Practitioners' News

W.A.R.! What is it good for?... ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!

by John Stan | Aug 28, 2015

September and October are months in which we enjoy and celebrate the abundance of the summer harvest. At the same time, these months see the long and warm days contract into the shorter and colder days of fall and winter.

Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM know that changes of seasons are big transition times that could reveal or trigger underlying health imbalances. One quick way to check if this year’s shift from summer to late summer and fall is affecting patients is to check on their emotions. Emotions are fantastic “tells” that indicate active or emerging imbalances in a patient’s system. Nature’s seasonal shifts create the perfect condition for these emotional “tells” to emerge, or be amplified. 

Energy moves from its lowest state to its highest state and back down to its lowest state. Within this cycle are 5 distinct phases that have been identified and labeled as the 5 elemental phases (see chart below).  Emotions attributed to each phase can either be the emotions of health or the emotions expressed when a system is out of balance - these have been listed in the chart below for your reference.  Predominance of any emotion in a patient’s day-to-day life is a “tell” pointing the practitioner to the corresponding organ system and energetic phase that is out of balance.

Elemental Phase Season Healthy Emotion Sub-Healthy Emotion Taste Colour Organ System
Water Winter Resourcefulness Fear Salty Blue/Black Kidney, Bladder
Wood Spring Creativity Anger Sour Green Liver, Gall Bladder
Fire Summer Playfulness Sadness Bitter Red Heart, Small Intestine, Three Heater, Pericardium
Earth Late Summer/Harvest Generosity/Caring Worry/Over thinking Sweet Yellow Stomach, Spleen, Pancreas
Metal Fall Letting go / Appropriate Boundary Setting Grief / regret / can't let go or draw proper boundaries Spicy White Lung, Large Intestine

The acronym W.A.R. stands for Worry, Anxiety and Regret. Worry or overthinking are Late Summer/Earth/Spleen/Stomach expressions of imbalance. Similarly, Regret and the inability to “let go of the past” are Fall/ Metal/Lung/Large Intestine signs of imbalance. Anxiety can be viewed as a by-product of the worrying and ongoing regret, or it may be a “tell” pointing us to a deeper imbalance of Water/Kidney/Bladder which, from the seasonal point of view, is winter time. Attention to these three emotions at this time of the year can help you develop a treatment plan for your patient’s health optimization.

Stress, as we all know, is a fact of life. How we manage our day-to-day challenges is a reflection of health. For example, if stress propels us forward into making creative, resourceful choices that empower us, then we can predict our inner ecosystem is resilient and strong. Conversely, if ongoing stresses increase the W.A.R. emotions resulting in increasing apprehension and tension in life, then our investigation would be to identify which system was weak or blocked.  When we, or our patients, are in the W.A.R. room, our nervous system gets locked in sympathetic mode. As practitioners, we all know being in this state for a prolonged time is the precursor to all manners of disorders presented in the clinic. 

In real life, war creates havoc and suffering for all those involved. War is a state of crisis that creates untold costs on human and societal suffering. Similarly, W.A.R. activity in our patients creates an internal crisis state that is akin to having one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake at the same time. Heat, stagnation, contraction, tension are all phenomena resulting from W.A.R. and these negative conditions will continue to build till something in our system gives.

As we move into late summer and fall, check in with your patients to see where their W.A.R. emotions are at. For many, with school starting and holidays being over, you may find that activity in their W.A.R. room has increased. Try to gauge where it is at. Create a rating system like the army does when they place their troops on alert. They have five levels of readiness; Defence Readiness Condition (DEFCON) 1-5, five being the least concern to 1 being the most ready to strike out.  Similarly with your patients, ask them to self-check their internal W.A.R. room activities on a scale from 1 – 5, determine yourself what makes most sense for the patient in terms of rating their tensions, 5 or 1 being the lowest or highest, explain the rating system, and ask where they are at.  Their answer will give you an important piece of information on which systems need tweaking and/or reinforcements.

Try this simple assessment out during this time of seasonal shift to gauge how your patients are coping.  I have created a patient handout for you to share with patients that explains the meaning of the acronym W.A.R. and how, with your help, they can participate in staying out of the W.A.R. room as they move from summertime fun into the fall and winter grind.

Another great patient support is the book Rhythms of Change – as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a great resource to sell to your patients. Another patient-friendly book with fantastic explanations of the Five Elemental Phases and its corresponding personality types is Between Heaven and Earth. Both books are affordable and make great resells to patients in your clinic.

Yours in health,

John Stan, DrTCM

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