A few years ago this patient had suddenly begun to experience severe pains down his body, accompanied by strange involuntary jerking movements of his left leg. I asked him whether he had been suffering from any particular stresses at the time the pains started, perhaps something which he might experience as a shock to the system. “No“, he said, but then I noticed his eyes suddenly filling with great sadness. “Is his element Metal then?”, I began to ask myself, as I saw this look of grief. We are always being given pointers to the elements if we are sensitive enough to notice them, however slight they may be, little gifts of help. And then came another gift. He was silent for quite a while as I took his pulses, and then, out of the silence, unexpectedly said quietly, “I always wished I had had some relationship with my father.” Aha, I thought, who but Metal would say this? For of course Metal has a particular association with the father.
Metal is the “if only” element, the element that looks back into the past, and often thinks more about this past than about the present. So here was a double pointer to Metal, the grief in the eyes and the immediate connection with a father who, though still living, is as though lost to him.
So I continued with my questioning, guiding it now along a path that my experience tells me that Metal will accept. It wants to be left alone to make its own connections and assess for itself what is relevant or irrelevant. So I suggested lightly that maybe something had indeed happened around the time all this pain appeared. “Maybe some stress at home or at work, perhaps? But only you will know what that might be.” And I added, “Perhaps the involuntary jerking of your leg is because you want to kick somebody!” We both laughed, and then he was given his first treatment on Metal, just the source points, and I left him with this rather light, almost joking remark hanging in the air.
A few hours later he phoned, and wanted to tell us both something he had never told anybody else before. Two years ago his wife had had an affair with his best friend which had devastated him. They had worked through this now, but he could not forgive his friend, and never wanted to see him again – another great loss in his life. I suspect that now that he has admitted to his anger, he will no longer unconsciously need to kick out, either at his wife, or more likely at his friend, as good treatment focused on his Metal element helps him gradually heal.
This was further evidence for me that we need only lightly suggest something to Metal, and then stand back to allow them space to work out their own solutions, since Metal is so acute and quick at making connections for itself.
How much we achieved in such a short time!
I’m sure five element acupuncturists reading this will expect me to write about any other signs of Metal I noticed in terms of the other sensory signs. His emotion I have talked about; his colour was not very clearly what I associate with Metal. I couldn’t detect any smell at all, but the sound of his voice was very flat, very yin, dragging me down with it. This is the sound which I associate with Metal’s weeping tone.