Stories of Healing Emotional Trauma in My Acupuncture Clinic
Trauma resolution has long been a specialty of mine in my acupuncture-healing practice. I’ve worked with many men and women who suffer from the remnants of past emotional, physical and mental traumas. Sometimes the patient recalls the events of the trauma, sometimes they are completely repressed and unreachable.
I have seen miraculous shifts in the lives of people I have worked with. One of the most dramatic was a middle-aged woman who felt “haunted” by tragic events within her family. She was from a family where there were many deaths, most by suicide. She appeared very heavy, fatigued, filled with worry and dread. Her posture was hunched over, her voice weak and she wouldn’t meet my eyes. She had very little hope that treatment would work; very little hope in general. I felt her pulses to measure the functional energy within her body. Her energy was very low, her physical resources very thin.
I have only rarely seen such a dramatic change in a person as I did after the first acupuncture treatment with this woman. When she showed up for her second appointment, I literally didn’t recognize her. Her posture had changed: she was no longer stooped over. Her hair was full and shiny and there was abundant happy energy coming out of her. Her voice was no longer weak, but engaged and full of enthusiasm. The first thing she said to me was “I don’t know what you did to me, but for the first time in years I feel like my old self again.” All this occurred without any visible cathartic release during her previous treatment.
Without believing in the acupuncture treatment or having much hope it would work (she was dragged to my office by her daughter), this woman had a profound healing experience. Her spirit was obviously engaged by the healing session, allowing her to find freedom and deliverance from the heaviness of her past.
Another patient, a successful male artist, came to me for “general wellness.” He thought I could do something to help him, yet it was unclear exactly what he had in mind. He appeared withdrawn, scattered and shy. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me. He spoke of sexual problems with his wife, and a lack of enthusiasm about his seemingly abundant life.
The treatment process with this man was of a longer duration than that of the woman I described. However, within the first three sessions, a deep grief began to emerge. The patient would begin crying on the table and felt a tremendous amount of fear and shame of which he couldn’t explain. It much resembled the expressions of a very young pre-verbal child. I encouraged him to allow the emotion to be expressed without trying to understand or classify it. We discussed that it was most likely repressed unresolved emotional trauma from very early in his life. For several sessions he experienced expression like this. He kept coming back because of the growing sense of lightness he was beginning to feel. He was once again feeling joy. His sexual function was also returning.
After a duration of about three months, this patient also began to seem like a new person. Very different from the man I’d met months before. His posture and demeanor changed dramatically. He seemed to glow and radiate with enthusiasm and energy. His relationship improved, as did his sexual expression. He began to radiate sex appeal, and gained the attention of many people, which also seemed to help his creative work and self-esteem.
Once the expression of grief, fear and shame ceased to occur during his treatments, we decided the therapy had concluded. He had achieved the cathartic deliverance he sought.
Other patients I’ve worked with have brought to the treatment room past traumas involving bad marriages and divorces, child abuse, shame issues, addictions and compulsions. We have worked through each of these issues in much the same way.
Acupuncture is a therapy that is performed on the body. It is “bodywork.” But the effects of it clearly reverberate to the mind, emotions and soul. In treatment, I usually let myself be led by the patient’s physical symptoms. Most people come to me for a physical body complaint. It’s only through unravelling the physical problem that the mental, emotional or soul-level “root” of the problem gets unearthed. I can’t tell you how many people have come to me for muscle pain or digestive problems that are due to emotional causes.
People may recognize there are unresolved issues in their lives: “ghosts” from their past. But most are unclear how to go about resolving them. Many go to talk therapy. However, according to Chinese Medical theory, trauma lives in our bodies. It becomes stuck in our blood and bones where it incubates, causing various physical and mental symptoms. To fully resolve trauma, the body needs to be released. There needs to be a physical detox.
If a patient is either uncomfortable or unable to explain verbally what they are feeling, it doesn’t really matter. Clinically, we can simply follow the expressions of the physical body. The body doesn’t lie. It has always led me, as a healer, where we need to go in the treatment room. Much of the time, I’ve learned, trauma is not within the conscious level. I’ve seen on numerous occasions, at the point where trauma is coming out to the surface to be detoxed, the patient cannot explain what it is about. The emotion totally lacks a storyline. It is just pure emotion. Or the trauma will be resolved during the dream state, either on the treatment table during the session or later during nighttime slumber.
Acupuncture is popularly seen as a therapy that treats physical problems such as pain. I agree. Yet it also treats that which has caused the physical problems, such as emotional trauma.
The body possesses a deep wisdom. As I work with patients, we follow the body’s lead. It tell us where it wants to go, and what it is ready for. Symptoms give clues as to where the body needs to be released. It shows us where trauma is being held.
The process of receiving acupuncture activates subtle energies within the body, reminding us of the past (unconscious material made conscious) and makes things clear that are confusing us. It boosts the immune system for detox. It also stimulates the will to move on in life and let go of old thoughts and emotions. It helps us find where we are stuck, digs up things that are buried, and expel that which is toxic. The most ancient acupuncture textbook refers to the healing art as “the compass for the soul,” saying all healing is about redemption of the soul and illumination of the spirit.