Monday, December 5, 2016

The pitfalls of making snap diagnoses

Since all five element acupuncturists know that diagnosing a patient’s element takes much time and is certainly not done in an instant, it is obvious that trying to do the same by looking at the necessarily brief glimpses of politicians and other famous people on television or social media can at best be a rather hit and miss affair, and at worst may lead us to making completely erroneous conclusions.  I remember well that I was convinced that Julia Roberts was Fire, because this is how I interpreted her endless smiling.  I told all my students this until one day, a good few years later, when my understanding of the different qualities of the elements had obviously deepened, I noticed a different reaction in me to this smile.  It certainly did not warm me, but, instead, irritated me with what I now thought was its artificiality.  I realised suddenly that, rather than giving me something, as Fire always tries to do, it was demanding something of me.  Once I had noticed this, I changed my diagnosis from Fire to Earth, and have stuck with that ever since.  This was a good warning to me always to hedge my conclusions about elements with a few question-marks.

So, now being an older and wiser observer of my fellow human beings, I hesitate a bit in offering my thoughts on the elements of politicians much in the news at the moment, but if I don’t add my slice of knowledge to what others are trying to learn about the elements, then I think that is a bit cowardly.  Those of us who have been looking at the elements for many years (in my case over 35 years) have a duty to pass on whatever they have learnt to those with less experience.  So here goes with what I have observed in two politicians very much in the news at the moment: Theresa May, in this country, and Donald Trump, in the United States.

At such a difficult time for the world, I find it interesting and disturbing that the fate of so many people is in the hands of two people I consider to be of the Wood element.  Leaving aside their politics, what is it about the Wood element which makes me wary of this element being the guiding force in a leader of a country (and in Trump’s case in a leader of the Western world)?  I’ve thought carefully about this, and will continue to do so as I observe their words and their actions over the next crucial months.  Here I can draw on the knowledge of the Wood element I have gained through my acupuncture practice.  If we think of the cycle of the elements as describing the arc of a human life from birth to death, then after its period of gestation in the seed of all life, the Water element, life emerges into the open in the Wood element, at its point of birth, and then on to early childhood.  I ask myself whether I want my leaders to express the childlike qualities which the Wood element can often show.

What, then, are Wood’s qualities which will manifest themselves in the positions of power held by a country’s leaders?   It definitely has a lot of strength and stamina, good qualities in a leader.  Its principal emotion is a kind of forcefulness of character which demands that others do what it wants them to do, but it can express itself in outbursts of anger if those around it do not fall in with its plans.  We see this kind of anger very clearly in Donald Trump’s emotional outbursts and also the lack of control which accompanies them.  Wood does not yet have the maturity to rein in this anger if this would be a wiser course to take.  Theresa May, too, though much less overtly Wood-like than Donald Trump, shows flashes of anger if a situation does not please her.  A constituent of hers at a meeting with her said that she became very irritated when questioned too closely.  Observing her on a BBC programme, I noticed that as the camera panned back to her after I suspect she thought she was no longer on public view, she looked surprisingly cross – not at all the bland, controlled persona she had shown us during the interview itself.

So it will be very interesting to see how these two leaders deal with the inevitably difficult times which lie ahead for them.  It does not therefore surprise me that, as of this date, 5 December, Theresa May has not yet come up with any clear plans for how to proceed with Brexit.  Though planning and decision making are the prerogative of the Wood element, they can easily lead, on the one hand, to over-dogmatic statements (“Brexit means Brexit” being one of them), and, on the other, to hesitancy, if the Wood element is under stress.  And who, in the positions of power which May and Trump hold, will not be under stress in one form or other?  Rather worryingly for both of them, this sense of balance in their Wood element seems rather to be absent, in Trump’s case most obviously so, his Tweets being clear evidence of this.  Theresa May, too, certainly made some hasty, rather odd decisions soon after coming to power (reinstatement of grammar schools and delaying a decision on the Hinkley Point nuclear power station).  One of these decisions (grammar schools) has since disappeared without trace, and she rescinded the other very quickly and rather ignominiously in the light of China’s anger.  

She has said that thinking about what to do about Brexit keeps her awake at night.  Rather amusingly, I see this as a clear sign of the struggles her Wood element is undergoing to keep everything on track as it passes through its horary time between 11 pm at night and 3 am in the morning.  Angry as I am about all the unnecessary expenditure which will be spent on the Brexit negotiations and would much better be spent on care homes for the elderly or children’s playgrounds for the young, I know I will still find it fascinating to observe how what I consider to be these two clear examples of the Wood element in power will deal with that power.



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