Making intimate relationships with others, in the form of warm, loving and trusting friendships, is something that many of us find difficult. How to open our heart to another person without getting ourselves hurt is an ongoing balancing act. In terms of Chinese medicine, this balance depends on an energetic structure called the Heart Protector. This is not a structure that is visible to the eye, but when acupuncture changes the energy of the Heart Protector it is a change that we can feel.
The Heart Protector can be thought of as a gate. Depending on the situation, the ‘gate’ may need to be opened a little so that two hearts to communicate, or closed a little to regulate the connection and keep our hearts safe. Some people always have the ‘gate’ wide open – they ‘wear their hearts on their sleeve’ and rush too quickly into intimacy. Their love lives and friendships tend to be roller-coaster rides of highs of delight and lows of disappointment or rejection. For these people, I use acupuncture to strengthen the protective properties of the Heart Protector so that they enter new relationships more cautiously, with time for realistic expectations and judgement.
For others, the Heart Protector ‘gates’ become stuck in a closed position. The heart is well protected from hurt but it can get very lonely. This situation may be a result of serious or repeated hurt and rejection – especially when these are experienced as a child or when help and support is not available. The ‘gate’ clangs shut and potential new friendships and intimacies are kept at a distance. The sad and lonely feelings associated with this situation are hard to bear, but acupuncture can help by strengthening the heart and gently softening the Heart Protector to start to allow some love through.
Many of us waver between a tendency to be too open or too closed in particular situations. For example, we may develop close, balanced relationships with friends but be unable to stop falling headlong into inappropriate sexual intimacies. Or we may build a strong intimate connection with a partner, but be unable to defend ourselves from hurt by a parent or sibling. Whilst we will never become perfectly balanced, acupuncture and increased self-understanding may ease some of these more difficult relationships.
Within Chinese Medicine’s theory of the Five Elements, the Heart protector is part of the Fire element. For people who have the Fire element as the key constitutional element, matters of love, friendship and intimacy play an especially important role. The emotion associated with Fire is joy. Just as fire can swing rapidly between an overheated blaze and a barely glowing ember, so too can joy suddenly swing from high to low. When the Fire element gets out of balance, the Heart Protector ‘gates’ can swing open or get stuck, so that intimacy can be hard to keep steady. The good news is that when the Fire element is strong and balanced, people with a Fire element constitution have a particular ability to offer and receive intimacy, love and warm relationships. Then they bring great joy into the lives of others and themselves.