Toby Stephens – Clinic Director

  • BSc. Health Sciences (Acupuncture)

  • 6 years Traditional Clinical Apprenticeship in Japan

  • British Acupuncture Council Member

  • Certified Shiatsu Practitioner

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Blog

Three Men in a Teacup (the power of non-worry)

April 22, 2019

 

"It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form.  The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.

I remember going to the British Library one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch—hay fever, I fancy it was.  I got down the book, and read all I came to read. And then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally.  I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into. Some fearful, devastating scourge, I know. And, before I had glanced half down the list of “premonitory symptoms,” it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages.  I came to typhoid fever, read the symptoms, and discovered that I had typhoid fever. Must have had it for months without knowing it. 

I wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus’s Dance, and found, as I expected, that I had that too. 

I began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom. So I started alphabetically—read up Ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight.  Bright’s disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years.  Cholera I had, with severe complications; and Diphtheria I seemed to have been born with.  

I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was Housemaid’s Knee.

I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort of slight.  Why hadn’t I got Housemaid’s Knee?  Why this invidious reservation?

After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that I had every other known malady in the pharmacology. I grew less selfish, and determined to do without Housemaid’s Knee.  

Gout, in its most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being aware of it; and Zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boyhood.  There were no more diseases after Zymosis, so I concluded there was nothing else the matter with me.

I sat and pondered.  I thought what an interesting case I must be from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a class!  Students would have no need to “walk the hospitals,” if they had me.  I was a hospital in myself.  All they need do would be to walk round me, and, after that, take their diploma.

Then I wondered how long I had to live.  I tried to examine myself.  I felt my pulse.  I could not at first feel any pulse at all.  Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off.  I pulled out my watch and timed it.  I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute.  

I tried to feel my heart.  I could not feel my heart.  It had stopped beating.  I have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for it.  

I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back.  But I could not feel or hear anything.  

I tried to look at my tongue.  I stuck it out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine it with the other.  I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had Scarlet Fever.

I had walked into that reading-room a happy, healthy man.  I crawled out a decrepit wreck."

--------
Fake News?
I wish I could claim to have written these paragraphs, but sadly credit must go to Jerome K. Jerome. It is the opening page or two of his excellent novel, Three Men in a Boat which I highly (and rather lazily) recommend.

Apart from the small replacement of the "Internet" for the "British Library", not much has changed since it was written in 1889! With the exception that there was at least some editorial filter on the quality and accuracy information, and the alarmist tone in which it is oftentimes presented to grab your (advertising paying) attention.

Trust in Your Self
Yes, diseases and dysfunctions, serious ones at that, do exist. And yes, things do go wrong from time to time with our rather remarkable bodies. But the message, eloquently delivered here, is to develop a greater sense of trust in our innate capacity to regenerate and heal.

In fact it is precisely the mental/ emotional state engendered by such trust that allows physical wellness to result. And the opposite is most definitely also true. 

Worry/ Overthinking
In Acupuncture theory, Worry/ Overthinking is the preserve of the Spleen/Pancreas. (Spleen/Pancreas is shorthand for the entire digestive system including stomach and intestines.)

This may sound a bit spurious to the modern mind, but relatively recently, modern science has also recognised this indisputable connection, with the digestive system being dubbed "The Second Brain". It turns out that your gut has pretty spectacular brain-like qualities and an extremely close relationship with your brain health. In particular it's interesting to note that roughly 90% of serotonin, your "happiness" neurotransmitter, is created and stored in the gut.

You can feel these connections viscerally for yourself. When you Worry/ Overthink, you feel it in the 'pit of your stomach'. Or if you really go all out, you might even be 'worried sick'.

Mental & Physical Inter-Connection
Of course, it would be idiotic to suggest that wishful thinking and blind ignorance will somehow prevent all ills. Or that all disease is caused by our state of mind alone. However, there is now zero doubt that a negative mental disposition and outlook on life ("Worry" for shorthand) has an equally negative effect on your physical health. Thus Over-thinking/ Over-worrying about something is truly self fulfilling, at least in as far as it relates to health.

Context
Acupuncture theory and practice are fundamentally rooted in seeing things in context. This means that symptoms are understood in the context of the patient, not as a list of ailments on a website. The difference here is that between information on one hand, and the (skilled) contextual application of that information (otherwise known as "knowledge") on the other. 

The Tail Wagging the Dog
In the context of our modern life, we have to accept that our thirst for information is unquenchable. And that the supply of information is equally limitless. And thus we must somehow find a way to have the bliss without the ignorance. In other words, it is our responsibility to be the dog happily wagging the information tail, not the other way around!

 

Good acupuncture addresses both the mental storm and the resulting effect on your physiological health. In fact, one classical description tells us that "a good acupuncture treatment feels like the clouds clearing on a stormy or overcast day." 

 

 

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