From A Pathologist Acupuncturist's Perspective: Linking Physical And
Energetic To Spiritual
Amelia Lynn Dolson,
Understanding disease pathogenesis requires an integrated knowledge
of the physical, energetic, and psychoemotional (or spiritual) aspects.
Western science emphasizes the physical/mechanistic approach while Chinese
medicine and other practices provide an understanding of pathogenesis
on the energetic level. Integrating knowledge from these 2 different
perspectives may answer some of the difficult questions about disease.
A modification of the Western paradigm of disease pathogenesis provides
a framework for incorporating the spiritual aspect.
Acupuncture, Connective Tissue, Spiritual, Paradigm, Body Language,
Process Work, Pathology, Disease
The link between the physical body and the energetic level was examined
in a previous work.1 This article is a continuation of the same theme,
focusing on the link between the physical, energetic, and spiritual
Acupuncture forces us to rethink our paradigm of medicine, focusing
on the link between the physical, energetic, and spiritual levels. Acupuncture
should not be thought of as just another modality, but a new way of
understanding disease. As physician acupuncturists, we can bridge this
crucial gap by incorporating knowledge from Western science with an
understanding of disease pathogenesis from acupuncture.
Connective tissue literally interconnects all aspects of the body energetically.
Embryologically, connective tissue is instrumental in guiding morphogenesis.2
Collagen, the most common component of connective tissue, is piezoelectric
and serves as a biological transducer converting mechanical information
into electrical information, and vice versa.3 The mucopolysaccharide
portion of connective tissue serves as a biological effector.4 It is
intimately associated with collagen electrically5 and functions to regulate
many biological processes. There are energetic-type relationships within
the cell as well, at least on a biochemical level, i.e., biochemical
reactions describe moments of energy. The cytoskeleton, which is formed
largely of the piezoelectric materials actin and myosin,6 likely functions
in a similar way to the piezoelectric collagen of the body, energetically
regulating the microcosm of the cell. The organelles of the cell (the
nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, golgi apparatus, etc.),
as well as the biochemical reactions in the cytosol, perform functions
that can be considered parallel to those of the body's meridians. These
cell components are the repository of the cellular Jing equivalent,
serve respiratory functions, provide energy, have absorption, digestion,
and assimilation functions, and control water balance. The physical
structures of the body, including the cell, interact by means of their
Arteriovenous Anastomoses-Vascular Control
Capillary beds are not perfused equally. Perfusion is regulated by the
autonomic nervous system via the arteriovenous anastomoses, which divert
blood away from the capillary bed through a direct shunt from arteriole
to vein. Sympathetic stimulation opens the capillary networks of the
appendages and skeletal muscle while shunting it away from the internal
organs (fight-or-flight response...Yang functions). Conversely, parasympathetic
stimulation closes down the peripheral capillary beds and opens internal
(visceral) ones (e.g., digestion, vegetative...Yin functions). Psychological
events are noted to influence vasomotor activities.7 The resulting oxyhemoglobin
content of human venous blood at rest varies significantly with health
status.4 Chronic differences in tissue perfusion are readily palpated
and can be improved with acupuncture, further reflecting the significance
of physical/energetic interface.
Body Language: Skeletal Muscle and Chronic Holding Patterns
Skeletal muscle is invested in the piezoelectric connective tissue and
receives a blood supply regulated by the autonomic nervous system. When
the muscles are contracted or held in chronic tension, the configuration
of the energetic fields and pathways is changed. Conversely, a surge
of specific types of emotional energy causes a muscular posture appropriate
to that emotion; a posture that is quite specific and reproducible.
For example, in very cold temperature, the body posture includes raising
the shoulders up and drawing onto oneself, a position similar to experiencing
fear. Note that cold and fear are both associated with the Water element:
the body assumes a stiff bracing posture in wind, similar to that assumed
when determined or angry. Again, both wind and determination (or anger)
are Wood associations. In chronic stress, a fixed tension in constitutional
muscle groups is adopted, resulting in a predictable set of muscle-holding
patterns and resulting body habitus.8
The precise spiritual associations of many acupuncture points further
demonstrates that psychoemotional information is processed in a unified
way. One has only to review the names and indications of the outer bladder
line points to be reminded of this relationship. Why is GV 20 (representing
the Crown Chakra, and described as "100 meetings," which "calls
in the ancestors for review of life preceding death") so beneficial
as an extra point to help patients gain insight into their condition?
Why does CV 17 (representing the heart chakra, and described as the
"middle altar") hold anxiety, stress, and tension? Why does
GB 41 (described as "point of silently crying") often elicit
to the patient an image or dream of a child crying or internal sobbing,
usually in the face of unmet needs? There is a long list of points with
spiritual associations. Spiritual (psychoemotional) information is clearly
organized and held as a physical memory within the body, as in a computer.
Ideally, body positions and emotions remain true to the moment, to be
discarded the next. This would require tremendous dedication. John Sarno,
MD, relates his experience successfully treating people with back pain
and other muscle-related complaints.9 Sarno reasons that at its root,
back or neck pain often represents stuck or unresolved anger (frustration),
and that no treatment will be curative until this root cause is addressed.9
In fact, many consider chronic muscular-holding patterns as unresolved
psychoemotional/spiritual issues, or as unprocessed past events.10-12
A Role for Spirit in the Paradigm?
There is a growing list of Western sources linking disease pathogenesis
to factors beyond a physical level. Claire Sylvia describes her own
experience of heart-lung transplant.13 Sylvia relates seeing and communicating
with her donor repeatedly in her dreams, and acquiring some of his personality
traits. Based on her experience and that of many other transplant recipients,
she suggests a relationship between organ rejection and rejection of
the donor on a spiritual level. Research has shown that survivors of
myocardial infarction have significantly better outcomes if they are
able to make major changes in their attitude and approach to life. Dean
Ornish, MD, believes that treating the spiritual and emotional heart
disease, i.e., the loneliness, depression, isolation, and alienation,
is beneficial and may be critical to healing the heart on the physical
level. He underscores the need people have for love and connection to
a community.14 Bernie Siegel, MD, has written much about his experience
with exceptional cancer patients who outlive their predicted outcomes.
Studying those patients, he found it was neither the tumor's histologic
characteristics nor the treatment protocols, but the patients' shared
attitudes toward life and their disease.15 In acupuncture allergy desensitization
utilizing autonomic nervous system repatterning, John Diamond explains
that allergies are a reaction to a perceived danger that is misdirected
against a food or environmental substance occurring at the same time
as the danger.16 Chronic pain is seen as a spiritual condition in the
field of somatoemotional release, where it can be effectively treated.
Practitioners speak of disharmony between the soul and the physical
body as a root cause. Michael Greenwood, MD, emphasizes that instead
of "cutting out" the pain or dysfunction, we need to help
the patient reincorporate it back into themselves.17 Many physicians
and physician acupuncturists have their favorite examples of "pathology"
involving issues beyond physical/mechanical problems.
The Chinese, among other cultures, had a fundamental understanding of
man functioning harmoniously within an orderly universe. These cultures
created models of health and therapy in terms of the patient's disharmony
with the universe. Acupuncture is not unique in offering an understanding
of the relationship between mind and body: Socrates, Hippocrates, and
Paracelsus also wrote of such things. The ancient Greeks believed that
disease was a spiritual message, a means to get one's life back on course.
This idea is not so absurd; for example, a cold can often be the excuse
for finally taking care of oneself. Also, when life-threatening illnesses
and catastrophic events do occur, those affected often make major changes
in their lives. They report effortlessly to suddenly prioritize and
make spiritual transformations. Diseases can provide the activation
energy or serve as catalysts for change. We share a natural aversion
to pain and suffering. Accordingly, diseases are a powerful inducement
to make changes that would otherwise be difficult.
Western science has an almost entirely physical-based perspective. The
ills of the body are seen in physical terms, often analogous to the
breakdown of a machine. Since death is the end of this machine, it is
to be avoided at all costs. Furthermore, since the Western approach
does not formally make room for the non-physical aspects of ourselves,
there is a great fear of death and disease. This is seen as a failure
of the physical body. The fear of mortality seems to paralyze and control
people at times. Thus, our culture is youth-oriented and physical vitality
is highly valued. There is the phenomenon of being so fearful of death
that one is too paralyzed to live. This fear drains kidney energy, saps
vitality, and is also thought by some to be an etiology of many diseases.
Imagine fear being alleviated if crises, diseases, and suffering were
accepted as important messages that could purposefully change the direction
of people's lives. Crises could be acknowledged as important meaningful
events and as opportunities to learn and grow. In disease, as in many
other areas of life, all things can be understood up to a point; beyond
there is a great void. Our scientific training has left us with expectations
that nothing happens without a reason. Acupuncture allows us further
expansion with a set of energetic explanations to use. Perhaps in medicine,
our focal point of avoiding suffering and death misleads us; in a larger
perspective, "pathology" is simply a continuation of the wonder
of nature. Consider the many examples in which disease and misfortune,
with time and perspective, proved to be helpful in one's quest for spiritual
In order to better understand health and disease and to effect healing,
the physical, energetic, and spiritual aspects of the body must be considered.
Current attempts to relate mind and body usually conclude that if the
mind is adequately "fixed," then the person will overcome
the disease. It has put the whole issue of mind and body in a precarious
situation, with clinicians fearful of accusing patients of their own
disease, then blaming them for not recovering. To bridge this gap, we
have to deal directly with these difficult issues. Rather than fear
disease and suffering, we can curiously look at them and ascertain what
to learn. The goal is not to prolong life but to give life meaning.
The philosophical basis of how we understand disease is important both
in how we view life and disease in the larger perspective, and in how
we relate to patients and each other.
Thanks to David J. Dolson, MD, for his editing help.
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16. Diamond J. Presentation at: American Academy of Medical Acupuncture
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Dr Amelia Lynn Dolson is a Pathologist in private practice in Tallahassee,
Florida. She is Board-certified in Anatomic and Clinical Pathology and
1899 Eider Ct
Tallahassee, FL 32308-4389