Travelling on the M25 today I saw a people carrier stuffed full of gear, Dad driving, Mum reading a Uni prospectus and a soon-to-be uni student fast asleep in the back. It was only just after lunch after all, so far too early in the day for a fresher to be up and conscious!
Hmm - this brings back memories, I thought.
It's a few years now since I was making the self same Uni delivery trip with my tribe, but there will be lots of Mums and Dads out there who will be returning from such a journey to a very quiet and empty house. Once the novelty of owning a house that remains tidy for more than five minutes has passed and the fridge doesn't empty as soon as it's filled, then some parents may well be feeling rather lost.
Kids going off to Uni marks the end of an era and the beginning of a transitional stage in their parents' lives. Some cope very well but others really struggle with letting go of their offspring, feeling a real sense of grief, guilt, worry and a loss of identity.
In Five Element Acupuncture terms, it is the Earth element which is concerned with the caring, nurturing and providing qualities of parents. Late Summer is when the Earth element should be at its peak, but it can become very depleted through years of caring and giving to others (ie children) without adequate replenishment.
If the Earth element is undernourished, then it is unable to feed its 'child' element of Metal, which comes into its own in Autumn. The Metal element is concerned with taking in and letting go - when it is distressed it becomes out of balance and its associated emotions of guilt and grief are allowed to run riot.
When the Metal element is depleted, then in turn it cannot feed its 'child' element of Water. If Water is out of balance its associated emotion of fear becomes out of control, allowing worry and anxiety to develop.
So called 'Empty Nest Syndrome' can therefore be explained in Five Element terms as an imbalance in the positive energetic cycle. Treatment would entail nourishing the patient's Guardian Element so that it in turn can further nourish the distressed elements.
If this imbalance is left unchecked, then there is the tendency to adopt certain habits or lifestyle factors to fill the void that has been left by the departing offspring, eg comfort eating, drinking, smoking and other excesses. These measures serve as coping mechanisms and may well suffice for a short while, but often there comes a time when they're just not enough - before long, a habit becomes an addiction, and an addiction becomes a problem.