If we are honest, we must acknowledge that we all feel some slight apprehension at meeting a person for the first time, particularly when we are about to embark on some form of therapy, where the therapist takes on the role of the person who knows, and we may feel we take on a somewhat subservient role, of the person to whom something will be done, about which we at first know very little. In the case of acupuncture, there is the additional fear of the needle itself, instilled within all of us from our earliest days of sitting on our mother’s knee and submitting to the pain of vaccinations through a similar instrument. However much we may try to hide or override this fear as adults, it is always to some extent there, however faintly. In some, the fear of the needle may be so strong that it stops them from entering our practice room in the first place. All these fears, faint or strong, may set up a barrier to our first contacts with our patient which we need to take into account.
As patients, we also have to deal with our natural fear of exposing ourselves to another person, as our practitioner tries to get to know us. The words “tries to” are here significant, because, either deliberately or involuntarily, we may resist revealing too much of ourselves in the early stages of treatment if we are uneasy about the kind of relationship with our practitioner this will expose us to. We may not actually tell lies, although that, too must not be ruled out, but we may, as the expression goes, be economical with the truth, saying just enough not actually to tell an untruth, but not enough to tell the truth about ourselves. This means that we will inevitably paint only a partial picture of what is going on within us, which can easily be misinterpreted by our practitioner. It takes a surprisingly long time for a patient to feel safe and confident enough in their practitioner’s compassion and discretion to open themselves up with honesty. In fact, I believe that each of us will always retain a part of ourselves which we reveal to nobody but ourselves, not even, or perhaps particularly not, to our nearest and dearest, for many different reasons, amongst them the need to retain our own sense of self-respect. As practitioners, we must always allow our patients the right to keep this private area within themselves hidden to the outside world rather than expecting them to open themselves up to us in total honesty, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it may be there.
This is where our perception of the elements guides us towards what is really going on within a patient, for the elements, unlike words, do not lie; they just learn to hide themselves a little to too intrusive an eye. This is also why we should never rely on words spoken to tell us the truth, but use sensory and emotional signatures clearly to spell out this truth in their own particular way. It is easy for our lips to lie in the words they utter, but not in the way they shape themselves as they are uttering this lie, or the way our eyes can reveal something at odds with the tone of our speech.