January 21, 2016

The Emotional Side of Chinese Medicine

The emotional side of Chinese Medicine really should not surprise us. It is a discipline that does not separate the mind and body into the same slices of life and compartmentalization that other worldviews may. It is an integrated system in which the whole person is treated to relieve symptoms and their causes. Consequently, we may seek physical symptom relief and discover ‘underlying’ emotional disturbances-something we all know, but often ‘forget’… that we are whole and our ‘parts’ are really not separate parts at all.

Abacus Chinese Medicine and acupuncture in Louisville
Chinese Medicine is effective in treating emotional disturbances such as trauma reactions.

There are a great many ways that Chinese Medicine can affect the emotional self. It can lead us to the emotional issues that need resolution, the emotions that need release, or the emotional disturbance from which other symptoms sprang. Other applications can begin at the level of emotional intervention to seek transformation of negative emotional states.

Acupuncture, for example, has been proven very successful in treating combat-related PTSD for many people returning from war. It has also proven very effective in trauma response during emergencies ‘in the field’ such as natural disasters. Similarly, trauma reactions of all sorts–including those arising from interpersonal violence and traumatic loss–can be eased with acupuncture and other Chinese Medicine techniques.

Chinese Medicine considers the repression of emotions such as anger, frustration and sorrow as contributing to many physical illnesses and ultimately more severe emotionally related disorders. When we suppress emotions with our conscious mind we are essentially training our sub-conscious mind to accept these negative emotional feelings as normal. If this is done continuously, the sub-conscious mind can become confused and polarised. Negative life events will often start to seem acceptable and normal to the individual. In fact, a normal healthy emotional and physical state becomes almost abnormal and this makes it more difficult to break out of the spiral of negative emotion and ill health. Take, for example, an unfulfilling or abusive relationship where the suffering party, rather than end the relationship, suppresses their emotions and convinces themselves that everything is fine. Even a physically and emotionally destructive relationship can continue for a long period of time, and when the relationship finally comes to an end the injured party will often feel guilty and reject future nurturing relationships, gravitating instead towards an equally abusive relationship. The key to resolving such patterns is to re-train the sub-conscious mind to express negative emotions correctly. In the clinic this process is often aided by the release of suppressed emotions. This explains the frequent occurrence where clients will often experience an emotional release during or shortly after an acupuncture treatment, often without knowing where this emotion came from.–Chinese Medical practitioner, Dermot O’Connor, Dublin

Emergency Relief

In the case of trauma caused by a natural disaster, groups of acupuncturists often volunteer their time and expertise alongside Red Cross workers at shelters. Volunteer faculty and students from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, San Diego, alleviated pain, tension, and stress in trauma victims after the wildfires of 2007 swept the county. Acupuncturists Without Borders donated their skills to Hurricane Katrina survivors, who stated after their treatments that their shoulder tension and angst was relieved almost immediately. Acupuncture is an incredibly viable source of healing no only because of the connection it makes between mind and body health, but because of its accessibility. It is a mobile art. Practitioners can easily travel to trauma victims due to the light equipment they require. Acupuncture is a low-cost modality that offers instant and effective relief for large numbers of people, and it is adaptable to multiple settings, lending itself to emergency aid pain relief. However, acupuncture’s usefulness is not confined to states of crisis. Trauma and shock can derive from an incident in a person’s life that occurred many years ago, even at birth. It is never too late for the treatment of trauma, and acupuncture is not the only method in traditional Chinese medicine that may help. Through a complex examination of a patient’s body, including the tongue, pulse, and eyes, a practitioner can decipher what kind of trauma the person is suffering from – even if the event that originally caused his or her psychological damage is blocked or not memorable. Chinese herbology, meditation exercises, body massage, and deep breathing exercises, as well as tai chi and qi gong exercises can all deeply affect a patient in a positive way. The body and the mind are equally important in Chinese medicine. This is why it is an unparalleled resource for those suffering from trauma: the physical condition is directly connected to the psychological one. Trauma, both physical and emotional, affects a person’s “qi,” or life force and energy. Acupuncture operates by using specific points on the body that are thought to correlate with certain organs, as well as the nervous system. By stimulating these points with extremely thin needles, the brain is calmed. Points are chosen after meticulous questioning and observation on the part of the practitioner. Similar to treating addiction, trauma acupuncture treatments involve helping a person to let go of a memory or need. Acupuncture can help trauma victims release their fear and realize that the emergency is over. With careful diagnosis and a complete understanding of the person’s situation, acupuncturists will use specific points on the body to help align one’s qi, to rejuvenate a person’s energy, relieve pain, ease tension, and revitalize their sense of well-being.–Pacific College News

Interpersonal Violence

Sexual assault affects survivors primarily on the emotional and spiritual levels and for this reason, acupuncture, which works on these levels is a truly perfect tool for healing. Acupuncture uses the meridian system of the body. Meridians are pathways that energy travels throughout the body, connecting various organ systems and acupoints are the points we use for accessing the energy traveling along these meridians. According to Eastern thought, the organs of the body are associated with various emotions. If you’ve ever lost a pet or loved one, you can relate to feeling grief in the body as a heaviness in the chest because grief is held in the lungs. Joy is housed in the heart, anger in the liver, fear in the kidneys and worry in the spleen. When our emotions are negatively affected through rape, treating the associated organs with acupuncture or herbs can help the emotions transform to the next stage of healing.–Krisztina Samu

For related information, see:

Acupuncture and PTSD 

More on Acupuncture and PTSD

If you would like more information about the treatment of emotional issues or trauma reactions with acupuncture and other Chinese Medicine methods, you can contact Jeffrey Russell at Abacus Chinese Medicine in Louisville, KY, at 502 299-8900.




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