Friday, May 28, 2010

New thoughts on aggressive energy

I have just been asked a question by a student doing a research project on what we call aggressive energy in five element acupuncture. I had written something in my Handbook about the fact that there are two ways of draining aggressive energy, one through the Associated Effect (back shu) points, as five element acupuncturists do, and another by using a dispersal technique on all needling. This was something I had heard in a lecture by Peter Eckman, author of In the Footsteps of the Yellow Emperor, many years ago. In other words, five element acupuncture mainly disperses excess energy through its initial AE drain, whilst other forms of acupuncture disperse energy over a longer period of time by leaving needles in at every treatment.

This set me thinking about this a little more than I had done before (it shows how teaching helps us learn something new each time!). I realised that the fundamental difference between the two systems of approach must stem from a deeper fundamental difference than that of simply being a matter of a difference in technique. In five element acupuncture, apart from specific protocols, such as the AE drain or treating the dragons (what we call possession treatment), dispersing energy (which we call sedation) is much more rarely used than boosting energy (which we call tonification). In the last 15 years of my observing JR Worsley’s selection of treatments, I cannot remember a single occasion when he suggested we sedate a patient’s guardian element, although sedation is a technique taught all five element students as a matter of course. I have a feeling that as his attention concentrated more and more upon treating the spirit within the body, as I felt it did over my time with him, so he understood more clearly that the element’s spirit, which bears so much of the weight of the other elements upon it, is weakened as a result rather than enjoying the luxury of excess energy. Since five element acupuncture addresses the guardian element predominantly at every treatment in an attempt to strengthen it, it is therefore unlikely, seen from a five element perspective, that this element will have any excess energy left to disperse to other elements.

What does happen though, I find, is that an apparently excess pulse on the guardian element will collapse completely after the AE drain and show its true weakness. Apparent initial overexuberance of energy can often mask a level of deep depletion in this way. This may well explain the fact that I have only had to sedate the guardian element in the case of one patient over the past 10 years. The remainder of my practice has concentrated on tonifying, on strengthening, this element’s energy.


  1. I have been reminded by Koos that another way five element acupuncture has of dispersing any excess energy is, of course, by treating what we call entry-exit blocks, which are diagnosed through the pulses. If there is an accumulation of energy in the Small Intestine, for example, we treat this by needling first SI 19 then Bl 1. In this way, we are releasing the build-up of energy, as though we are opening up a dam between the two officials which are next to one another on the wei (defensive) cycle of energy. For further details of how to treat entry-exit blocks, see my Handbook of Five Element Practice.

  2. I found your blog during a Google search on Five-Element acupuncture after having my first treatment of that type by a student a week ago and having a catastrophic negative reaction. I don't "blame" the treatment, or the practitioners and I realize many things could have happened to make my condition worse since I had the treatment a week ago (i.e. I picked up a virus, etc.) I've contacted the clinic and am going back tomorrow, but the consensus among people I've asked is that acupuncture doesn't cause sudden downturns in a person's underlying condition. Is that your experience? Just curious, and thanks for the interesting blog regardless. Peace, J. Landis

  3. Thank you for your comments, Janet, which have set me thinking. I am replying by way of a further blog which I hope to send out today.