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Mental Fixations & Psychosomatic Symptoms: Acupuncture Treatment to Free Our Mind & Body.

Mental Fixations & Psychosomatic Symptoms: Acupuncture Treatment to Free Our Mind & Body.

Quality of life is dependent on our mental state. Health obviously is the most important aspect of life. Without health little else can be achieved or enjoyed. The stability of our mental state is an important part of health, and certain vital to quality of life. 

Throughout my own life I have struggled with maintaining my mental and emotional state. As I think is true with many people. Periods of anxiety and depression often interrupt our enthusiasm, ambition, sense of social inclusion and general happiness. 

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine was a revelation for me, not only in maintenance of my health, but also regulation of my mental state. It has been perhaps the greatest contribution to my overall quality of life. 

Acupuncture and herbs generally help the internal organs of the body work better. They also commonly create a sense of calm, relaxation and lightening of the mood. However, after years of study there is a depth and specificity to acupuncture treatment that can target very specific mental-emotional states. 

There are many “systems” within the acupuncture channels that focus on various aspects of body and mental function. The most commonly used acupuncture channels are fittingly called the Primary Channels. They are named after the major internal organs: the Heart, Lungs, Kidneys, Liver, Stomach ect. These channels are long, traveling from the digits (fingers and toes) to the head and chest, through the abdomen. The acupuncture points on these channels have the capacity to adjust the function of any aspect of the body, usually through specific combinations of points that direct body energy. 

The acupuncture points located on the back are perhaps the most powerful for strengthening the body, especially when the acupuncture is combined with a process called Moxabustion where a dried herb called Ai Ye (mugwort) is placed on top of the acupuncture needle and burned, allowing the warmth of the herb as well as its medicinal properties to penetrate into the acupuncture point in the channel to reach the internal organ. 

However in my experience most of the mental-emotional problems as their psychosomatic symptoms are due to blockage of energy in the body. These situations are best treated by another class of acupuncture channel called the “Luo” Vessels. The name “Luo” means “connection.” Yet I find these channels cause states of disconnection within us: alienation. They often manifest themselves visibility as spider veins or lipomas on the surface of the skin. They can also alter our complexion and demeanor. 

The Luo are vessels that showcase our traumas, disappointments and alienations. They “fill” with issues we have not yet resolved. They can cause us to develop fixations, addictions, obsessions, depression, anxiety. By holding onto unresolved issues they take us away from the present moment. They inhibit mindfulness and calm. They linger and harass us. They can also impact our mental state so we start to recreate our traumas and disappointments in our lives. This is a curious thing about our mental abilities. By obsessing on a thought we can actually perpetuate it, causing it to show up in our lives. A wise teacher often taught: “an angry person lives in an angry world.” We don’t often see the world as it is; we see the world how we are. Our mental state creates our experience of the world. To change it often requires we change the way we think, and therefore the way we perceive. 

Chinese medicine always viewed consciousness and circulating through the blood. To change our mind and mental state, we need to work with the blood, and therefore the Heart. The Luo Vessels are the tools by which we can do this. 

The wise ancient doctors of China observed common psychosomatic symptoms associated with certain mental states. 

For example, a patient recently came to me complaining of constipation and a sense of fullness  and tenseness in his lower abdomen. Also at times a pulling sensation around the navel and pubic area. I asked him if he also experienced obsessive-compulsive tendencies and even moments of fearful paranoia. He was surprised I could pick up on these symptoms. I told him the physical and mental has been linked within Chinese medicine for over 2000 years and certain symptoms are seen as psychosomatic manifestations that affect both body and mind. 

I then asked to look at his foot. I noticed several dark purple broken blood vessels around his achilles tendon and ankle. I told him this is the visible manifestation of his mental and physical symptoms. I also felt his pulse and noticed a “choppy” pulse quality to the area of his pulse associated with the Kidney. 

I explained that he had something “latent” lingering in his Kidney channel. The broken blood vessels showed where it was being held. The symptoms, location of the vessels and the indicators from his pulse suggested the Kidney was the channel affected. 

Latency held in the “Luo” vessel of the Kidney gives rise to constipation or difficulty in urination. There can also be firmness, tension or even pain in the lower abdomen, which can also indicate the Spleen channel may also be affected. Obsessive thinking and obsessive-compulsive behavior are also symptoms associated. Paranoia is a more developed state that can occur. In his case it was mild, but noticeable. His mental state had changed over the past few months he’d noticed. I told him we were going to address of this: the physical symptoms – the pain, tension, constipation. We were also going to start to change his mental state to clear the paranoia, obsessive thinking and the behavioral component as well. 

Treatment consisted of needling into the “opening” point for the Kidney’s “Luo” channel located near his achilles tendon. I added Moxabustion to the needle since the progression of his symptoms indicated he needed the “Yang Qi” energy in the form of warm vitality to help resolve the stagnation in his Kidney channel. 

I also needled into the spider veins around his ankles, also with Moxabustion. A large drop of very dark blood was released when I removed the needle, which I told him should start to release the pressure and mental fixation. 

I also needled points along his lower abdomen, to help adjust or “harmonize” the blood of his Kidney channel and send energy into his lower abdomen. I also added Moxabustion to these points. 

I told him that we’d begin by seeing the effects of treating only his Kidney channel. And if need be we’d add the Spleen channel as well. 

The following day my patient reported he felt a major shift. His physicality became more relaxed, without pain. His physiology regulated and the constipation broke. His mental state though was what he was most interested in discussing. He felt a lightness and sense of ease and enthusiasm he hadn’t noticed in years. He said he felt very present and noticed how self-protective and distrusting of people he’d become. I asked him if he could recall when and why this began. He said he remembered an incident that scared him years ago. He thought that was when his state of being started to change. 

I told him I wanted to continue working on his Kidney channel, but also add in the Spleen and Heart channels as this would treat the fact that his mental state was turning into a habituation that he’d stopped questioning. I also wanted to address the possibility of feeling victimized or betrayed in some way, which is where the problem might have originated within his experience and thinking. 

I was glad he’d experienced such a noticeable shift. But I told him it was still a process to unravel, and hoped he’d continue working on it. 

The spirit of the Luo Vessels is set by the name of one of the acupuncture points: “Lightening Strikes.” The treatment ideally creates a moment of awareness or recognition. As in this case, he realized how much his mental state had altered. There was a spark of awareness. He realized he was stuck in a mental state that was affecting not only his thinking but also his physical body. It is interesting that an alternate name for this point is “A Break in the Sequence” which is what we tried to identify. Where was the traumatic moment? He was able to recall a possible event. 

The combination of these two names sets the theme for the Luo Vessel system. “A break in the sequence” declares this channel system works with traumas that disrupt a person’s life. We’ve already seen how traumas, be they physical or mental-emotional can affect all aspects of a person’s being. They usually end up having both physical as well as mental effects. The initial impact of treatment by the Luo Vessels is to promote a spark of conscious awareness. The person needs to see the state they are in, ideally through experiencing a reprieve from it. The new enlightened state won’t necessarily last after the initial treatment. It is usually a process that takes time. But there must be a spark that gets the spirit involved, enticing the willpower to want to resolve the stuck state. 

The process of Moxabustion is that which entices the willpower, which is an emanation of “Yang Qi” or the body’s warm vital energy. The movement of the blood via the needling of the Luo vessels is what causes the mind to shift and open. The expulsion of a drop of blood from the point is what carries out the stuck experience or latent problem. The spider veins and lipomas will usually start to disappear throughout this process since there is no longer any latent material to hold onto. 

Cultivating the Channel Systems: Luo Vessels

Using the Luo Vessels therapeutically is a process of changing consciousness, sparking awareness and clearing trauma. Ancient doctors also describe the Luo Vessels as maintaining the health of the circulatory system and brain through releasing blood stagnations. One doctor in particular said the problem of aging is one of “psycho-sclerosis” or hardening of the attitude or mind. We saw this occurring in the patient: he was beginning to habituate his view of the world. When he realized this was happening he was shocked he’d become such a guarded, distrustful person. He was even more distributed by the fact that this had become normal for him. He no longer recognized it or questioned it. I told him I thought this was why he was developing physical symptoms: to get his attention. 

Psychosomatics are when something mental or emotional starts to create physical symptoms. I’ve come to see this as a way the body represses difficult mental or emotional material. It doesn’t completely go away though. It shows itself physically. Yet as we saw, it also shows itself visibility through spider veins, lipomas and complexion. As well as habits, behavior and demeanor. 

I think the body will not let us off the hook. If there is something unresolved in our consciousness, it will become evident one way or another. Psychosomatic symptoms are therefore an attempt by the consciousness (spirit as the ancient Chinese like to say) that there is something lingering that needs to be addressed and resolved. Otherwise it will begin to deplete our energy, often turning into degenerative disease. 

The Luo Vessels are cathartic, but they are also longevity treatment. They keep us present, as well as youthful. They prevent psycho-sclerosis. 

Nicholas Sieben, MS, L.Ac.

Nicholas is a healer who uses acupuncture and reiki to help awaken and heal. His mission is to promote greater freedom of body, mind and spirit through compassionate self-awareness. Through the use of ancient medical practices and the spiritual philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism, Nicholas helps illuminate the path to healing. He is a student of the renown Taoist priest and Chinese Medical Master Jeffrey Yuen. He completed his acupuncture studies under Mr. Yuen at the Swedish Institute College of Health Sciences, and received a B.A. from Brandeis University in Sociology and Philosophy. He has a practice in New York City.

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