Decisions, Decisions

Finally, an acupuncture-related post! I know, it's been too long. Before I begin, I should add that those of you planning to travel over the holidays should really schedule a visit with me as a proactive measure for jet-lag. As you all know, I get treatments on a regular basis, and even I was surprised at how well I held up over vacation. No jet-lag at all after two particularly long and uncomfortable flights; now I just need to get a treatment for the pain in my ass caused by sitting for 10 hours on a plane seat that I firmly believe was filled with rocks. But I digress. Today's post isn't about travel, but was inspired by a patient who was recently experiencing some professional turmoil. Obviously, this wasn't her reason for coming to see me; I'm not a counselor. But I do like to know what is going on in my patients' lives, since their stress levels are part of the diagnostic process. This woman was being forced to make some very uncomfortable work-related decisions, and I told her that acupuncture might actually help with the decision process.

How is this possible? Well, from a purely physical standpoint, stress completely screws with your ability to think clearly. Unless you're an airline pilot or work in an ER, most of your decisions are best made with a clear head and calm mind. Think about how you feel when you are really stressed out: your heart is racing, your mind is going a hundred miles an hour, and your stomach is in knots. In this state, it is easy to misinterpret that "gut feeling" that is so important for steering you in the right direction. There have been innumerable times in my life that I was led astray by my nerves, and if I had a chance to sit calmly and rationalize, I would have been much better off.

From a Chinese medicine standpoint, there are physical and emotional connections to all of the energetic organ systems. The Gallbladder is connected to timidity and indecisiveness, and so a bit of work on this organ can help those who are unable to make decisions due to fear or a lack of assertiveness. The Liver is the organ associated with planning and follow through. If this energy is strong, a person will have strong goals and work hard to achieve them. If it is weak, they will have difficulty finding a direction, or focusing on a plan once it gets started. The Kidney is also associated with long-term life goals. If the Kidney is weak, a person will be too fearful to either make a decision or stick with it.

Once all of the energies are brought into a state of balance, it will put the patient into a state that is most conducive to making rational, clear-headed decisions without stress or fear. Time and again, I have seen patients come in for something physical, such as back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome, and later tell me about huge changes they have made in their lives after starting treatment. Of course, most of these patients have no idea about the potential of acupuncture, which makes it all the more interesting. I remember a patient coming in several months ago with neck pain. After her first treatment, she experienced great relief. She also went home and broke up with her boyfriend of several years. She explained that she had an epiphany after leaving the office: the relationship simply wasn't serving her any longer. She hadn't been happy with him for a while, but had grown complacent. After the treatment, she had the urge to let go of the past so that she could embrace a better future. Fortunately, he felt the same way, so all ended well.