Previously published in the 2022 issue of The Journal of Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine
An undeniable reality of working with cancer patients is that some patients will not survive their diagnosis. Chinese medicine and acupuncture has the ability to significantly improve the quality of life of terminal patients. Many barriers exist that block the use and acceptance of acupuncture as a tool for end of life care, including lack of awareness of the modality, funding and insurance coverage. In addition to the ability to treat side effects of medication and disease along with the pain associated with death, acupuncture helps reduce anxiety, stress and helps patients find peace in the dying process. As practitioners working with patients with potentially terminal diseases, it is critical to place focus on our ability to hold space for the healing process through death as it is for the healing process through the curing of disease.
An undeniable reality of working with cancer patients is that some patients will not survive their diagnosis. The role of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in palliative and end of life care is by no means as researched or studied as the care and treatment of disease and illnesses like cancer, but it’s role is powerful, impactful and has the ability to significantly improve the quality of life of terminal patients up until their transition. Many barriers exist that block the use and acceptance of acupuncture as a beneficial tool for end of life care, including lack of awareness of the modality, funding and insurance coverage. In addition to the ability to treat side effects of medication and disease along with the pain associated with death, acupuncture is an excellent modality to help patients reduce anxiety, stress and find peace in the dying process, to ultimately, die a good death. Inherent within acupuncture elemental theory is the process of the transition from birth to death and the cycle of life, associated emotional states and opportunity for healing. By deepening our understanding of the connection this medicine has with not only the physical body but the mind and spirit we have a unique opportunity to help our patients not only experience relief of pain and suffering, but also an impactful and meaningful transition. As practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine working with patients with potentially terminal diseases, it is just as critical to place focus on our ability to hold space for the healing process through death as it is for the healing process through the curing of disease.
Unlocking Emotional Growth: Understanding Primary Defense Mechanisms and Working with a Jungian-Based Shadow Work Coach for Transformation
As human beings, we are wired to protect ourselves from emotional pain and discomfort, and our ego takes the driver’s seat in this endeavor. One way we do this is through the use of primary defense mechanisms. These are coping strategies that help us deal with stress, anxiety, and difficult emotions. While these are coping mechanisms that prevent or postpone the feelings of discomfort and / or pain, when we use them too much they prevent us from growing and ultimately may actually block us from getting what we want out of life. To be centered within ourselves and show up authentically we also need to learn to weather discomfort and difficulty, this means facing a tough conversation or situation head on instead of leaning into these primary defense mechanisms.
There are seven primary defense mechanisms: acting out, clinging, avoidance, splitting, projection, projective identification, and denial. In this post, we will explore each of these defenses, how they manifest in a person, and how working with a Jungian-based shadow work coach can help to heal and transform these patterns. As you read through these defenses, ask yourself when, where and how do you utilize each one. Perhaps you lean on one more than others, or one is more prevalent right now. As you notice which you’re more inclined toward then ask yourself what would happen or what would I think about myself if I were to truly face my issue instead of leaning on this defense?
Every time something awful happens in the world, it makes its way into my clinic. This week Roe v Wade was overturned and it’s been the topic of every patient’s mind and heart. I often hear the words ‘you’re not my therapist but….’ while my patients explain to me their emotional or spiritual troubles. This happens so often that it’s now one of the main things I treat in my clinic - emotional pain, upset and trauma, and it’s also why I’ve become a transformational Jungian Life Coach, so that I can truly help you in the entire process of body, mind and spirit. You might think heading to an acupuncturist to deal with your break up doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the truth is, emotional pain goes far beyond just the mind, it affects our body and our spirit, and Chinese medicine is especially equipped to bridge between these three aspects of our lives: body - mind - spirit. Feelings are called feelings for a reason - they are literally felt in the body, actual sensations that we feel caused by neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes - it can be tingling, numbness, tension, heat, the list goes on, but every time we have an emotional reaction, before it came a physical reaction. The world we currently live in is rife with reasons to be upset - wars that are never ending, political upheaval, an economic system on the brink of collapse, domestic terrorism, pain and strife is parmount every time we turn on the television or open up TikTok, and that doesn’t even include our personal life’s ups and downs.
It’s incredibly important that during times of stress, change or upset we find support, you may get that from friends and family, a therapist, the gym, and yes, an acupuncturist. Body work can be profound to help the mental and emotional healing process. We have to help the body process and move the energy (and neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes) that is associated with emotional responses so that we can feel clear and like ourselves again, so that we can move forward and make choices out of response instead of reaction. If you’re still wondering ‘how on earth can acupuncture really help me with my emotions?’ let’s dive right in…
Maybe the Instagram or Tiktok algorithm has been sneakily suggesting it’s time for you to look at your shadow self by showing you posts about shadow work, or more likely, you’ve been noticing that life feels extra difficult lately - haven’t we all! Perhaps most things in your life are going pretty ok, you may have even gone to some therapy before and are making progress on becoming your best self, but something still isn’t quite right. When things start feeling stuck or prickly in a sort of abstract way, it might be time to look into shadow work.
Shadow work is an essential aspect to your individuation process. Individuation is the amalgamation of all of the facets of who you are so that you can show up as your divine true authentic nature in the world and all things. The shadow self isn’t a ‘bad’ or ‘evil’ part of you, rather it’s the qualities and aspects of yourself that at one point in your life, likely early childhood, your ego needed to hide in order for you to survive and fit in. Later in our lives we may notice similar negative patterns or relationships repeating, feeling very triggered or judgmental around certain people or events, struggling with impostor syndrome, or just feeling like something is ‘off’ or missing in our lives, these are all signs that a part of our shadow is coming up to be integrated. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the signs you might be encountering that are signs it’s time for shadow work.
Having anxiety can be a debilitating experience, it can come on out of nowhere, but even when we have awareness of the triggers, it can still catch us off guard, stop us in our tracks and really put a halt to anything we wanted to do. Having tools and coping mechanisms to help guide us through an anxiety or panic attack can be crucial to our ability to feel like we can release the anxiety and live our lives. While medications can be extremely helpful, they also come with side effects and can cause considerable drowsiness which isn’t always desirable. I’ve found acupuncture treatments on a regular basis to be particularly powerful for helping my patients move through anxiety, stress and other tough emotions. But if you aren’t near your Acupuncturist’s office the following acupressure points can help you become more grounded, present and calm in a matter of minutes.
I recommend you go through all of the points mentioned here, treat one side then the other and use the treatment time as a time to slow down, to gather your thoughts and release them as you move through the protocol. You may notice you start yawning, or your eyes water, maybe even cry a bit - these are all good signs that your body is releasing that energy and emotion which will allow you to carry on in a more calm space when you are finished.
If you've had curiosity about past lives, or just want to learn more about yourself and why you do the things you do, struggle with specific issues or the possible deeper causes of illness a Beyond Quantum Healing session might be right for you. Beyond Quantum Healing is a modality of past life regression hypnotherapy which builds upon the work of the late Dolores Cannon founder of the Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique. This work is designed to help you witness and heal deeper layers of your spirit, recall fragments, and clear blockages that may block you in your life today.
The nature of time and space is a complex experience, while we may experience time in a linear fashion here on Earth as humans, time is much more complex than we can truly understand. There is actually only the 'now' moment, as what we recall from the past is happening now because here we are recalling it now, and planning for the future also happens now because in this now moment we are visualizing it. We have likely had hundreds if not thousands of lives on Earth and other places in the Universe and beyond, perhaps even experienced 'lives' as atoms or even a color. The list of possibilities is vast and inconclusive which makes for very interesting and enlightening BQH sessions!
A Beyond Quantum Healing session begins with a thorough intake, from which we hone in and set your intention for the session. Perhaps you have questions about your illness, or where you came from, why you are here on Earth, what your life purpose is, what the purpose of a relationship was, wanting to connect more with your higher self and guidance, whatever the reason is it helps us jump into the BQH session. From here we set the intention then Dr. Kim will guide you into a deep state of hypnosis, a theta-brainwave state where you can access your higher consciousness and past lives. This takes us on a journey through different scenes and experiences, we may gain information, insights, connection and we most importantly experience healing and release. Once the session is complete we will do a brief review, any additional healing work necessary to help with integration and you are offered a recording of the session to review at a later date.
Dr. Kim's intuitive abilities make her an excellent guide into the etheric world of past lives and spirit world between lives. She helps to hold your intention for your session and works through the sessions by watching the energy of your experience, body and verbal cues and also listening to the spiritual guidance that is present along the way. By holding a high vibration and safe container for this work her patients are able to often have quite transformative experiences (even though sometimes it may not seem so in the moment.). BQH sessions often 'unfold' more and more deeply after the session has closed, as you integrate the work that has been done, clarity opens up around decisions, life issues and more.
Sessions are approximately 3 hours and take place in-person (online sessions will be available soon)
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Women’s health, fertility and conception are some of the concerns that my patients will come in for, I think this aspect of acupuncture and herbal medicine is actually a bit more well known, second to pain treatments, and there’s a reason for this: it works. If you were ever a fan of the HBO show Sex and the City you might remember Charlotte’s experience with Dr Mao the acupuncturist who helped her learn how to tune back into her inner peace and eventually get pregnant for the first time. This side of acupuncture often gets talked about in a kind of whimsical miraculous type of way, where people hear about one person who had success and tout acupuncture as the ‘miracle cure’ for all fertility woes. And while yes, for some people acupuncture might just be the missing link to having a healthy happy baby, it’s often a piece of a multi-pronged approach. We’ve seen through scientific study that acupuncture improves the success of IVF treatments, so it’s not just an old wives tale, it really does work.
Where my work comes with fertility patients is less focused on direct hormone and menstrual cycle support, although this is definitely a part of the treatment protocol, but more focused on what we think in Chinese medicine as ‘cultivating the baby’s first home.’ The womb and the mother are essentially your baby’s first home, and we need to make this place a calm, nourishing, warm and supportive environment for the baby to thrive and develop in before birth. Part of this often revolves around cultivating new stress management practices, accessing our inner peace and learning how to truly listen to our body. If our outer world is highly stressed, our body also takes on this energy and it can make a pregnancy become difficult, particularly if we are wanting to call in an intentional pregnancy.
We live in a world where, for all of our lives - beauty and status have been paramount: we crave it, we seek it, we spend our extra money on attaining it, seek out jobs that can provide for it, it’s ‘necessary’ for assimilating into social culture or being ‘seen’ … It. Is. So. Important. But… is it?
When we first experienced our ‘lockdown’ in the Spring I was aghast at the level of denial and flat out refusal of some people to follow safety guidelines. It made no sense… Why are people so readily willing to throw common sense out the window for a haircut? Are eyelash extensions really that important? Who benefits from outright denying this pandemic actually exists? Why is there so much hostility over a tiny piece of fabric? As time has passed the deniers and rebels against protocols became louder and more polarized, likely due to the politicization of the entire process. And while doing a little self-care to pump up our self esteem and confidence is an absolutely valid process, it always seemed like something much, much deeper was at play.
In Chinese medicine one of the first diagnostic principles we learn is to differentiate the root from the branch. The branch might be the presenting symptoms a patient walks in with, knee pain, insomnia, headaches, stress, anxiety, you name it - it’s the first thing that the patient complains about when you ask what they would like to work on today. The root is that underlying cause that created the environment for the current symptoms to arise in the first place. We often think of this as a constitutional imbalance, meaning that everyone has their own predisposed weaknesses and strengths, perhaps this is passed on from our parents and ancestors, maybe a result of early childhood illness or trauma or other underlying issues. The root is often extremely complex, and can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, but once we can get to it, or pointed in the right direction we often will see transformative shifts occur in the patient. The knee pain that hardly responded to direct treatment now can begin to release because we’ve found the root of the issue in a deficiency of the Water element and Kidneys due to some repressed fear. As we begin to unpack this root cause, the physical or emotional symptoms start to give way to the healing that is present. I also like to look another step deeper, to the soil, this is the deepest layer, this unseen and usually unnameable force that sets us up to create and experience certain things in our lives, perhaps another name for this is fate or predisposition. Dr David Hawkins, PhD calls it the ‘attractor pattern’, it’s the unseeable pattern that sets up the visible and nameable string of events that eventually leads to the presentation we are looking at in our office.
How’s life going for you?
Do you feel like something is missing? A lack of inspiration perhaps? Feeling closed off from others or even yourself? A sense of despair or an absence of the ‘heart and soul’ of life? Maybe you’ve been having trouble sleeping? Feeling anxious? Restless? Difficulty concentrating?
If this sounds a little too familiar read on… it might be a disruption or disturbance of your Shen.
Let me explain…
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the way we look at our mental, emotional and spiritual health is by looking at the Five Spirits - these spirits are aspects of our complete animation as a human on Earth from our Divine spiritual nature to our animal instincts to the connection with the collective unconscious. These spirits all serve different aspects of the self and our interaction and experience on Earth, as such we can address issues that arise in the psyche by addressing these spirits. As goes with all illness and disorder in TCM these issues with the spirits can be experienced in a range of severity and intensity and also duration - meaning we can have a mild and brief Shen disturbance that lasts a day or two or we can have a more severe and chronic presentation that lasts for months, years or a lifetime, there are many causes and reasons why which I’ll get into later on.
Embody Compassion, Neutrality and Self Awareness in Uncertain Times
Part of life is that we are always going to experience a certain amount of uncertainty, unknowns and great changes - we’re currently having an increased experience of this right now - and it brings up a lot of heightened emotions - like fear, anxiety, worry, stress, anger and grief. It’s important to remember that all of these emotions are completely normal to be experiencing, and by processing them personally we actually help the collective consciousness move through them as well.
It’s when we get stuck in these emotions - where we chew on them over and over and get stuck, where they start to take us away from being present in our lives.
When we aren’t present we tend to experience increased amounts of these emotions but we also have difficulty making clear decisions, focusing on daily tasks and our relationships with our family, friends and ourselves tend to suffer.
Paths to Presence is a brief but in depth dive into different avenues we can take to be more present in our lives - through increased self awareness, embodying compassion and having more neutrality we can experience more peace, ease and grace no matter what we’re facing.
This self guided course offers guided meditations, short exercises and transformational tools to help you cultivate each aspect of presence that you can implement into your daily life and reclaim your personal power!
I'm excited for you to take this next step on your journey!
*PS: This course is donation based! Please feel free to use the discount code that reflects what you are able to afford*
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Lion's Heart Wellness, the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin's #1 Cosmetic Acupuncturist and #1 Holistic Healer.
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