Like all skills, we have to practise how to create a good relationship with our patients. A successful relationship is one where we are able to match what we have to offer with what our patients need as smoothly as possible. Here, of course, our knowledge of the elements will act as our guide, for what one person needs will differ very markedly from what somebody of a different element will need. Some people are lucky, and either by their nature or by the circumstance of their lives have an ability to empathize with other people that a fellow practitioner has first to learn, and all of us will find it easier dealing with some elements than with others. Perhaps to some people’s surprise we are not necessarily most at our ease with those of our own element, because seeing our own needs reflected in a patient may make it difficult for us to maintain an appropriate distance. The secret here is to recognise that we may always find relationships with patients of some elements more complex and difficult than others, and remain aware of this as we engage with these patients.
I will describe some of my own
reactions and difficulties with patients of certain elements (see the following
blogs). These are personal to me, and every other practitioner must study their
own responses and learn from them. But
learn they must, otherwise they will not understand their patients’ needs. More importantly their patients will not feel
understood, and then their elements will take to hiding themselves away. How
can a five element acupuncturist treat if we don’t know which element is crying
out for help?
Nobody should think that this
comes easily to any of us. When I look
back at my own practice, I can see many instances where I did not understand
what a patient needed, and I offered my help in a way which was not
wanted. Inevitably it was these patients
who decided quite quickly that I was not the practitioner for them. And they were right! How could I help somebody if I was misreading
what they were asking of me? It was as
though I was talking in an emotional language foreign to these patients, or
rather assuming that both of us were talking in the same language when we very
obviously were not. One way of looking
at relationships with our patients is thus to see them as though they require
us to learn to speak in an emotional language with which only our patient is
familiar and at ease in. We therefore
need to learn to speak in a different emotional language for each patient. And like learning any new language, this
takes time and a good deal of practise.
We all know the warm feeling
we have when we have got it right with a patient. It is those times when we know that we have
not which we should accept as teaching us the most. JR always said that it was far better if
students observing him with patients did not get the elements he diagnosed
right, because the only true learning is through our mistakes.