Sunday, September 30, 2012

My relationship to Metal: another new insight

I learnt something new about my relationship to the Metal element this week as a result of treating one of my Metal patients.  At one point during the treatment I found that I was talking too much, and noticed that my patient only seemed to talk after prompting from me.  The two-way communication I was engaged in appeared to be heavily weighted towards one side, where I was doing the talking, whilst the other side, my patient, was mostly doing the listening.

This set me wondering afterwards how far this was in general true of my interaction with Metal, and I decided that it was.  I then looked at my interactions with all Metal people, and found that as a general rule it is as though Metal needs to wait to hear what I have to say before entering the conversation.  I interpret this as a sign that Metal wants to assess the quality of what I am saying before deciding whether and how to take part in a dialogue with me.

I have now gone on to look at where my interaction with Metal might differ from those with patients of the other elements.  The most obvious difference here is in the case of Fire, because, unlike Metal, it is generally unhappy with the kind of silence Metal feels at home in.  A Fire patient is likely to be the one to start talking even as they come into the practice room, although, being a Fire practitioner myself, the chances are that they will have to be very quick of tongue to outpace my own need to speak to them!

Earth, too, is one of the elements most consistently engaged in speech, a sign of its need to make the listener understand what is going on for them.  Conversations with Earth patients may sometime be more in the nature of a monologue than a dialogue, unless the practitioner steers the talk carefully.  Wood may also need no prompting to talk if it has something it needs to say, and wants to make sure the practitioner is listening to what they are being told.  Again, here, speech can descend into a monologue if the practitioner loses control.

Finally, my verbal interactions with Water patients always seem to have a very distinctive character of their own, which makes of them not so much a dialogue where one person talks, then listens whilst the other person talks, but a conversation where both talk at the same time in a kind of concerted murmur.  It is as though the sound of the words, rather than the meaning of the words, is more important, offering the kind of reassurance that Water is not alone which it craves in order to still its fear.

Of course, all these observations are based on the fact that my reaction to everybody I come into contact with will be strongly coloured by my Fire element.  In trying to look at their experiences with patients, each practitioner must therefore take into account how far their own guardian element shapes the way they interact with their patients and their patients interact with them. 

I am now determined to watch myself more closely to see whether my own talking in the practice room is an appropriate response to the needs of my patient rather than an inappropriate response to my own needs.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Thoughts on another difficult practice situation

Please note here that I do not say “how to deal with a difficult patient”.  It is not that patients are simply difficult in themselves, but that we as people find them difficult to deal with.  For practitioners, that is a crucial difference.  As Shakespeare might have said, “the fault lies not in our stars (or in this case our patients) but in ourselves…”

So here goes about this particular difficult situation.  The patient was one who came for treatment as part of a clinical day I spent helping another practitioner with his patients.  She is a woman of 35 and moves around in a wheelchair.  Her medical notes show that she was diagnosed as autistic and with attention deficit problems as a child.  She has a long list of other medical conditions, the main being a spinal accident which left her confined to bed for a year when she was 8 and meningitis when she was 10.

What interested me was noting that she appeared to be quite capable of moving without help from the wheelchair to the treatment couch, nor did she have any difficulty in turning over on the couch.  Her legs, too, did not have the look of ones where the muscles have atrophied from little use.  She was wearing very heavy short boots, much like men’s army boots, which looked incongruous on a wheelchair-bound person by reason of their sheer weight alone.  She brought with her a little doll, the kind a five-year old child might have, which she insisted on tucking next to her on the couch. I also noticed other disconcertingly odd things which made me question how far she was actually incapacitated. 

Having expected from the notes that contact with her might be difficult because of her autism, I was surprised to see how easily she seemed to relate to us, and in particular noticed that she was darting hidden glances at me when she thought I wasn’t watching.

The practitioner is also her medical practitioner, and had started his five element treatment by relying only on her medical diagnosis rather than on a much more extensive five element diagnosis which would not have concentrated so exclusively on her physical conditions.  The distinction between his role as her physician and as her acupuncturist had become understandably blurred.  Initally, I, too, made the mistake of going along with this.  

The practitioner and I therefore assumed all sorts of things about her condition, basing ourselves on very little information about her current medical condition.  Did she in fact need a wheelchair at all, and could she be described as still being “autistic”?   

As is obvious to any five element acupuncturist from what I have written, we decided to treat her with Internal Dragons.  We followed this with an Aggressive Energy drain and the source points of her element which I thought was Fire.  I had a question mark around Inner Fire (Small Intestine), something to do with the quickness of her understanding (even though she didn’t like to show that she did understand) and the sharpness of her glance! 

I felt surprisingly angry at the end of the treatment, as though she had got under my skin and had outmanoeuvred us.  And I went so far as to tell the practitioner that I wasn’t sure there was any point in continuing treating her with acupuncture because she appeared to be manipulating the situation in a way that made treatment impossible.

It was my anger which brought me to my senses, and I told the practitioner later that I did not think I had dealt properly with the situation.  I had failed to take the right steps to get her treatment back in the correct five element groove.  We should have done a proper Traditional Diagnosis after the treatment in whatever time we had available, to be continued at the next treatment.  She should be asked to demonstrate how far she can stand and walk by herself, and the practitioner should get some answers to more detailed questions about her life.  We were not even clear about her living situation.  Does she live alone or with her family?  Does she have friends?  What does she do with her time?    

But all is not lost.  I have suggested to the practitioner that he should now start as though from scratch, trying to forget the wheelchair and the label of autism. Nor must he allow himself to be manipulated back into the old relationship where she appeared to be dictating how she wanted him to treat her.  My mistake was to allow her to do the same to me.

This is the only way in which we can help this patient.  And we should try to do that, rather than walk away.  She is really crying out for help, and has probably been crying out for this help all her life in the only way she knows how.   

It may be helpful to read this blog in conjunction with my blogs of 13 September 2011 “Losing control in the practice room” and of 9 October 2011 “Regaining control in the practice room”, which complement this blog and deal with other problems in the practice room. 

And so my learning continues!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

The pluses and minuses of life

It’s funny how often I come across some quotation which seems particularly relevant.  A few days ago, I read the following in, of all things, a detective story: “Things always have to even themselves out between plus and minus.  Between going forward and going back.  That’s the only way to live.”

I like the to think that life has to balance itself between pluses and minuses (acupuncturists would say, between yin and yang).  We tend to hope, unrealistically, that somehow the life we live should always be lived on the plus side.  Far better to accept that every plus needs its minus, for this brings the necessary tension which moves us towards change.  Time always hustles us along despite ourselves, jolting us out of complacency, as a minus does its companion plus and plus its minus, and as yin does its yang and yang its yin.

Interesting to find such a potentially deep thought tucked away between the covers of a simple detective story.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Preparing for my next visit to China

My flight to China on November 9th has now been booked.  Mei and I will be over there for 3 weeks and return on December 2nd.  We will spend the first two weeks at the Tong You San He Centre of Chinese Medicine in Nanning, where I will be concentrating on helping my dedicated group of five element practitioners.  We will also be expanding this group to include some of the many other practitioners clamouring to learn.    

We then fly to Chengdu for the final days, where I will be giving another seminar at a conference similar to the one I attended last November in Beijing.  The title of my talk this year will be “The Significance of Five Element Acupuncture for life in the 21st century”.

I now have to think carefully about what I see as the stresses of modern life which are common to all of us, and whether these are the same for people living in the East as they are for us in the West.  Some interesting thoughts here for me to explore.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Hidden delights of London: Phantom Railings

If you walk from Gower Street to the back of the British Museum, at the corner where Keppel Street meets Malet Street you will find the most delightful sound installation called ‘Phantom Railings : an interactive sound sculpture’.  The old iron railings along a high wall surrounding the gardens at the back of Gower Street were removed during the Second World War to be used for the war effort, as all railings were, and for some reason have not been replaced.  You can still see the metal stumps left behind.  As I walked past, my walk was interrupted by loud plinking and plonking noises.  I stopped and looked around to see where they were coming from, only for the noises to stop, too.  When I started walking again, the noises started up again, and I realised they were being controlled by the pace of my steps.  By this time I had reached the large gates to the garden, which displayed a notice explaining that this was an installation “to evoke the phantom of a lost iron fence”.  The footsteps of passers-by recreate the sound of somebody running a stick along metal railings. 

Delighted with this unexpected source of art displayed so discreetly in quite a hidden corner of Malet Street, I walked up and down several times, changing the speed of my steps and creating my own tiny symphony of sound. 

And to round off my morning, I settled down to an Espresso at a little cafĂ© round the corner, only to be charged £1.00 for it, the cheapest in London yet right in the centre of town.  And it was served with a smile and piping hot, just as I like it! 

What pleasures we come across in such unexpected places!