The Zeppo (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 13)


The previous episode was the first intimation that it is all about power.  This episode, however, seems to be all about fear.  We see Xander afraid and hiding at the beginning of the episode.  Later, Buffy, Willow and Giles are afraid for Xander, as they battle the apocalypse.  Finally, we also see Jack O’Toole (yet another zombie) make a decision out of fear (or self preservation, really).  Ultimately, the episode portrays not just fear but also the courage to act in the face of fear.

The episode also portays Oz being unable to remember what happens when he turns into a werewolf, and he complains of being mysteriously full at the end of the show.

What is the physiology of fear and courage in Chinese medicine?

In terms of the seven emotions, fear and fright are differentiated by their effects.  Fright scatters the qi; fear causes it to strongly descend (as in, “I’m shitting my pants” descend).  In five element correspondences, fear is associated with the kidneys, which also correspond to cold.  We all know what it feels like to have one’s blood run cold when we’re frightened by something.  But if someone is afraid, we wouldn’t necessarily treat the kidney channel — we would treat the GallBladder channel.  Why?

The Liver and the Gallbladder are paired wood organs.  The Liver is often associated with anger, the drive to move forward, like a general commanding the armies.  The Gallbladder, on the other hand, is the yang organ of the pair, and is like the soldier in the thick of battle, the one who must show the most courage and make the actual decisions.  The Gallbladder, then, is the organ of courage.

In fact, in former times, the formula Wen Dan Tang, Warm the Gallbladder Decoction, was prescribe for Gallbladder and Heart qi deficiency, one of whose key signs was timidity.  The Gallbladder was cold.  It preferred to stay bundled up and not face the world.  It also could transmit that chill to one’s marrow — and feeling fear deep in one’s bones is a manifestation of that type of physiology.  In this case, the chill would have been transmitted through the Gallbladder points which control the marrow — GB-39.

Note that a Song dynasty commentary on this Tang dynasty formula attributes cold to a blockage of the warming ability of minister fire due to the build-up of phlegm.  We mentioned phlegm in an earlier context, concerned with guilt and the kidneys.  Here we see one possible progression of that pathophysiology.

The original formula of Wen Dan Tang, according to Bensky contains 12g sheng jiang, 9g chen pi, 6g zhu ru, 6g zhi shi, 6g zhi ban xia, and 3g gan cao (plus one da zao), a considerably warmer formula than today.

In terms of acupuncture physiology, I would look at jiao-hui points and treat the liao points on the sacrum and the points on the back of the scalp.

Why those places?  Have you ever wondered why the back of your neck prickles when you’re scared, or why you get a tingling feeling at the base of your spine when you watch a scary movie?  Those are the two areas of the body where the Bladder and Gallbladder channels meet.  The Bladder is summoning the qi of the Gallbladder to help the body prepare for making quick decisions in the face of fear.

The Bladder, remember, is TaiYang, which is the channel responsible for going out into the world, for facing one’s fears.  The Gallbladder, of course, is ShaoYang, responsible for twisitng and turning, making choices — like fight or flight.  Together, we have the dynamic of manifesting destiny in action, the movement of minister fire outwards into life.  In this way, we can understand how phlegm blocking the minister fire mechanism will impact a person’s ability to live out their destiny.

We can thus choose from the following crossing points BL1; GB15; GB7, GB8, GB9, GB10, GB11 (yin portals of the head), GB12; BL11 (hui of bones and sea of blood); GB-23; BL31, BL32, BL-33, BL34; GB-30.

Of these points, GB11, GB12 and BL-11 would make a nice triplet to release neck tension for people who feel they are constantly fighting battles and consequently don’t sleep well.  Most people love warming needle technique on BL31– BL34.

Most jiao-hui points, that is, points in which two meridians cross, can be looked at in terms of the physiology I’ve just pointed out with regard to the Bladder and Gallbladder.  What are the two meridians responsible for?  When do those two areas of responsibility overlap?  When do those areas tingle or respond to events and situations?  What might the association between those channels and those situations be?

As for Oz’s mysterious case of fullness following the eventful night, a little Hawthorne berry tea — Shan Zha — will help with food stagnation due to excess meat consumption.  Hawthorne berry is also said to be beneficial for hypertension and high cholesterol in the blood.

As always, this post is for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel Asian medicine may help you show more courage in life, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

It’s all about fear.

Xander is afraid. O’Toole is afraid. The Scoobies are afraid for Xander. But Xander faces his fears. His Gallbladder is strong.

Wen Dan Tang.

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