Treating Emotional Trauma with Chinese Medicine

CT Holman, M.S., L.Ac. discusses what motivated him to write, Treating Emotional Trauma with Chinese Medicine: Integrated Diagnostic and Treatment Strategies.

“Having experienced emotional trauma as a child and as a young adult, I was motivated to delve deeply into the nature of spirit. Beginning with practicing meditation and then going to graduate school for Chinese medicine, the nature of balancing emotions intrigued me and inspired me to further study with several prominent teachers in the field of Chinese medicine and shamanism.

My teachers’ insights provided me with several tools to stabilize patients after they had experienced an emotional trauma. Once their energy was grounded, I could use techniques to soothe the triggering of the trauma memory and address their individual emotional/spirit imbalances. Through working with several patients to resolve emotional trauma, I discovered effective methods to transform trauma and enable the patient to step into their full potential.

After treating patients for emotional trauma for 15 years, I was asked to write a book,  Treating Emotional Trauma with Chinese Medicine: Integrated Diagnostic and Treatment Strategies, detailing the various treatments and self-care methods I utilize in my clinic. The undertaking was a healing one for me and supported me to step more fully into my being.”

In the below video CT describes the etiology and three-staged treatment approach that is described in detail in his above textbook:

CT Holman teaches Chinese Medicine (including facial diagnosis, qigong, shamanic drumming and channel palpation) internationally and operates a thriving general family Chinese medicine clinic in Salem, Oregon, USA. For more information, visit www.redwoodspring.com.

Acupuncture Without Needles?

I have spent a lot of time developing my technique with an acupuncture needle. First as a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and then as a teacher of needle technique, and now as the author of The Living Needle, a book on the subject. I have a lot of friends who aren’t acupuncturists that ask me if there is anything in all that work for them, other than just getting treatments from me. The answer is a resounding yes! While the needle is certainly the most well-known tool of the TCM practitioner and a very useful one as well, it is not the most important thing at my disposal, or even completely necessary to my trade.

As I discuss in The Living Needle, what is most important is that the body is engaged, and not simply engaged in a passive way, but really meaningfully engaged. This can be accomplished with or without a needle. While it is wonderful to be able to make direct contact with the deeper tissues, the fact that is so often forgotten by providers and patients alike is that all the body’s tissues are interconnected into one vast network. This means that contact with any tissue will necessarily affect all the others. Because of this, as any good massage therapist knows fingers can be just as powerful as needles. This reality is perfectly clear not only in massage, but in trigger point therapy and any number of other manual techniques using nothing more than a finger or an external tool to create pressure.

Am I suggesting that you don’t need to see an acupuncturist? Not necessarily because there is a wealth of diagnostic and other skills we bring to the table, I’m just suggesting you might not be stuck waiting on your appointment to start seeing benefits. You don’t even have to go to a massage or physical therapist to start reaping some rewards (though in a lot of cases you should go see them too). What I’m suggesting more than anything, is that your health and well-being are your business first and there are some simple tools and tricks close to hand that you can start using right now!

All around your house are implements that you can bring to bear on your aches, pains, and even internal medicine issues; from the handle of a spoon, to a toothpick, or a rolling pin, almost anything can be used to apply targeted pressure to the body. And of course you always have fingers. Here are a couple specific things that you can try.

  • Digestive Rolling: Get a round implement, a dough roller, stiff cardboard tube, or even the side of a pencil. Find the front edge of your shin bone just under your knee. Place the tool just below the knee and about half an inch outside the edge of your shin bone. It shouldn’t be pressing on the bone, but it should be pretty close. From here, with strong pressure (it shouldn’t be painful, but you should know you’re doing it) roll whatever you’re using down the front of your leg to your ankle. Come back to the start and do it again. Roll down nine times and then do the other leg. This area of the body has a strong effect on the digestion and rolling it like this will bolster stomach function and up-regulate peristalsis. This is a big deal, because with the chronic stress most of us live under our digestive system is underfunctioning most of the time, and chronic underfunction in the digestive system can lead to all sorts of long term illnesses!
  • Morning Wake-Up Call: Get that same item you used to roll your shin and put it on the floor. You’re going to sit down and put your foot on it so that the inside edge of your foot, just behind your big toe is pressing against it. Put some pressure on it and roll it back and forth from just behind the big toe to the heel, keeping the pressure focused mostly on the inside edge of the foot. This will again stimulate digestive function, but will also help with adrenal function and cortisol, which can help you feel brighter eyed on those draggy mornings!
  • Stress Buster: Feeling stressed? Especially that kind of stress where it feels like someone is squeezing the middle of your chest and refuses to let go? Grab the handle of a spoon or a toothpick if you like a little bit of a sharper sensation, or even just use your finger if you don’t have anything else close to hand. On the underside of your wrist, find the two tendons that run down from your hand. About an inch and a half below the crease of your wrist you’ll find a little tender spot between those two tendons. Press and hold there, making little counter-clockwise circles. On the top of your foot, between the bones behind the big and second toe, slide back toward the top of your foot until you feel where those bones almost meet and then move back toward your toes just a little. You should find another tender spot there where you can repeat the same procedure. While you’re rubbing either of these spots try to slow your breathing down and take nice long breaths. Within a minute or two you should feel a lot better!

The most important thing to remember with any of this is that the real treatment, the fundamental improvement isn’t about the tool that you use, it’s about the meaningful engagement with the body. Most of us live a life where we are largely separated from our bodies as far as awareness goes. The adage I often share with students and patients alike is that most of us don’t know we have feet until we stub our toe. So while you’re doing any of these practices, really get involved. Don’t simply poke away at the body while you make a mental grocery list of other things you have to do. Be aware of the sensations you feel under your fingers and in your tissues. After all, it’s your body, you might as well get to know it!

This more than anything is the real art to medicine, the ability to actively connect with a body and respond to it in the moment. This is also where real health lives. If you want to learn more about engaging the body feel free to pick up The Living Needle: Modern Acupuncture Technique.

 

Justin Phillips, LAc teaches needle technique and advanced needle technique at AOMA. He also runs a private acupuncture practice in Texas. His new book, The Living Needle: Modern Acupuncture Technique explains the fundamental principles of the art of needle technique for acupuncturists.

Reflecting on a Lifetime’s Practice of Five Element Acupuncture

Nora Franglen’s latest book, Blogging a Five Element Life, shows the holistic nature of life as an acupuncturist, and is a must read for anyone interested in acupuncture or Chinese medicine.

We have an extract from the book, which features advice on treating patients effectively, guidance on acupuncture techniques and her thoughts on the elements and how they can be applied to public figures.

Click here to read the extract

Click here to read more about Blogging a Five Element Life.

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Books By Nora Franglen

Blogging a Five Element Life

The follow-up to Nora Franglen’s first book of collected posts on the holistic life of an acupuncturist, this provides further insight into the everyday musings of a master of her craft. From her love of London’s cafes to challenges she has experienced in her clinic, it reveals how acupuncture can enrich and balance all aspects of our being.

Read more about the book here.

 

On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist

Based on her well-read blog, Nora Franglen provides a rich insight into the inner thoughts and feelings of a master acupuncturist. Covering everything from her love of coffee shops to how to treat patients effectively, it is reveals the holistic and rich nature of acupuncture.

Read more about the book here.

 

The Handbook of Five Element Practice

A companion for practitioners of Five Element acupuncture that strengthens the foundation for practice. With detailed outlines of the different components of Five Element diagnosis and treatment, this complete manual will support and invigorate practice. It also includes a Teach Yourself Manual.

Read more about the book here.

 

The Simple Guide to Five Element Acupuncture

This accessible guide explains the history and philosophy of five element acupuncture, and shows how it addresses specific health needs and general well-being. With case studies throughout, the guide explains how an acupuncturist diagnoses and treats patients, and looks at the character of each element.

Read more about the book here.

 

Keepers of the Soul

With profiles of well-known figures, the book explains the spirit of each of the Five Elements of Chinese medicine, and what they look like in different people. The philosophy behind Five Element acupuncture is explained, including what it means to live in harmony and how the Five Elements help shape our body and soul.

Read more about the book here.

 

Patterns of Practice

Considering acupuncture in its wider context, this book contains Nora Franglen’s reflections on her practice and explores how the search for acupuncture points can lead the practitioner deep into challenging areas of existence.

Read more about the book here.

 

5 thoughts from Nora Franglen

Franglen_On-Being-a-Five_978-1-84819-236-2_colourjpg-webIn this extract from On Being a Five Element Acupuncturist, master acupuncturist Nora Franglen shares her thoughts on how much she hates “the placebo effect”, allowing the elements to surprise us, how to deal with “Aggressive Energy”, bringing acupuncture back to China, and a remarkable difference between two elements.

Read the extract…

The book is based on her widely-read blog about the wholeness of life as a Five Element practitioner. Nora Franglen’s breadth of interest shows how the curiosity and life experiences of the individual lie at the heart of what makes a true acupuncturist, over and beyond the necessary knowledge and expertise in the technicalities of practice. From her penchant for coffee shops to reflections on challenges she has experienced in the clinic, Nora illustrates how the Five Elements influence, illuminate and, ultimately, enrich all aspects of her life, and vice versa.

The right path in acupuncture needling: putting your soul in it – by Ioannis Solos

Solos - Hua TuoWhen you look through paintings of ancient acupuncturists, you can’t help noticing that most of them hold long walking sticks or calligraphy brushes, swords, or bottle gourds. Of course, these “objects” were included in the paintings for a special reason. The pole, the sword and the calligraphy brush share many common core theories, but ultimately these instruments are intended to become extensions of the hands, and connect with the inside, or as the Chinese say: 内外合一 (the internal and the external become as one). Only then, the energies can flow unobstructed and the Intention (意) can reach the tip of the instrument, like is demanded in the calligraphy or martial theory. The bottle gourds often represent the “dantian”. The ancient acupuncturists would often hang bottle gourds at the door of their clinics, as a sign that they are medical specialists and have entered the gate of the Tao.

Most specifically for the pole, in basic Yiquan training, one first should pay attention in holding the body of the stick firmly, always looking at its tip, while seeking the forces in the six directions (up-down, left-right, back and front). At this stage these rules would ensure the establishment of a correct frame and the ability to exert whole body power towards one point, which is the tip of the pole (点) where the intention and spirit should always project towards.

Although the acupuncture needle is a much smaller instrument however, similar rules apply. For example, in the Neijing we learn that:

The Tao of grasping the needle requires holding it firmly, like it is a precious treasure. Insert [the needle] with the finger straight [perpendicular], and not angling towards either the left or right. The spirit is at the tip of the needle. Focus on the patient. Be careful to avoid blood vessels, and then needling will bring no harm. (Ling Shu—Jiu Zhen Shi Er Yuan)

Traditionally, acupuncture training was inseparably connected to the training of spirit (shen 神) and intention (yi  – 意). This was accomplished through rigorous Neigong training. It is not by accident that besides the Imperial Palaces and the cities, traditional medicine often flourished around Taoist and Buddhist centers, where people trained martial arts and required realistic tuina, traumatology and acupuncture skills. Taoist and Buddhist Doctors were able to make martial and medical connections early on and strongly enhance the efficacy of their treatment, eventually reaching high levels of mastery. The ability to develop good body frame (in agreement with the internal and external harmonies), concentrate the spirit, train the mind and intention, were also vital for acupuncture, and could strongly influence the outcome of the treatment:

A continuous failure to induce curative effect is due to the acupuncturist’s inability to concentrate his spirit essence. When one pays no attention to the mind and intention, his internal and external [harmonies] will be in disagreement, and this will give rise to doubt and may lead to danger. (Su Wen— Zheng Si Shi Lun)

The [correct] method for using the needle demands to [completely] understand the physical form and qi, and their position. Left and right, upper and lower, yin and yang, exterior and interior, and whether [the amount] of qi and blood is sufficient or scanty, [or] if the movement [of qi] obeys or counters [the normal flow]. [If one completely] understands whether the [qi movement] obeys or counters [the normal flow] then they can establish how to best offer treatment. Examine the roots and branches, check about cold and heat (i.e. chills and fever), derive the location of the evil, and acupuncture needling will not cause any harm. (Ling Shu—Guang Neng)

Acupuncturists who have practiced Yiquan, can often use their understanding of the art to direct the intention-yi (意) towards the tip of the needle, and strongly influence the movement of qi.

Zhan Zhuang is the most direct way to reach such a goal because it’s simple, flexible and literally to the point. Connecting the inner with the outer, consciously controlling your every movement and progressing in your training daily will enable you to reach beyond and above all written instruction. You learn in the void, and that’s where the best things come from. But after reaching that point, that’s when you become your own teacher, or a “universal teacher” as is described in the martial classics, and then everything is possible.

The true qi follows tranquility and nihility (i.e. the void). If the essence and the spirit are guarded internally, how can illness develop? (Su Wen—Shang Gu Tian Zhen Lun)

Because of the way standard TCM is practiced these days, this training is something that many seem to neglect. I hope that through my latest book, western acupuncturists have a rare chance to develop this understanding, and refine their practice towards eventually reaching higher levels of mastery.

Ioannis Solos studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University and the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. He enjoys researching, teaching, practicing and critically interpreting the ancient philosophy and culture of China, internal martial arts, health preservation practices, classic medical texts and lesser-known Chinese esoteric traditions. He is the author of Developing Internal Energy for Effective Acupuncture Practice and Gold Mirrors and Tongue Reflections, both published by Singing Dragon.