Finding myself with an unexpected free afternoon the other week, I turned my attention to my houseplants. I had noticed that some of them were starting to look a bit stressed, and being around stressed plants really saps my energy.
One particular culprit was a large parlour palm which I had rescued a few months ago from the 'Reduced' section, where it was looking rather jaded and in need of TLC. It was parched when I bought it, so I gave it a good drink, some liquid feed and sat it in a light and airy spot, but it still looked sick. In fact, nearly every week I was having to cut away shrivelled leaves, despite watering it regularly.
This poor plant obviously needed more than I was currently giving it. The plant's needs were not being met and I needed to take a closer look at why the things I was doing weren't working.
So I decided I'd try re-potting even though the pot it was in was of adequate size, but some fresh compost never goes amiss.
When I eased the palm out of the pot, I found that the compost was dry, tired and had lost its structure. It fell away easily as there were no roots holding it together. After teasing away more of the old compost it became clear that the plant had previously become pot bound when it was in a much smaller pot and had subsequently been re-potted at least twice. However, when it had been transferred into progressively bigger pots its roots had not been teased out of the root ball, and so they were still tightly packed together and completely unable to free themselves in order to grow into the new space. The root system was being strangled and was clearly incapable of supporting an abundant top growth. No wonder the palm was struggling.
I see a clear parallel between this plant and my patients. Just as a plant will get by for a while with water and liquid feed, patients usually respond initially to Western Medicine prescribed drugs. But often there comes a point when this superficial treatment is not enough and both will fail to thrive.
At this point, Western Medicine would up the ante - turning to multiple, stronger or longer acting drugs to cover up persistent symptoms. My plant didn't respond well to the 'let's throw more at it 'approach ie being plonked into ever bigger pots - this proved to be completely overwhelming and its roots remained in a tight cluster, unable to branch out. It needed to have its roots gently untangled, to be given fresh compost and a smaller pot initially to encourage new growth at a steady rate before moving into a larger size.
Patients can react in this manner too, becoming easily overwhelmed by treatment or drugs which may be too much, too strong and too soon. They can retreat within themselves, unable to break out of their habitual, internal, emotional maelstrom created by their current illness and their past traumas. Any change to the status quo requires energy, a resource which patients often have precious little of when they present for treatment, and so they need to be able to reach out for help.
Patients need to give themselves permission to be coaxed out of the stranglehold their illness has on them; they need to feel safe, supported, reassured and nourished during their period of physical and emotional recovery and expansion; most importantly, patients need to allow themselves time to heal. Chronic illness is our body's way of telling us that our lifestyle isn't working for us and we need to change something - change requires energy and time, and can't be rushed.
Five Element Acupuncture treatment provides a safe and nurturing environment in which patients can explore the deeper issues surrounding their illness, to whatever depth and pace they are comfortable with.. It utilises a specific needling protocol to enable the patient to let go of the emotions associated with past traumas, thus freeing up the body to begin the process of self-healing.
Patients are very much like plants - they need sound roots in order to thrive.