“I Robot, You Jane” (Buffy, Season 1)


Computer obsessions. Willow is not alone. Nor is David. Nor Fritz. We’ve all had them, or known someone who does. Whether it was (or is) the addicting video game, the incessant chatting, the audio-visual appeal of YouTube, or an irrational attachment to one’s crackberry, computer technology and the pathologies they generate are here.

Willow scanned into the school computer a medieval codex into which had been bound, releasing him into cyperspace. (As a side note, several universities now have all sorts of manuscripts scanned in and available for the general and paleographically-oriented public to access, and some of them are quite beautiful.) Moloch the Corrupter, the released demon, proceeds to wreak havoc around the world, starting (and ending) with the students of Sunnydale High.

Moloch the Corrupter may not be in our cyperspace (at least, not with a handy “safe search” button on), but we see symptoms of computer culture in the clinic all the time, whether we think to diagnose it as such or not.

The symptoms of Willow and her classmates are, initially at any rate, not that far off from reality: lack of sleep, loss of interest in former activities and friends, suicidal tendencies, kidnappings, murder… It really is somewhat amazing that the most successful demon of the first season was able to do all this while confined to a computer network and not physically manifesting.

The diagnosis is derived from the simple observation of computer obsession. The treatment, confining oneself to Asian medicine, is more complex than simply unplugging the PC (or Mac).

The following discussion is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat anyone.

Taken broadly, computer work involves two main components: sitting and staring.

Yes, I realise that more goes into computer work than just that, but form an outside perspective one sees a person sitting in front of a screen, rarely looking beyond it. shifts of attention outside the screen are minimal. Gradually, a “computer posture” emerges, in which the neck muscles (the SCM in particular) shorten, the rectus abdominis collapses, the psoas tightens. We see the person’s exterior begin to close up, move everything — attention, wei qi — interiorly. A life formerly lived in several dimensions, from the external world to the internal one, relating temperament to environment, society, and the self, begins to pathologically flatten out.

Sitting injures the Spleen, we are told in the Su Wen. It is the posture of Tai Yin, in which the limbs and wei qi begin to move inwards towards CV17 to protect the Heart from nightmares during sleep. Staring harms the Liver, specifically the blood, and probably the hun, which shine out from the eyes. The hun — personality — becomes deranged and unsettled, from an insufficiency of blood to contain them (traditionally, a person possesses three hun), restlessly trapped in the eyes as the upper sensory orifices become locked from the tightening of the neck. The clear fluids of the Stomach, which bathe the sensory orifices, might also be taxed, and the Stomach would be the medium through which the Spleen connects to Liver blood in this example.

I would wonder if the LU, being arm Tai Yin, and governing the skin, also gets affected because of its relationship with the Spleen via the Tai Yin vessel. I have memories of that greasy skin feeling after pulling an all-nighter (for term papers, not computer games, I would hope you assume) in front of the computer.

I think a sinew vessel treatment is called for. The sinew vessels control the exterior. They are the vessels through which wei qi, and attention flow. Attention is being drawn inward, becoming trapped. Therefore, we must free the flow of wei qi by working on the foot Tai Yin sinew vessel.

First, however, we need to make certain the upper sensory orifices are open. This can be accomplished by releasing the five axes of holding in the body. Three of those axes happen to be the ones which collapse while in front of the computer: SCM, rectus abdominis, psoas. The other two are the diaphragm and erector spinae. Gua sha is an effective means of releasing these areas. A needle in GB27, or some may say GB40, can also release all these areas of holding.

Then I would make certain that the Du Mai is open enough to disseminate wei qi once it can come back out. Therefore, cup Du 4 and Du 14. Specific sinew vessel releases, shiatsu, amma, or sotai may help open these areas as well.

Only after these areas have been cleared are we ready to begin work on the Tai Yin vessel itself. Using some sort of body work technique — shiatsu, tui na, thai massage — find ah shi points along the trajectory of the foot Tai Yin vessel. This roughly corresponds to the trajectory of the SP primary meridian, and includes the interior and exterior obliques.  Mark the points, needle with a shallow, chisel-like technique.  If any ah shi points seem to have moved off the Tai Yin trajectory, I’d also needle and retain the needle at CV-3, until the jing well point is addressed.

Then I would burn one thread of pure moxa on SP-1, to remind the body that this is the exit point for pathogens, and to activate the wei qi by touching that part of the body at which the Lungs and Liver meet: the border of nail and skin.  This serves also to activate the entire channel.

Finally, since I view the sinew vessels as extensions of primary meridians, I would needle SP-3 and perhaps SP-9 or 10 as well. SP-3 would provide much needed tonification to the Spleen, while the He-Sea can help move any emotional, blood stagnation that has occurred.

Herbally, the upper orifices could be opened by Shi Chang Pu and Yuan Zhi. These two herbs could be combined with Du Huo and Qiang Huo to open the Du Mai.

A subsequent decoction could be drawn directly from the Shang Han Lun. (Li Zhong Tang, a Tai Yin stage formula, comes to mind. If the pulse is floating, Gui Zhi Tang might be sufficient.)

I would not be inclined to combine the first set of herbs with Li Zhong Tang, but I see no reason not to combine them with Gui Zhi Tang. In lieu of a Shang Han Lun formula, I might consider using Sang Ye (which goes to the Lung and Liver), Bo He (which soothes and spreads LV qi), and Ju Hua (for the eyes and LV blood); or some Bai Zhu and Gan Cao to augment the Spleen.

Naturally, all this is quite theoretical, and if you think you or someone close to you could benefit from Traditional Asian Medicine, please seek a qualified practitioner.  I would also remind qualified practitioners that sinew vessel treatments are  more in depth than the simple protocol I presented in theoretical format here, and are altered depending on the predominance of such factors as wind, cold, damp, and time of year conditions manifest.

Happy Slayage (or:  Careful Scan-age!)


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