|One can not see what he can not describe. The average American peering upon a plain of open frozen tundra sees snow and perhaps ice, an Eskimo however sees many distinct substances. Each substance is quickly identified by name and perceived for its features of compaction, weight bearing, and other factors critical to Eskimo daily life. The practitioner of Chinese medicine not attuned to the language of his medicine is unable to perceive the landscape presented by his patient before him. Those of us that have grown in western society lack the cultural and linguistic prerequisites to simply internalize the five elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) through their simple translations, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. It is therefore imperative that we define each of the terms first through exposition of the termâ€™s meanings and correspondences and than to internalize these meanings through focused perception on that which is already familiar to us. Many texts have been written to elucidate the meanings and correspondences, therefore this text will focus on perceiving the elements in what is already familiar to us.
There is what has occurred, and there is history. The two are distinct but related. History is the record of what has occurred from a particular vantage point, written for a particular audience and with the intent to illicit a specific influence upon that audience. This in fact holds true for any form of communication internal or external, there is the central factual or fictitious idea to be communicated surrounded by the other presented parameters. The five elements can be employed as the linguistic tool to perceive the nature of these parameters.
As an initial illustration of employing the five elements in such a fashion, presented here is a well known nursery rhyme:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again!
Historically, this rhyme refers to a powerful cannon used during the English civil war (1642-1649). It was mounted on top of the St. Maryâ€™s at the Wall Church in Colchester defending the city. In 1648 the cannon â€œhad a great fallâ€ off the wall and could not be repaired. Now that the idea the author has written about is known, it is possible to analyze this rhyme as a communication of the historical event.
The vantage point of the author was clearly some one contemporary to the occurrence as the need or want to communicate such an even as a rhyme at a later time period would be of little interest to any audience. Using the five elements a deeper understanding of the vantage point can now be seen. The mode of communication chosen, a rhyme, posses Earth in its meter and rhyme, but it is primarily Fire as it seeks to excite and draw upon passions. To reason out why the author chose a Fire style of communication the other parameters of this communication must first be investigated.
Accepting the historic basis for the rhyme, an intended audience of children can be ruled out disqualifying the possibility of an Earth audience. This is despite the fact that Fire promotes Earth, ie. that rhymes are the natural style to use for communication to children and family. The Authorâ€™s audience instead appears to be Metal, the reasoning â€œcorrectâ€ minded adult.
At this point the Authorâ€™s intended response from the audience can be analyzed. Since the vantage point is Fire and the audience is Metal, one of two possible five element cycles are being used, either the normal balance of â€œinteractingâ€ or the movement to imbalance of â€œoveractingâ€. It is certainly possible that the intent of the Author was one of camaraderie among his armed brethren on the wall, but more likely he was interested in making a political statement.
It is interesting to note, that even though the authorâ€™s intention are one of Fire overacting on Metal, the general use today of the rhyme is one of Fire promoting Earth. This demonstrates that the upset of balance over time, an â€œoveractingâ€ relationship, was replaced with one of balance, the â€œpromotingâ€ relationship. It is percisley because of this fact, that balance was restored, that the rhyme still exhists today and did not disapear in the winds of history.
This initial example illustrates clearly that the five elements provide a clear model to use for analysis of relationships and interactions. Exercising ones use of the five elements to grasp from a communication, a relationship and its interactions is the key facility for strengthening oneâ€™s analytical abilities in any setting and in a clinical setting in particular. Pursuing each communication be it verbal or non-verbal from a patient, it is possible to pursue its relationship to the other communications and the person as a whole and so identify and eventualy treat any imbalances pereceived.