I have just been asked a question by a student doing a research project on what we call aggressive energy in five element acupuncture. I had written something in my Handbook about the fact that there are two ways of draining aggressive energy, one through the Associated Effect (back shu) points, as five element acupuncturists do, and another by using a dispersal technique on all needling. This was something I had heard in a lecture by Peter Eckman, author of In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor, many years ago. In other words, five element acupuncture mainly disperses excess energy through its initial AE drain, whilst other forms of acupuncture disperse energy over a longer period of time by leaving needles in at every treatment.
This set me thinking about this a little more than I had done before (it shows how teaching helps us learn something new each time!). I realised that the fundamental difference between the two systems of approach must stem from a deeper fundamental difference than that of simply being a matter of a difference in technique. In five element acupuncture, apart from specific protocols, such as the AE drain or treating the dragons (what we call possession treatment), dispersing energy (which we call sedation) is much more rarely used than boosting energy (which we call tonification). In the last 15 years of my observing JR Worsley’s selection of treatments, I cannot remember a single occasion when he suggested we sedate a patient’s guardian element, although sedation is a technique taught all five element students as a matter of course. I have a feeling that as his attention concentrated more and more upon treating the spirit within the body, as I felt it did over my time with him, so he understood more clearly that the element’s spirit, which bears so much of the weight of the other elements upon it, is weakened as a result rather than enjoying the luxury of excess energy. Since five element acupuncture addresses the guardian element predominantly at every treatment in an attempt to strengthen it, it is therefore unlikely, seen from a five element perspective, that this element will have any excess energy left to disperse to other elements.
What does happen though, I find, is that an apparently excess pulse on the guardian element will collapse completely after the AE drain and show its true weakness. Apparent initial overexuberance of energy can often mask a level of deep depletion in this way. This may well explain the fact that I have only had to sedate the guardian element in the case of one patient over the past 10 years. The remainder of my practice has concentrated on tonifying, on strengthening, this element’s energy.