Dopplegangland (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 16) Post Two

In this second post we will leave the awesomeness of this episode aside — and aside from the costuming and acting, it has some really excellent lines (especially Xander’s “Can you believe the Watcher’s Council let this guy go?”) — and focus on the human Willow.

After all, being a reliable doormat isn’t fun.

It is not at all uncommon to find patients who feel this way, and they aren’t always the quiet withdrawn types.  Like Willow, they can often be exhuberant, upbeat, and optimistic — even forgetting that they were treated like a doormat a few days beforehand, or making excuses for the person who ill-treated them.

While we may find the capacity for forgiveness and the sweetness of these people endearing, very often they are deeply hurt.  Like a bruised bone, the evidence isn’t on the outside or in the affect, and usually not in public sight.  Unlike those patients who have been hurt by an intimate relationship gone sour or who habitually seek out violent domestic relationships, these patients are experiencing a too porous external boundary.  (The previous examples have a too porous internal boundary.)

Treating this sort of situation with herbs will take a different approach from treating it with acupuncture.

In terms of herbal medicine,  boundary issues exemplify the state of a person’s blood, particularly their liver blood.  Just as the Liver is that which gives us the impulse to go out into the world, like seedlings bursting through the soil in springtime, so also post-natally it relies on a strong reservoir of blood.  If the Liver has too much blood, it may seek to relieve itself of that burden, and since it can afford to shed some blood, it is not afraid to become overtly aggressive.  These are the sorts of people who invade other people’s spaces, whether they are aware of it or not.  For those who continually shrink back, the issue is a lack of blood.  If they shrink back and begin to lessen themselves, then we see the body having depleted its reserves of blood so much it must begin to draw from Kidney essence to support its life.  (In this situation, we see the reverse process that the Channel Divergences follow: the first confluent pair of CDs deals with jing, and when that is exhausted, the body begins to make use of blood, which is the focus of the second confluence.)

To contrast the Liver in this case with the image of Spleen as society:  Liver is the going out into the world, whether in society or not; it is the transformation of Jing-Essence into something more motile and impressionable (i.e. blood). Jing is a template in and of itself; it impresses its pattern onto post-natal essence derived from food. Blood, on the other hand, is produced from that template, but it is itself affected by the world outside. When it reunites with qi or jing or shen to become marrow, the impressions of one’s curriculum and the impressions of one’s experiences are brought together and flow into the brain, where they can support and provide residence for the yuan shen.  Interestingly, the French osteopath Jean Pierre Barral, approaching the viscera from the European tradition of visceral manipulation, notes that the liver “memorizes every element that goes into building our identity”  (Understanding the Messages of Your Body, p104).

Herbally, what sort of prescription would we choose? One which builds Liver blood, as Ted Kaptchuk has pointed out: Liver is related to boundaries. As Jeffrey points out, blood is related to resources. Together, LV blood are the resources with which one exerts one’s boundaries.  One could choose a simple Si Wu Tang (just make certain to dry fry the Bai Shao before adding it to the formula), or augment it with the addition of E Jiao for someone who has begun to give away too much of themselves; or for those who have been trampled upon so often they’ve become frozen, add some Tao Ren and Hong Hua to reinvigorate the blood.  A little Gui Zhi or Luo Shi Teng to open the collaterals and warm them wouldn’t hurt, either.

While one could easily lift the treatment principles of building blood and nourishing the Liver from the herbal protocol, acupuncture has other resources at its disposal through reflection on the names of acupuncture points.

Three points in particular bear names which relate to external boundaries and self-protection.  These three points are TW-5, Wai Guan (“Outer Gate”), GB-28 Wai Shu (“Outer Pivot”), and KD-7 Wai Ming (“Outer Life”).  KD-7 is more commonly known as “Recovering the flow”, and GB-28 Wei Dao can also be read as “Protect the path”.  (The alternate names are contained in Ellis, Wiseman, and Boss’ Grasping the Wind.)

Let’s take a closer look at these points.

TW-5, Outer Gate, was the first point I thought of in the context of boundaries.  Paired with PC-6, Inner Gate, it regulates the movement of exterior and interior.  Alone, it focuses the patient’s ability to discern whether a situation is something to keep outside oneself or allow it to be experienced — perhaps not as deeply and intimately as PC-6 — but nevertheless, being a luo-point and thus related to blood, it allows an experience to be had. We are not bleeding the point, but bloodletting to relieve rigidity of the sense organs — the indications of TW luo pathology — may serve a useful purpose in allowing someone to clearly see at the outset when someone is going to take advantage of them.

Additionally, it is a point on the ShaoYang channel, which is the pivot between the exterior yang meridians.  It also opens the Yang Wei Mai Channel, which we have discussed previously as dealing with integrating and consolidating the surface with the interior of the person.  Obviously, this is a trait clearly related to the name of the point.   However, since we are not needling other points on the Yang Wei Mai channel, we need not be detained by its dynamics.

The second point, GB-28, is also a ShaoYang point.  It’s common name is Protect the Way, that is, the path which someone is supposed to walk.  It’s other name, Outer Pivot relates both the to physical movement associated with ShaoYang — turning or twisting outwards — but also resonates with the ability to navigate through life’s choices.  It can help a person pivot to avoid being struck, as in Tai Ji — or in Willow’s case, to evade the antics of a Principal Snyder.

KD-7, Returning Flow, is so named because after the qi of the KD channel gets diverted into the Yin Qiao Mai (which deals with one’s view of the self), it returns back to the channel which in some ways is eminently representative of the self.  How you view yourself impacts who you are, and this is the point that can allow that view into your daily life.  Additionally, it is the jing-river point, and thus relates to pathologies of the voice.  The jing-river point on a channel which deals with one’s self therefore leads me to think of it in a similar vein as HT-5 — for person’s who have trouble articulating who they are.  In the case of HT-5, the difficulty lies in the tongue, in allowing the shen to speak; in this case, it is a matter of allowing the jing its space to manifest.  In other words, it concerns articulating what one needs to live one’s Outer Life — as the point is so named — rather than one’s inner life.

As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel that Chinese medicine may help give you the resources to change how you are being treated by others, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!  (Or Happy Hexing!)


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