Friday, February 21, 2020

An ancient form of healing for a modern world in crisis: how an understanding of the five elements helps us cope better with the stresses of modern life

We are living through difficult times, perhaps more difficult than any that I can recall as an adult, though a childhood spent under the shadow of the second world war must certainly have weighed more heavily upon my parents.  Now with the sudden invasion of the coronavirus almost bringing the world to a halt, we are all confronting what is perhaps the most frightening of all, which is facing the unknown.  None of us can now predict how things will develop, not even the most experienced scientists used to exploring the secret worlds of viruses, with their eery ability to change shape and ferocity at will, in a never-ending attempt to outwit our human capacity to master them.

We are left, then, with our individual responses to this challenging situation.  In five element terms this will depend very much upon the element which guides our life, and the level of its balance or imbalance.  We need each to ask ourselves how, finding ourselves in such an uncertain and therefore threatening world, we will counter these uncertainties and threats.  Some elements will thrive and others will shrink.  So what particular challenge does the appearance of this virus, and its effects upon our everyday life, present for the different elements?  And here we have to look closely at situations which an element finds comfortable to be in, and those which by their very nature threaten and disturb it.  As with all things, we can use our insights here to teach us a little more about the elements.

First we have to look at how a five element acupuncturist deals with named diseases, like cancer, or the coronavirus now.  We have to remind ourselves that our approach to any patient suffering from any condition whatsoever must always be the same.  We must find out as much as possible about our patient, and gradually pinpoint their element.  Then by treating that element we hope that we will strengthen it sufficiently for it to cope with whatever stresses it is being subjected to.  The only difference when dealing with a very serious medical condition is the fact that this will be having a major effect upon the patient, and his/her elements will be under greater stress than if they are only suffering from a minor imbalance, such as a headache or slight emotional trauma.

Because all major illnesses are considered by orthodox medicine to be purely physical in origin, and therefore to be treated by purely physical remedies, such as drugs or surgery, the emotional and spiritual effects of these illnesses are usually overlooked.  This is precisely where five element acupuncture, with its treatment of all three levels of body, mind and spirit, can help.  Our treatment should therefore be able to support patients suffering very severe physical illnesses at a level which purely physical treatments cannot.

The extent of the spread of the coronavirus has raised the level of fear in everybody.   In this atmosphere of fear, it is difficult even for five element acupuncturists to remember that simply supporting the elements at all levels is likely to increase a patient’s resistance to infection. The more balanced all the elements are, the less likely they are to be overwhelmed by any disease. We also know that old people and others already weakened by illness are those most at risk, and we would hope that our treatment will help strengthen their ability to withstand the debilitating effects of any other infections they are exposed to.

When we look at how the different elements will cope with the serious task of dealing with the coronavirus and the understandable fear it engenders in all of us, it will be good to start by looking first at the Water element, since its emotion, fear, is the dominant emotion swirling around now.   Even the most laid-back person will be experiencing some deep-seated fear of what the future may possibly have in store for them, should it spread to whatever country they live in.  Being Water’s emotion, fear will already have given Water people a lifetime’s experience of learning to cope with this emotion.  In some ways, therefore,  they may be better able than people of other elements to deal with the current situation, perhaps by being the first to take practical steps to remove themselves quickly from the risk of possible infection.  If they can’t do this, they may then be able to draw on their natural skill in hiding the fear they are experiencing, thus making themselves look well able to cope, where people of other elements may not be able to do this.  If Water cannot flee from a frightening situation, which is always its first reaction, it has learnt to turn its fear into the kind of response a cornered animal will make, which is to fight rather than to give up.  Water people may then be the ones who appear to be the least disturbed by the real risks involved in any situation, and thus look best able to cope.

When we move on to Wood, we will find a different copying mechanism.  For Wood is likely to want to counter the risk of catching the virus by taking some definite action, and, unlike Water, whose actions may often be more hidden and surreptitious, and therefore appear to be seen as avoiding action, Wood likes to act not only openly, but to feel that it is controlling the situation for other people around it.  It is always happiest to be the one taking obvious control of any situation, whereas Water is likely to be more concerned simply with its own safety, with less interest in seeing how others are coping.  Wood will therefore be happiest if the whole environment in which it lives is operating smoothly and things are under control for everybody around it.  It will counter fear with action.

To get some idea of how the Fire element will deal with the current situation, I can use myself as the best example, because I have personally been faced with the reality of having to take some decisions about whether I should still consider going to China in mid-April as planned.  I expect my trip would have in any case had to be postponed because many airlines have already halted all flights until the end of April, but since my Chinese hosts persisted in telling me that all would soon be well, I felt it was up to me to make the final decision, and not wait for the airlines to make it for me.  In the end, it was I who postponed my trip.  Looking at my reasons for doing this, I realise that fear for my own health and safety was not the predominant one.  My main concern was for the Chinese acupuncturists I felt I might be letting down if I cancelled my visit.  It was only when it was pointed out to me that perhaps my Chinese hosts did not want to be the first to cancel my visit that I felt able to take the decision.

I also amused myself by envisaging myself landing at Beijing airport suffering from a slight sniffle, being whisked off to quarantine to some god-forsaken place I’d never heard of, succumbing there to the virus and being hospitalized, turning my visit into a disaster for my hosts.  I suspect that Fire’s reaction to dealing with a situation like this may always include a strong component of not wanting to be a bother to other people, mixed with any natural fear it feels.  Fear, though, is not an emotion I am very familiar with, and wonder whether that is a general Fire reaction.

Earth, on the other hand, will always tend to look after its own needs first, before checking that those around it are safe.  I think it will experience an appropriate degree of fear, which will encourage it towards acts of self-preservation.  Metal will weigh up the risks more carefully than any other element, work out a way of dealing with them, and then, once having made its decision about what avoidance measures it would be sensible to take, will just get on with its life.  Its assessment of the situation and the dangers involved for it and for others will be the clearest of any element.  It was my Metal son who was the first person to warn me not to go to China, well before the risks became so overwhelming.  All he said to me was “Watch it, Mum”, and then left it to me to decide what to do.  Since he is not somebody who would make more of a situation than it merits, I took his advice to heart, and have “watched it” by deciding to postpone my visit.

My observations here are necessarily very generalized, but I believe there is a strong core of truth in my thoughts on how the different elements deal with fear.





No comments:

Post a Comment