I was reminded yesterday of one of the most important qualities a good five element practitioner needs to possess, and if they do not already possess it, needs to cultivate as thoroughly as possible, and that is curiosity, pure and simple – curiosity, put baldly, about what makes us ourselves and those around us tick.
The particular incident from yesterday’s practice which made me think about this came about when I was called in by another practitioner to look at a patient of hers, “whom,” as she put it, “I can’t quite get a handle on”. She felt that the patient was holding her at arms’ length all the time, and wondered if she was not treating the right element, which she had, in my opinion, rightly, diagnosed as Fire. I could feel that though the patient was friendly, pleasant and smiling all the time, she was indeed keeping the deep part of herself firmly locked away from us.
Why was this? And what had happened that had made her so defensive? There was something here to explore, and our diagnosis of her element helped me find a way in. Fire wants above all to relate. It needs relationships, particularly sexual relationships, in the way that Earth needs to be nourished and Metal craves self-respect. She had not been in a long-term relationship for many years, because “I always choose the wrong person”. I decided to address this issue head-on and asked, “Did any relationship you have had in the past end by breaking your heart?”, and was not surprised to hear that, yes , one had. Her first really deep relationship had lasted 3 years and should have ended in marriage if she had not discovered very close to the wedding day that he was a serial philanderer. Living as she did in a very small, tightly-knit community, she was then forced to be a witness to his marrying a friend of hers with whom he now has several children.
It was interesting to watch the change in this patient as she talked about all this. There was obviously relief at being able to tell us her story, and a great deal of sadness as she did so, but also, after a lovely further treatment on Fire, starting with Ki 24, Spirit Burial Ground to resuscitate her damaged spirit, a kind of transformation within her as her Fire element started to heal itself at a deep level and no longer needed to throw up such a defensive screen around to protect her.
This was a lovely treatment with a lovely result, and a lesson to us all to persist in our questioning until we get to the core of a patient’s troubles. And I only really managed to reach this core when my persistent but gentle questioning at last got through her defences and made her feel safe enough to say what in effect she had held back from saying for years. Interestingly, patients themselves are often unaware, as this patient was, of the long-term effects of something that happened years ago upon the present state of their health. This patient’s ostensible reason for coming for treatment was not the hurt this failed relationship had inflicted upon her, but a physical complaint, persistent head-aches. It was only my questioning that gradually revealed to her the true depth of the pain this first love of her life had inflicted upon her.
Here the element we choose will guide us in the type of questioning we need to pursue. If she had been Metal, for example, I would perhaps not have focused so much on relationships but upon the areas of her life which had brought her the greatest sense of self-fulfilment. It is not enough, then, simply to say that the patient is Fire or Metal. We have to know exactly what kind of things have happened to force that Fire or Metal so far out of shape that it can no longer function properly. And we are only able to find this out by by being really curious to know what has gone on in our patient’s life and by not being afraid to tackle deep areas of hurt. I sometimes feel I go “where angels fear to tread”, but that angels are there to beckon me in.