2020: An Acupuncturist’s Perspective, by Steve Coster
2020 has been an odd year. As humans we know how good change is for us as a species, otherwise we would still be swimming around in the primordial soup. But it’s surprising how badly we deal with it and how shocked we are when it happens. Just take COVID-19 as an example. For decades epidemiologists have been warning us a ‘big one’ like the Spanish flu was due, but when COVID comes along our only plan is to shut everything and wait for a vaccine. I hope my observations on the challenges and the opportunities detailed in 2020: Acupuncturist’s Perspective will help you as we move into 2021.
Worrying and re-assessing
For me, 2020 has been a year of worrying about my elderly relatives and not being able to work. And although I don’t go to the pub much, I didn’t realise how frustrating it would feel to know I can’t go even if I wanted to!
But it has also been a fantastic year for clearing out the dead wood and making some fundamental changes in my life.
I left a club that I had been a huge part of my life for 22 years. And I left a clinic that I had been part of for 8 years and I started my own clinic. Being forced to slow down gave me the opportunity to actually lift my head up and take a look around. I realised that I had been going with the flow for so long that I had ended up somewhere I didn’t particularly want to be.
Change is good
In Chinese Medicine change is good. All energy must move, otherwise it becomes a problem. If water doesn’t flow it becomes stagnant. If love isn’t given the freedom it deserves, it becomes toxic. If money isn’t spent, it becomes just paper and metal. All ‘currency’ requires movement, otherwise it has no value, or it is simply dangerous. And that’s the same as our own energy, which is known as Qi.
Qi (or vital energy) moves around the body via channels (just like a canal system, or roadways and motorways) supplying the organs, bones, and flesh, with all that they require to function optimally. If that supply is disrupted, either by blockage, shortage of supply, or even sent to the wrong place or in the wrong direction, then disharmony ensues.
The root of all disease is emotional
So, what can disrupt the flow of Qi? In Chinese Medicine, it is said that the root of all disease is emotional.
‘Catching a cold isn’t emotional!’, I hear you say, or COVID for that matter, but what emotions can do is lower our natural defences. For example, if you are under a lot of stress, neglect your diet and do not get enough sleep, your immune system will soon become impaired, which can leave you open to the next bug you encounter. We’ve all experienced that.
But it gets a little more complicated.
Each organ is associated with an emotion. When we experience a particular emotion intensely or persistently, over a long period, the energy of that organ is affected. This might be either stagnation (the energy stops moving) or depletion (there is not enough energy).
I find the best way to visualize this is by thinking of an irrigation system for crops. If there isn’t enough water, the crops dry out. If there is too much, they are waterlogged. If the water stops flowing, the crop will begin to rot. And that’s the same with our Qi.
On the other hand, we might experience an emotion more keenly because there is an imbalance.
For instance, let’s say you are in a situation that is making you miserable, but you can’t move on, like a job you hate. Over time you might become more resentful and cantankerous, or easily angered. You are no longer the fun-loving, easy-going person you once were. In Chinese Medicine we would say that emotionally, you have become stagnant, which affects you energetically, but specifically the Liver energy. So, you start to drink a little more than usual, which over time puts more strain on your liver energy, which of course equals more anger, frustration, and resentment. Liver is also associated with the Wood element, which is all about expansion and flexibility. You only have to look at nature to see what happens when a tree cannot bend. It snaps.
Let’s take this analogy a little further…
Perhaps the reason you can’t change your job is because you fear the unknown. If you leave you might not be able to pay your mortgage; or you might not be happy in another job. You are immobilised by fear, you cannot move. You stay in the job you hate and get angrier and angrier. In Chinese Medicine fear is associated with the Kidneys and the Water element, and when we are really frightened our Qi descends. This might mean we lose control of our bladder and bowels, but in more chronic cases it can affect breathing.
You can clearly see how your health can be easily affected by your emotions.
Many other things affect our Qi of course, such as pollution, medication, drugs, alcohol, violence and even the weather. But you could argue that the state of your emotions can make you more vulnerable to these factors, in one way or another.
Emotions attached to COVID
And then there’s COVID. The emotions attached to it (i.e. anger, fear, and a big chunk of worry) will affect your health, without you even having to catch it.
Some people are more angry than fearful at the moment, but I can guarantee everyone is experiencing both emotions to some degree.
But those with strong Qi will avoid the worst effects of COVID-19 despite the fact that everybody, no matter their age or gender, will be affected. Each individual has a different physical constitution, and the manifestations of the disease will vary.
Again, from a Chinese Medicine point of view, a single prescription cannot be universally effective for every patient (despite the race to produce a vaccine), because everyone is different and therefore so is their Qi. However, a strong constitutional Qi will protect you against the pervading fear and panic, with the added bonus of allowing you to sort the good information from the bad.
How do you strengthen your Qi? Well, that’s a topic for another day…
I hope you have enjoyed An Acupuncturist’s Perspective and that it may help clarify your thoughts and feelings.
If you would like to know anything more about what I do, or indeed the discussion above, you are welcome to contact me via the email or telephone details below.