needs to be found right now. The same way is with skin- it is different with each new day, just like life.
The skin carries, like the lungs, the ability to grieve. Sadness is a natural emotion. On the skin it carries a willingness to acknowledge our own life scars, just as we wear physical scars on our skin.
Some events, in addition to wisdom, also carry permanent scars. Shall we be ashamed of it? Or will we realize that we have thus become stronger and wiser? The skin reminds us that some injuries will never heal completely, but we will have enough heart to forgive ourselves and others, and live on with the wisdom we have acquired. Covering a scar with concealer is a completely natural thing, but now and then stop and think. Is it the same as when you are sad on the inside while playing a merrymaker when in company? Either way, that doesn’t suit the skin. You don’t have to change the habit, just change the perception and it will already be better.
I wouldn’t want this text to be my silent biography, but I would love to share my example. Appearing on television, I used to hear comments on how can I talk about cosmetics and at the same time have acne scars on my face. Am I really a good advertisement for natural cosmetics with my appearance? To me personally, the scars carry the memory of a time of war and post-war poverty. In my home town Karlovac, which has been bombed every day for some years, acne was certainly not a priority problem. Studying in Zagreb in 1992, I didn’t really have the means to think about healthy foods that would help me with acne: the green-and-white can of beef in it’s own juice from Caritas, produced perhaps even before my birth, was quite good a meal, while even the student canteen was a luxury. I had to gain a lot of personal authority deep down to stand in front of the camera, and even to write these textx. My scars allowed me to appreciate, without arrogance, my later quite nice earnings in the pharmaceutical industry. And to also invest the money I earned in my love of nature and plants, instead of worthless stocks and real estate.
Sadness is a very valuable emotion. In its highest form, it occurs when we see how this world could be a beautiful place, and it isn’t. Grief is one of the most caloric foods of the highest ideals we crave.
Interestingly – the skin, just like the lungs, is in constant contact with the environment (unlike the kidneys or liver) and belongs, as already mentioned, to the element of metal, which carries the symbolism of the deepest interior, essence, that is the God in us. As luck would have it, what should be “deepest”- is most exposed to the environment.
There is a reason for this. It reminds us of a truth, that not only we cannot hide from others, but that we should always testify. Truth is the same as love, the same as deep authority. Are we ready to testify to ourselves? Or do we sit around, and endlessly talk share untruths and gossip about other people? The skin doesn’t like that. The skin suffers from it. That is why the most glamorous parties are the place with the most decorative cosmetics. Are we hiding from something? And if so, from what? From others or from ourselves? Logically, if metal carries the symbolism of the essence, the divine, then it also means value. The skin has the power to represent on the outside the value proportional to the inside. Do you happen to see huge cars, driving wildly on the streets? Aren’t smaller cars more practical? You can park the more easily, they pollute the air less and manoeuvre more easily in crowds. I sincerely doubt that everyone who has such cars uses them for their main purpose- and these are gravel roads in forests. I’m not sure many of these people find the beauty of spending time in the nature. It’s okay if someone has enough to buy such cars, but the big problem is if there’s a new step in the gap- a lot of value on the outside is disproportionate to the value on the inside.
The world, that is, we, have created a lot of inverted values. You don’t believe in my God? Then I will torture, humiliate or kill you to show you my God. You are not my nation, you do not belong to my group? Then it is time for a new war. If not exactly a war, then at least an insult on the forum in the safety of an autistic armchair. Or worse, I won’t do anything but wait with an arrogant smile for you to die and end up in hell, where they will torture you ina away I cannot because I’m too refined, but I would so very much want to, even thougs I wouldn’t never admit it. These are all values we genetically inherit- our closest chimpanzee relatives, in the human environment, maliciously enjoy crime movies where a group chases an individual or another group. In their environment, they are brutally fighting among groups. We’re just a little smarter so we’ve added a lot of embellishment to these prototype behaviours. If it’s in our genes, now you realize that developing values isn’t an easy and straightforward path at all.
We all learn sometime in school that value and status symbol are not the same. But our consciousness usually stops at jealousy or envy towards those who have such status symbols. That’s not the point. Let’s take occupations for example. What is a value-reflecting business today? A life-saving doctor? Without a manual worker digging a hole in the ground for new cables, that doctor would operate by candlelight, without instruments, and the patient could most often say goodbye to life. A politician who guides the nation? That beautiful shirt with which he impressed the German chancellor tonight was ironed by an incredibly skilled housekeeper. A manager who successfully runs a company? Had the cleaning lady not tidied up the pile of crumpled papers on the floor after the last brisk meeting, the manager would have tripped and fallen out the window. A footballer who wins for his national team? All those twelve plus of well-paid guys could be playing catch in front of full stands if someone hadn’t grown and watered the best grass. We do not have to be “moral veterans” to be aware of this.
And now we come to the concept of talent. Talent is a gift, to be great in what we do, to be valuable, and thus create value. Talent is something like an inner calling.
Every job needs talent, not just “important” jobs. I go to the bakery very often. So far, I have only met two talented bread sellers. Every tenth tile maker is really talented at it. It’s a bit better with the waiters. I may have a doctorate, but I would be a complete failure in those jobs. We will still struggle a lot in civilization until we fully understand what value and talent really are. Then we will suffer less because today instead of good seamstresses, agronomists, chemists and geologists we have bad artists, managers, communication and PR workers. Talent is easy to see, just as our skin is seen.
There are a lot of status symbols in cosmetics as well. It is no secret that you can buy creams in Croatia whose price is well over 250 euros. And now let’s stop. If you buy such creams because you feel exactly that you want to give your skin something valuable with your heart, that is already a good motive, especially if you understand well what is in such a cream. If you buy such a cream because you just want to feel like you are in the class of people who buy them, or you want to be part of such a class, then it is not the healthiest for the skin, at least not from a psychosomatic aspect.
The relationships of other organs and skin on a psychosomatic level are a continuation, I hope, of inspiring stories. If we do not have our own authority, or worse, we build pseudo-authority, one organ suffers greatly to make such an ego out of nothing, so, with the help of a bunch of justifications, it frantically proves something to someone. The organ in charge of this immoral work is the liver. That is why it is not unusual that almost all plants that have a good effect on the skin (see cosmetics from within), in fact have a good effect on the liver. In Chinese medicine, it is the poor interaction of the elements metal (skin) and wood (liver and bile). When we elevate and tear down enough authority in life, which on average includes a few male and female singers, actresses, several prime ministers and statesmen, we end up concluding that no one is right and no one can give us anything to make our lives better. We become bitter and bilious. The name itself says in which organ lise the problem.
In a state of such darkness, where is really love? Nowhere. Without a sense of inner authority, without a sense of real value, without the ability to grieve, all we can do is play with something like love: intimacy, projection, sex, hope, escape, fantasizing… “We have a credit and children together”. “I want security.” Mix, boil and here is a substitute for love, similar in appearance, miserable taste and smell, but without real content and without- joy.
In Chinese medicine, it is the collision of the skin with the organs of fire: the heart, the pericardium, the small intestine, and the triple heater. But find about that in some other books. And it doesn’t have to be that way! The skin emphasizes tactility and intimacy in love. Love in its nature has an integrated touch, tenderness and closeness precisely through the skin and a bunch of sensors that feel the many qualities of human touch. And of course, it’s not just about the eroticism that many people think of when they think of tactility in love. It’s not even just cuddling a small baby or child. Did you forget to hug a co-worker? Kiss a friend on the cheek? When did you go for some pleasant massage that didn’t just involve beating muscles? Is patting the boss on the back (or the person you are the boss of) really just sexual harassment at work? In a world of all sorts of perversions, the perverse clichés of behaviour are just weird. If you haven’t noticed, life is short. You have an average of seventy years to build a healthy relationship with yourself and your skin, physicality and tactility. Maybe your own cosmetics will make you think of yourself differently.
To understand the skin is to reconcile the seemingly irreconcilable. The skin teaches us through its principle that we are all one. We’re all connected, we’re all the same in some way, remember the manager and his cleaning lady. And yet, we are all unique in this universe, because when we disappear, no matter how “unimportant” or “little people” we are, there will never be something like us.
Some have written a lot about these thoughts . Entire religions have the task of reconciling these seeming opposites. For the beginning, start making your own cosmetics. Unique, and yet so similar to other, at least in its purpose. Being creative means finding authority, love, God in yourself, whatever you want to call it.
Authenticity is the fruit of well-accomplished talent, a sense of worth, and one’s own authority. Being authentic brings everyone a lot of challenges. The already mentioned Captain Sisko had a conversation with higher beings about his life path. When he realized that they had made an effort to get to the other end of the galaxy in a completely different dimension, to enter his mother’s body so that he could be born with the very parents he had, all in order to perform the important space rescue task, to save a little nicer wormhole, he angrily asked, “And why was that supposed to be me? WHY ME?”. The wise being, after a moment’s thought, calmly replied, “Because it couldn’t be anyone else.” I’m not saying Star Trek is a religious read, but I’ll understand that dialogue my whole life.
I hope you understand that just reading about skin psychosomatics is only the first step in “cosmetics from within”. You might like that kind of thinking quite a bit. But beware! Some have remained so trapped in it that they go to endless sessions in which they have vast psychic, emotional, or spiritual insights; unfortunately they often just spin in an empty circle. It’s a big trap of pseudo-spirituality, so prevalent around the world that I’ve preferred to talk to farmers and cleaners (please, without creating prejudices about occupations) than to a huge number of spiritually advanced people. If you have become a prisoner of many analysts who have been groping you for years from old childhood wounds and where you are constantly screaming at this or that pain from the past, if not even a small bug can pass in front of your feet without wondering what is God trying to tell you, then it means you have fallen into a trap. If, on the other hand, you are constantly referring to other “spiritual” people, then you have completely run away from yourself (see: authority in psychosomatics). With due respect to ethical spiritual people or psychotherapists, Croatia is full of pathological manipulators. They will first throw you out of tact, which is sometimes not bad, but they will try various tactics to bring you to mental strain. They will then say that you are in the “process of cleansing”, and each of your common sense and emotional resistance to insane theories they will declare as the resistance of your subconscious on the path of enlightenment. Then, of course, you will go to therapies, where they will seemingly help you, and in fact they will cause further psychological stress, and even breaking. So you will need more therapy. So you will need to pay more. And all this will have the famous name of being “in the process of cleaning”. People are left without property, quit their jobs, ruin their relationships and marriages, or, worse, remain in them even though they are ripe for a reasonable and consensual breakup. Of course, every psychotherapy and every religious spirituality knows the ways of purification, resistance and change of consciousness. But many of you or your loved ones or acquaintances have gone through a path of manipulation. It is no wonder that some authors from the field of various religions characterize the manipulation as demonic.
The cure for pseudo-spirituality, that is, spiritual and psychological vanity, is work. God, how many people come to me with this or that mental problem. Many of them need occupational therapy, fierce and physical, and not therapy where for the umpteenth time they will hear that the source of all the problems lies in the fact that mom, dad, husband, wife and God do not like/did not love them. The Devil finds work for idle hands. An unemployed mind and body devise malice towards themselves and others (remember chimpanzees). Wisdom is acquired through the sweat of the mind and body with a good sense of modesty and humility.
So find the balance between not thinking about yourself and thinking too much about yourself. Too much thinking about oneself easily becomes selfishness, egocentrism, and rude manipulation of one’s own misery. Even making cosmetics, as a creative job, can help you not to slip into such a trap.