It sounds so simple, put in that way, but actually it is one of the most difficult things of all for us to feel secure enough in our relationship to our hearer to have the courage to open up sufficiently so that what we say reflects truly what we feel, and therefore what is heard by our hearers is truly what we would like them to hear. What is so important for a good five element practice is that a patient must feel they can reveal what they are really feeling whilst knowing that what they reveal is being heard and understood properly. All too often, even in the caring professions, patients’ words become distorted by hearers’ preconceptions.
So my two weeks with my Chinese students will centre around the importance of allowing a patient sufficient space and time to feel emotionally safe with us, and ensuring that for our part we do not cast our own shadows over our patients so that what we hear is a distortion of the reality. When a patient feels that what they are telling us is being heard as they want us to hear it, this allows the elements within them to express themselves freely. When we cloud a patient’s elements through incomprehension, we will not perceive them as they truly are, and will therefore be unable to respond to their needs. Elements can so easily disguise themselves, and, like snails under attack, draw back into their shells when they feel misunderstood. And this inevitably distorts our diagnosis.
I will use these thoughts as the foundation for our two weeks in Nanning. This is all the more important because Chinese culture places no emphasis on the importance of allowing patients to open up emotionally, and Chinese practitioners have to be encouraged to dare take their first tentative steps in this direction. I well remember an incident from a previous visit to China, when an acupuncturist asked me, “But how do I learn to talk to my patients about their emotions?”
I hope that after a further seminar with us she will be given some more help on how to do this.