The ancient, classical Chinese acupuncturists believed that a unique combination of five distinct elements constitutes an individual's make up, namely Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.
Each element brings certain virtues, strengths and weaknesses to the person's character. Through a combination of nature and nurture, each of us develops a special relationship with one particular element, known as the Guardian Element.
It is nature of the Guardian Element which determines how we conduct ourselves in our day to day life, how we interact with others and how we react in certain situations. It is also the Guardian Element which literally gets knocked for six when life throws its traumas at us, throwing the element and ourselves out of balance energetically, leaving us feeling physically and often emotionally unwell.
The key aspect of Five Element Acupuncture is that treatment is directed specifically at the patient's ailing Guardian Element rather than at any specific symptom, ie it tackles cause rather than effect.
So how then do we determine a patient's Guardian Element?
This happens usually by means of close questioning and careful observation during the initial consultation with the patient.
This careful observation takes years of practice to perfect - as a practitioner I am constantly looking, listening, feeling and sensing clues which will direct me towards the patient's Guardian Element. Generally, the more out of balance the patient, the easier it is to fix upon the Guardian Element - in fact, it is as if it is shouting at me for help! So my discipline is to quieten my mind and to pay heed to all of my senses.
I find that social occasions are the perfect training ground for me and I often find myself 'people watching' - observing, noticing and assessing, and trying to pin down those elusive Guardian Elements.
At a family BBQ recently I watched my loved ones with mild amusement as I noted their conduct and reactions as we were all mucking in to prepare the food.
Number 1 offspring wanted to make a specific recipe and rushed out to not one but two supermarkets to get exactly the right ingredients - action, little flexibility = Wood.
If it was left up to me, I would have looked in the cupboards, changed the recipe and made something with what was already there - resourceful = Earth
Number 2 offspring went to Waitrose and only bought upmarket, branded goods - quality = Metal
Number 3 offspring went round chatting to everyone, making sure they were all OK and had drinks - communication, hospitality, entertainer = Fire
Number 4 offspring went back for second and third helpings and was starving again after a couple of hours, whilst also keeping a careful watch on the little ones - caring, nurturing, providing (especially food) = Earth
Husband controlled the BBQ (very expertly, too - nobody else gets a look in!) loved having everyone around and played with the little ones - leadership, comradeship, inner child = Wood.
We can learn so much by saying less and seeing more!