Who Are You? (Buffy Season 4, Episode 16)


At the end of the previous episode, we saw Buffy and Faith fight, with Faith pulling out a magical device at the last moment and linking hands with Buffy.  In this episode, we learn that Buffy and Faith have switched bodies.  Faith now inhabits Buffy’s body, while Buffy is trapped within Faith’s.  Both come to understand the other a little bit more as a result.

Not before a little bit of havoc and revenge has been wreaked by Faith, though.  In particular, Faith decides to sleep with Riley.  Riley picks up that something is amiss, particularly afterwards, when he tells Buffy’s-body-inhabited-by-Faith that he loves her.  Faith-inhabiting-Buffy’s-body, not expecting any such talk after sex, jumps up and becomes very agitated.  ‘What just happened meant nothing’, she declares.

Given Faith’s own background, such behaviour is not unexpected.  After all, towards the end of the episode, Faith-in-Buffy’s-body gives Riley the brilliantly delivered line, “I can’t use you.”  In terms of acting technique, the ambiguity of that line was very psychologically perceptive of Faith’s character.  She cannot use Riley in a fight, because he is injured; but more broadly, she cannot exploit him, and he isn’t out to exploit her.

Leaving aside the philosophical-medical considerations emerging from the slow melding and changing of Faith’s personality to match her Buffy body, the overall pattern of Faith’s interaction with Riley made me think of dissociative disorder, particularly as it applies to sexual interactions.  Simply put, dissociation during sex is when one person simply ‘checks out’ and goes somewhere else mentally, avoiding the impact of what is actually going on.  Often this habit is developed as a result of sexual exploitation of some sort, though it need not be.  Nor does it necessarily need to be confined to the bedroom.  Sometimes people will check out of other difficult situations.

A colleague once asked for ideas of how to address these symptoms from a Chinese Medical standpoint.  This episode presents the perfect opportunity to explore those ideas further.

First, we could look at the situation as primarily one concerning consciousness and attention.  Consciousness is associated with the shen-spirit.  Attention can also be associated with the shen-spirit; but it can also be associated with the gathering power of the Spleen, and referred to as yi-intent.  The shen is anchored to the body by the jing, and emerges from the union of qi and blood.  If consciousness is departing, this is a form of a rupture between the yin aspects of the body — jing and blood — from their partnered yang aspects — shen and qi.  The treatment approach, therefore, would seek to anchor the shen in the jing, or the qi in the blood.

Typically, sticky herbs like shu di, e jiao, gui ban jiao or even lu jiao jiao (which is a bit more on the yang-tonifying side) could be used.  The stickiness reflects viscous jing.  Something yang and light in nature would reflect the shen; perhaps fragrant chen xiang would be a good choice.  I personally prefer the use of Lu Jiao Jiao in this instance, because it already reflects the presence of yang-shen within sticky-jing oriented substances.  Being the essence of an antler, which is the outward expression of life, and which requires great amounts of both qi and blood in the springtime, I feel it adequately captures much of what we are trying to accomplish.  (Sang Bai Pi would work similarly.)  However, Lu Jiao Jiao does not clarify consciousness.  In some ways, it doesn’t so much bring consciousness back to the jing as much as it causes the jing to express itself outwards consciously.  To augment this effect by engaging the spleen, I might add either Fu Shen — a very consciousness clearing herb, relieving people of the burden of potential (i.e. dampness unable to become physiological fluid) — or Gan Cao, which helps bring people back to centre.  Ren Shen also has this centring effect.

Another approach would be to relate the yang-oriented shen to qi, and look at how qi is anchored in the body.  We know that the ancestral qi gathers in the Lungs, and that the Kidneys grasp Lung qi.  Therefore, something which helps the Kidneys anchor the qi may prove useful.  In such a case, I would think of the formula Ren Shen Ge Jie Tang.  This formula is mildly yang-tonifying, and is often used in cases of asthma.  I have also heard of it used when couples are trying to conceive.  The concept there is that the Kidneys, or jing, will grasp a Ling-soul to enable conception to occur.

If the qi is weak, the po may rage out of control.  This gives rise to addictive disorders.  Someone who is both a sex addict and checks out during sex would likely need to have both jing and qi tonified.  The above formula, with the addition of one or two qi-tonifying or qi-circulating ingredients may be useful in such cases.  I would consider adding Shan Yao (to astringe essence) or Wu Wei Zi (to astringe LU qi and generate essence) with a herb like huang qi, which tonifies qi but also constrains the exterior.

A third way to look at the issue is to consider the path of the Liver channel, and the role that  LV channel blood and mai has in influencing the genitalia.  The Hun, stored in the LV and in Blood, follow the Shen, which are stored in the Mai-vessels.  This is the place of the Pericardium, as we noted in the previous post, but also of the Chong Mai, which disperses into the Chest.  In this case, I would use acupuncture and lead the shen from the chest down to the LV channel.  Perhaps I would combine a Ren Mai with a Chong Mai treatment, beginning with LU-7, followed by CV-17, CV-15, KD-15 (Uterus Gate), KD-13 (Qi Cave), and Closing with SP-4 — if I chose to use that particular trajectory of the Chong Mai.

The place of the pericardium is interesting to consider in this respect.  The Pericardium is likened to the Confucian ministers, whose responsiblity it is to ensure the Emperor be in the right place and perform the correct rituals at the proper time. If consciousness is not present when it should be, this can be seen as the fault of the ministers, in this case, the Heart Master Collateral, or PC meridian.  PC-6, a luo mai point having a relation to the blood, and called ‘inner gate’ to reflect its relationship to letting certain emotions in to consciousness and the heart, CV-17 (mu point of the PC), and CV-15 (mu point of the HT) are all useful points in this regard.  If a person is also emotionally stuck, I would add the he-uniting or he-sea point of the PC to the prescription, since he points are useful in cases of blood stagnation — and in cases of pathology due to previously poor intake (usually thought of as dietary) choices.

Note Buffy puts her hand to CV-17 after returning to her own body:  the Heart was finally back in its proper place, regulated through the Pericardium — in this case, PC-8, where the magical device was held.

Finally, someone who is facing challenges with intimacy, wandering from person to person — this issue is the flipside of the episode  ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ (Season 4, Episode 18), and will be treated then.

Until that time, please remember that these posts are for entertainment and educational use only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese Medical approaches to your life, please see a qualified practitioner.  If you are interested in bodily memory, by all means search using the terms ‘heart transplant’ and ‘bodily memory’.  Happy Slayage!

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