In response to my previous post, our reader wrote the following:
I find your blog one of very few on alternative medicine that dares to speak some of the truths rarely spoken – for example, the one on myths about weight loss – you are clear, concise and to the point – i find that refreshing. Your answers make a lot of sense, but also provoked a few more questions –here they are:
1) From your answer and articles on your blog, as well as my own observations and experience with TCM, it is not a modality primarily used to address emotional and spiritual healing – is that true?
2) The other question is, can TCM suppress a disease, and/or cause the body to develop a deeper illness?
i am asking questions of this kind because I am troubled by how alt. med. is still being practiced the majority of the time – i.e. focus on or treat only one level, usually the physical, with little or no regard to the other levels, nor the possibility of suppression – yet i know there is a purpose that all modalities are serving… i am trying to understand, to complete the picture for myself
Thank you once again.
Thanks for your questions. It makes blogging fun. So please keep them coming.
As for the first question, I agree with you that TCM is not a modality primarily used to address emotional and spiritual healing. The key word here is “primarily.” TCM certainly encompasses the emotional and spiritual, it simply rarely creates therapeutic intentions at that level. As I discussed early on in my blogging, the “therapeutic intention” of a healer is critical, because you are unlikely to accomplish things you do not intend. This is the greatest weakness of TCM, which is a brilliant modality. Observe one great Chinese practitioner and you understand what an astonishing accomplishment TCM is.
TCM springs out of a distinct perspective, which has to do with Chinese culture itself. I find it to be ‘impersonal,” particularly when compared with other ancient cultures, such as the Greeks and ancient India. The essence of Chinese spirituality is the Tao. The Tao describes cosmic forces that are orderly, harmonious, mysterious, yet impersonal. Compare it to the myths of Hinduism and the Greeks, where there is an encounter between the human and personal, even intimate, cosmic forces. Feel the ecstasy of union of a Hindu worshiping Krishna. I am no expert, but such an experience seems rare in China.
Chinese medicine reflects this, and it has a powerful objectivity. The ancient Chinese were exact observers of nature. Yet our understanding of the “spiritual” and “emotional,” which necessarily include the subjective, gets lost. I have found this out recently in working with top-notch Chinese practitioners. They conceive the mental and emotional in terms of the energy terminology of TCM. They listen as you talk about treating a different dimension, but they have no framework to fully understand it.
TCM never developed deeper methods to help the psychologically or socially challenged patient. It probably is because the nature of Chinese society does not produce such conditions often. If a society does not recognize psychiatric illness, people are less likely to develop it. Calling this a “weakness” of TCM is subjective. Nevertheless, TCM does not translate perfectly to western culture, where experiences such as “alienation” and “cultural mal-adjustment” are rampant. “Depression” is an interesting concept here. For the Chinese, depression is primarily a disease of heart or liver energy. They are right, yet they miss the possibility of a energetic, spiritual perspective lying hidden beneath it.
As for question #2, I think bad Chinese medicine can promote deeper illness, but you would have to work at it. A person can usually feel the imbalance produced by wrong treatment and stops it. For example, if I am very yang and hot, and you give me herbals that rev up my yang energy, I am not going to like you much. “Suppression” is not a good word for this. Working with elemental forces of the universe, TCM is not given to harsh suppression. Acupuncture I think is even more benign. You can throw a person off with bad acupuncture, but, unless you have quite a sick or depleted person, you would have to work hard to cause any major problems. There may be those out there whose experience contradicts this. I would love to know about it if so.