Sunday, January 29, 2012

My mantra of the moment

The secret to understanding another person’s guardian element lies hidden deep within ourselves.  If we can interpret correctly how another person makes us feel, then we are on the way to understanding the dominant element which guides their life.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Filming a Traditional Diagnosis (TD)

I decided that it was important for my Chinese students to observe me carrying out a TD at the start of a new patient’s treatment.  I have always said – and I repeat here again for emphasis – that a diagnosis only forms the first loop in a never-ending chain which unwinds a little bit more each time we see a patient.  One example of this is something which happened with a very longstanding patient of mine last week.  He told me something about himself that gave me a totally different insight into who he was, jolting me out of the kind of complacency an association of more than 20 years can lull us into.

This new patient of mine is a young man who was very happy to consent to being filmed, and enjoyed the thought that the video was to be played to an audience of Chinese acupuncturists in China.  On looking at it after the TD was completed, I thought that I had, overall, achieved what I had set out to do, which was to demonstrate the important components of a TD.   I felt I had already started to establish a close relationship with this patient, had heard about the most significant aspects of his life in some depth, learnt the reasons why he felt he needed help from me, and started to piece together the different areas of his life to create some kind of a pattern explaining why he was as he is now.

I realised how much the years of my practice and the hundreds of patients I had seen in that time had contributed to honing my diagnostic skills by helping me focus on what was significant rather than, as students tend to do, getting bogged down in a lot of detail which proves later to be of little significance.  This is where what I call a feel for the odd comes in, the sudden awareness of something the patient is saying or doing which jars.  I am better at recognizing the hidden signals patients send out, pointing to often submerged areas of their lives which we need to explore because of their importance. This means that I am able to home in more quickly on something which needs following up, as I noticed I did with this patient, persisting in returning to it again and again until I found an explanation.  I noted, too, those places where I had left some loose ends as something I needed to discuss with the patient next time.

The thing that I was constantly being told in China was people’s surprise at how much what they called “compassion” I showed the patients I treated there.  This was merely a reflection of the importance we attach to developing a close relationship with our patients.  This certainly always involves both compassion, and, just as importantly, and an essential ingredient of compassion, a sincere interest in every area of our patients’ lives.

I will be interested to see what my Chinese students make of this video. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Look up at the stars, not down at your feet"

I love this quote from a speech by Stephen Hawking.  I think we all spend too long looking down at our feet, whilst the stars and universe beyond are beckoning to us to look up.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A few simple tips to make a five element acupuncturist's life easier

Don’t hurry!  Don’t worry!
  • The first rule is to have compassion for your patient.  Compassion means to “feel with”.  The more you can feel what your patient is feeling, and therefore can understand them, the more quickly you will be able to discover which element is directing their life.  Unless we allow our own hearts to resonate with our patient’s feelings, we will never understand which of the five elements guides their lives.
  • Do not be in a hurry to diagnose the right element!  The elements will wait for you to find them, and show their faces more and more clearly with time.   And all elements will enjoy the kind of focused attention they receive from simple command-point level treatments. 
  • If you are not in a hurry, you can relax and learn to get to know your patient better.  All of this will give you time to observe whether there has been any change from treatment, and show you whether or not you should continue treating that particular element.
  • Don’t think that your patient is necessarily expecting a quick fix.  Patients appreciate the care and deep concern their practitioner shows them, and return again and again for that.  This is usually unexpected and rare, compared with the impersonality of doctors’ surgeries and hospital waiting rooms.  Patients are usually only too happy to give the practitioner all the time they need.
  • The most important aspect of any treatment is not the amount of time spent on the actual physical procedures, but the time it gives you to understand your patient, observe them and help them get used to you.  Patients won’t be counting up how many points you needle, but they will be assessing how interested you are in them and how concerned you are about them.
  • Think of each treatment as asking a question of the elements.  The practitioner’s task is to try to interpret the answers the elements give.
  • Do at least three treatments on any element you choose.  If you are treating once a week, then this gives you at least 3 weeks in which to observe an element’s responses.
  • Don’t confuse the elements by changing from one element to another after only a short time or in the same treatment, if you are not sure which element you should be treating.
  • Don’t judge any change in your patient simply by using the criteria of changes to physical complaints.  Get used to assessing change in the patient as a whole, particularly  in the patient’s spirit and emotional balance.  It is by getting better at noticing what can be even very small changes in a patient’s behaviour or physical appearance that we begin to see whether our treatment is directed at the right element.
  • If in doubt, simplify, and do the least number of points possible.  Don’t judge the success of treatment by the number of points you needle.  If you aren’t sure where you are going with your treatment, don’t add to your confusion by haphazardly piling point upon point.  Try to clear your mind by just doing one pair of command points, preferably the source points.  This helps you focus your attention directly and deeply upon an element.  Then let the elements answer you.
  • Don’t spend too long trying to diagnose the major blocks (possession, husband/wife).  They are much more difficult to diagnose than you may think.  It doesn’t matter if you miss them to start with.  They become more and more obvious the longer they remain untreated.  An expert practitioner may see them straightaway;  a less experienced practitioner will inevitably take longer to recognise them.  There is a risk that a newly qualified practitioner will over-diagnose blocks because of the excitement of doing them!

    Thursday, January 5, 2012

    "Living on the knife-edge of insecurity"

    I just sat down for a quiet moment, and casually picked up today’s Guardian.  The actress Si├ón Phillips was being interviewed, and in answer to the question, “What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you”, she said:

    “Saunders Lewis, the great Welsh poet, befriended me.  When I went to London and gave up my life in Wales, he wrote me a letter that said, “You have to live on the knife-edge of insecurity.”  And I thought:  “OK, that’s what I’ll do.”

    I love the phrase, “living on the knife-edge of insecurity”.  It encapsulates what I see as the need willingly to accept the often frightening challenges life presents us with.  

    Why it is never wise to treat our friends

    I have recently been asked to treat two friends, one very close and the other more a friend of a friend.   Both of them were reluctant to go to another acupuncturist, and both were in quite a lot of distress.

    This has made me think carefully about what has always guided me in my decision to treat or not to treat a friend.  Ideally, as we all know, we should not be treating family and friends because their very closeness means that we are not detached enough to see them clearly and to cope with finding out exactly what is wrong with them.  We assume, usually very wrongly, that we really know all about them, and can therefore skip doing a proper diagnosis and move straight on to treatment.  But my experiences in the past have put a lie to this, for I have often assumed somebody I know is of one element and decided quite some time later that they reveal another side to themselves and I have had to change my mind.  This has happened with me with a very close relative and a very close friend, both of whom I had somehow put into an element box which, looking back, I suppose I felt was part of my comfort zone.   When I later discovered how wrong I had been, I realised that I had almost deliberately been overlooking aspects of these two people which made me feel uneasy.  Since learning these two difficult lessons, I have been very reluctant indeed to treat those close to me, unless there is absolutely no alternative (for example, if geographically there is no other practitioner near enough to treat them, or they are hospitalized and would simply go without treatment).

    With family members, however unwise being their practitioner is, it is unlikely that my treating them is going to cause a change in our relationship.  With friends, I have found, things are quite different, and my relationship to the friends I have had to treat in the past has always changed, and never for the better.  Usually what has happened is that the friend now views me only as their therapist, and wishes me to continue in this role even when I am not treating (by talking over symptoms or the effects of treatment in a social context, for example).  In a more extreme case, the friendship itself became endangered by the fact that a somewhat competitive friend did not like to feel that I was somehow gaining the upper hand, and persisted in claiming that treatment was making her feel worse.  In the end, I lost her both as friend and patient, because we never rediscovered our easy relationship of before.

    In the two examples that have come my way now, I have, with a sense of relief, passed both the friend and the friend of a friend on to a fellow practitioner, knowing that I was doing the right thing.  This was not done without a slight tussle, because my first impulse is to offer help to anybody asking me for help, and it requires some strength of character for me to move aside.