Part 7 – Practitioner Meets Patient: Achieving Influence
By Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons, DOM, AP
This is Part 7 in an Alchemist’s Notebook blog series exploring places of resonance, merger and synergy between neuroplasticity and Taoist-inspired Chinese Medicine practice.
Three focal points frame the series: Change, Relationship and Process.
For an introduction and overview, see Part 1 – Parallels & Possibilities.
For the three installments on Change, see Part 2 – On the Edge: Introducing Neuroplasticity, Part 3 – On the Path: Introducing Taoism and Part 4 – Past Meets Present: Plasticity in Practice.
For the first two installments on Relationship, see Part 5 – Nature Plus Nurture: Mind in Context and Part 6 – Relationship Plus Resonance: Self in Concert. Today’s final Relationship installment will bring together Taoist principles and modern understandings of neuroplasticity and epigenetics, investigating clinical implications.
Weaving neuroplasticity into Taoism-inspired Chinese Medicine practice brings expanded understanding of therapeutic relationship.
This relationship—the qi between practitioner and patient—is, in the end, the place and process of treatment. It is the space, mutually created, for effecting body-mind change.
Through this relationship, the practitioner can address “pre- and post-heaven” aspects of a person, tending to nature as well as nurture.
Treatment, as a deliberate, focused environmental influence, can shore up genetic endowment and influence gene expression.
By helping the patient learn and unlearn body-mind patterns, the practitioner affects always-changing brain maps—reinforcing desired neural connections and countering those that are pathological or limiting.
And utilizing the power of perception, expectation and belief, the practitioner can engender neurochemical changes with system-wide significance (affecting, for example, pain processing, voluntary muscle regulation and autonomic nervous system functioning).
In sum, the transaction that occurs within the space—or the synapse—between patient and practitioner alters the experience of an embodied, relational mind.
In this space, the aim of achieving influence, or “de qi,” assumes more expansive meaning.
While commonly used in relation to acupuncture, de qi need not be through needles.
Ways of achieving influence range from the obvious and overt to the subtle and even subconscious. They encompass anything the practitioner does to impact the plastic brain and body-mind, whether through words and gestures or intention and presence.
Crucially, de qi evokes change from what is already present. It relies on relationship—and resonance—as a catalyst for configuring inherent possibilities.
While neuroscience offers new understandings about what, exactly, might be influenced or configured in an embodied, relational mind, Taoism offers an approach for doing so.
Through actions, words, intention and presence, the Taoism-inspired practitioner plants seeds and instils hope. Healing emerges from the artful balancing of steadiness and ease, softness and hardness, yin and yang.
The yin of relationship is mindful presence. The yang is focused movement.
Between them, where yin morphs into yang, lies intention—the conscious or subconscious impulse that precedes any action.
And as neuroscience has shown, intention is a powerful resource. It is the impetus from which all change unfolds.
Thus continues the story of a plastic brain that is not only embodied, but relational.
As neuroscience debunks genetic determinism and develops new insights into body-mind expression, Taoism inspires efforts to guide relationship and achieve influence.
For the Chinese Medicine practitioner, awareness of epigenetics and the proven power of perception informs understandings of therapeutic exchange and its potential to facilitate transformation.
Taoism, in turn, blunts the sharpness of neuroplasticity’s cutting edge. Counseling patience, pause and artful timing, it tempers forced pursuit of change with a simple reminder that force is unnecessary.
Ultimately, the body-mind—a momentary merger of heaven and earth, jing and shen, nature and nurture—can only change.
And that change can only happen in relationship.
The final installments in this series will situate both of these—Change and Relationship—in time, as we move into our third focal point: Process.