One way of exploring the Wisdom of Body Symptoms is to look beyond the limitations of the disease model of Western medicine to get a more complete understanding of the purpose and messages of our symptoms. In western medicine, the information gathering is linear in nature, trying to go from point A to point B.
Another way to view assessment or interpretation is through the eyes of Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine there is a fundamental belief that a human being is an integration of the mind, body, and spirit. Metaphor and symbolism are important in the language and thinking in Chinese healing. This paper will introduce some basic concepts of Chinese medicine through the theory of NonSomatic Extraordinary Vessels. Although the Extraordinary Vessels have been around for thousands of years, Acupuncturist Dan Atchison-Nevel, an innovative researcher/practitioner with whom I trained from 1995-1997, has adapted some ancient Chinese principles and found a unique method of highlighting the nonsomatic and its interplay with the somatic process within an individual.
There are “somatic” and “non-somatic” ways of looking at any problem and they occur simultaneously. Somatic is defined as occurring in the physical body. The non-somatic incorporates and encompasses all that is non-physical: the psychological, mental, psychic, emotional, spiritual, religious and/or transpersonal. In Chinese medicine there is equal weight to both the somatic and non-somatic worlds. Non-judgment is used in assessment and treatment. The Western medicine model is primarily somatic, although complementary and integrative medicine is now considering the non-somatic as well. Atchinson-Nevel describes the Extraordinary Vessels as a way to enter and observe the world on the non-somatic level. I believe that expanding our thinking in this way can aid us in our decision making process as a Psychodrama Director.
The “Tao” is an important concept in Chinese medicine. The Tao is both a religion and a philosophy. Inherent within the concept of the Tao is intuition, and experienced sensation which is valued through feeling. “The Tao does not lend itself well to the thinking process. It is personal, transpersonal and universal. It is hidden and loves to be known.” (Atchison-Nevel, 1998). These are some fundamental assumptions that underlie the difference between Eastern thinking and Western thinking.
West East The universe is knowable. The universe is unknowable. It is observable.
Absolute truth is sought. Observation of the ways of the universe is sought.
A sense of separateness is A sense of interconnectedness is fostered. fostered.
Inquiry is scientific and technological. Inquiry is contextual and holistic.
A + B =C Looks at how or where would A be appropriate with B and vice versa. . In Chinese medical thinking yin/yang theory is used to place all phenomena in relationship to one another so that the whole can be understood. All phenomena can be divided into yin and yang aspects and they are all relative.
Acupuncture points are a pathway, entryway. These points are within the body and connect to the channels. The channels have directions. Some channels are deep and some are more superficial. There are channels that connect to other parts of the body. Extraordinary vessels are oceans and seas within the body. They have no direction but they do have tides. The Extraordinary Vessels deal with core aspects of our selves.
There are 8 Extraordinary Vessels. These are important because they are fundamental to our existence and begin to develop at conception and fertilization. They represent the deepest level of function inside or outside the body. The Chong (the inside of the inside) is the first to come into existence from the intermingling of yin influences of the earth and yang influences of heaven. This is our connection to our spirituality. It occurs at the point of conception. Out of the Chong emerges the Du, which is the storage of Yang (the back of the body), and the Ren, which is the storage of Yin (the front of the body). Then the Dai (the inside of the outside) is formed which divides the body above (Yang) and below (Yin) the diaphragm. As the limbs develop the remaining extraordinary vessels are formed. They are the Yangwei (our relationship with the external world), Yinwei (the outside of the inside), Yinqiao (accessing of Yin), and Yangqiao (accessing of Yang). They all serve a function.
There are basic energetic functions of all human beings.These inform assessment and treatment for an Acupuncture physician using the Extraordinary Vessels. This can also inform the Psychodrama Director. They are:
protection of influences from the outside assimilation (making choices) of influences from the outside incorporation (making value) of influences from the outside discharge (letting go) of influences to outside the organism storage (save it) of influences within the organism distribution (use it) of influences within the organism.
Four Extraordinary Vessels deal with our relationship to our selves and the external environment. They deal with the functions of protection, assimilation, incorporation, and discharge. They are:
Yangwei Yang within Yang Outside if the Outside Dai Yin within Yang Inside of the Outside Yinwei Yang within Yin Outside of the Inside Chong Yin with Yin Inside of the Inside
Four Extraordinary Vessels deal with our relationship to our internal environment and the balance of yin/yang. They are:
Ren Yin Potential Storage of Yin
Du Yang Potential Storage of Yang
Yinquiao Accessing of Yin Distribution of Yin
Yangquiao Accessing of Yang Distribution of Yang
How can this be applied to our work in psychodrama as directors or auxiliaries? Being aware and thinking about the energetic functions can inform and assist us in our assessment and treatment of the protagonist. A director could ask themselves the question, “In which function does the problem lie? Is more of the function needed or less? Is the problem “somatic” or non-somatic”? Is more yin or more yang needed?” Including this style of thinking with these questions can lead to a more informed assessment of the issue at hand which leads to an appropriate direction in the drama.
In treating or directing with the Extraordinary Vessels one is either relaxing or activating the appropriate vessel. If the problem is somatic, the treatment is always relaxation. If it is non-somatic problem then one can either relax or activate the appropriate Extraordinary Vessel. In the application to Psychodrama, a director will ask themselves, “Where does the problem lie within the Protagonist? Is relaxing the system needed, or does something in the system need to be activated? Does the problem need containment or expansion? Is the problem one’s relationship to their internal or external environment? Is the problem more on the surface or is it at the deepest spiritual level?
Moreno describes a model known as the Canon of Creativity. This is one of the cornerstones of his work. This model explains the interaction of spontaneity and creativity and what happens when they come together. Both are needed for meaningful change to occur. Spontaneity (which is Yang) with enough warm-up moves towards creativity (which is Yin). When they interact a new behavior or new product can occur. Spontaneity is referred to as the “arch catalyst.” Creativity is referred to as the “arch substance.” Both are needed for the necessary balance to create something new or adequate in response to another person, behavior, action or product of one’s creativity, e.g. a book or a song.
Moreno also believed that we go from the periphery to the core in exploring an internal process or an experience with a client or protagonist. In Chinese medicine a diagnosis or exploration with a patient begins with the most superficial before going deeper.
My hope is that this paper will raise our curiosity and expand our thinking and inquiry. What are our symptoms trying to teach us? What are the messages? What are the lessons? This can be a fascinating journey.