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Rethinking Trauma and PTSD by Rebecca Wendler-Burke

Rethinking Trauma and PTSD; An Analysis of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels In TCM

Question 1: “The famous classical physician Penn Qiao said, ‘Only those who master the Eight Extra Vessels, besides the Twelve Major Meridians, can make a correct diagnosis, and only those who know how to use the Eight Extra Vessels can eradicate the illness, which is often deeper than one thinks.’

What do you think he meant by this?”

Diseased and ill are common descriptions of an individual who has become ‘sick’. The feeling the individual may have due to the ‘disease or illness’ is subjective and unique, though others may have the same malady. Likewise, an individual may not feel sick, but may manifest symptoms to others that influence the perception of the individual’s health. To diagnose that disease and categorize it further gives it a standardized basis for universal comprehension in order to eradicate the disease with an appropriate treatment and course of action. In theory, this methodology has a basis. However, in practice, particularly under the influence of modern Western ideologies, eradicating a disease is extremely complicated. Modern medicine is missing several crucial components of disease.

One aspect of this predicament is the regard toward the individual’s unique sentiment about the disease, how did that individual develop it, for how long, to what degree, and to what extent does it affect what they define as personal health? These are questions often posed of the individual. But, what one doesn’t necessarily ponder is how the person has the disease, how does the person carry the disease, possess it and thus embody it?

The Eight Extraordinary Vessels represent the various layers of an individual’s development. In a very simplistic sense, they shape themselves before the physical manifestation of an individual. Their development commences with potential imparted from Heaven and Earth, then differentiation, then subjective negation of what is and what is not, renewed potential in and development of consciousness, and finally expression of thought and then form. In many ways one can ascribe an individual’s thought processes to the way in which these vessels and meridians developed themselves. One can also use this as a model to describe a growing individual, processing, differentiating and identifying with what one is and what one is not. We all come to terms with how we are unique manifestations of our society. Each of us is an unique manifestation of the entire universe, all of its potential, laws, entities and practicalities are inherent to our individual form.

Human consciousness in general has also evolved in this fashion. Many theorists have developed their thoughts through negation and differentiation of what is their belief, what is not their belief, what they have observed and what they can imagine to be the case. Take Socrates, for example, a teacher and student to his creation of the dialectic of philosophy, politics, and logic. In this case the differentiation of thought manifested itself in both Socrates’ students, Plato and Aristotle. It is Plato’s Socrates that made important and lasting contributions to the fields of epistemology and logic, and the influence of his ideas and approach remains strong in providing a foundation for much of the Western philosophy that followed. Therefore, it has been the differentiated approach his students took that now gives us a very well rounded understanding of all three philosophers’ works.

In this way, we understand that a dialogue is necessary to developing consciousness, and is not possible without different players. It may be our purpose in life, to expand and develop our unique union of the players of this dialogue, as manifested through the energies inherent to the Eight Extraordinary Vessels, and implement them in nature. The union represents one’s sense of truth, love and is a profound reflection of the spiritual essence of one’s self, purpose and will.

For many individuals, expression of one’s desires, needs, hopes and dislikes is problematic. Many feel that something is missing, that life as they would like to live it does not exist for them. Conversely, some feel like they are constantly trying to catch up, that life moves too quickly for them to actually participate. By social standards, one would label each of these individuals as having an illness, because their ability to conduct themselves as others in society is lacking in some way. In each case, examination and treatment based on the Eight Extraordinary Vessels may relieve some of the tension between expression and participation. As mentioned above, these meridians provide the framework for an individual’s thought process. Unhindered dialogue and flow of energy among these meridians is vastly important to an individual’s ability to think themselves through a predicament, negotiate all sides of a problem, and compute in their own logic a course of action to fix the problem and not just survive, but thrive. Treating a blockage along one or many of those meridians allows for the natural thought process, inherent to that individual, to evolve accordingly.

But, one must ask, what if the problem does not reside in the individual? Perhaps these individuals disagree with the status quo, cultural, social and political standards through which they must navigate their own attempts at free will. Is it, perhaps, then, the status quo that is ill?

Chellis Glendinning, author of, Hello my name is Chellis, and I’m in recovery from Western Civilization, argues that trauma is inherent to all modern Western based humans. She says, “Caught in the clutches of a society that is characterized by dislocation and abuse, our primal matrix becomes nearly lost to us.” I believe that her idea of this ‘primal matrix’ is very similar to what TCM understands as the Eight Extraordinary Vessels and their dynamic interplay. When one is unbalanced, the body is not operating in an optimal manner, and one’s sense of self and purpose can become elusive. The Twelve Regular Meridians, being formed after the foundation set forth by the Eight Extraordinary Vessels, are better equipped to handle imbalances that affect us with regards to function of form- physically. The Eight Extraordinary Meridians manage our mental, spiritual and emotional imbalances. When they are affected, one can lose one’s own unique sense of purpose.

Grave trauma, and trauma in general affects us physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Trauma is defined in psychological terms as “an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking and which may result in lasting mental and physical effects.” ‘Lasting mental and physical effects’ may be the byproduct of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels’ dynamic balance being thwarted, as processing that trauma, if severe enough, can cause a breakdown in function of one or more of those vessels’ meridians. This may result in a break in consciousness, or a lapse of ‘checking out’ as some may term the ill effects of trauma. When this happens, one can argue that the Eight Extraordinary Vessels themselves have been injured.

As humans have evolved in very pragmatic ways, when human bodies experience trauma, the body responds by allowing for those affected areas to become scarred or calloused so that one never has to experience the same pain ever again. Ironically, if one no longer has access to those areas injured through trauma, one becomes numb to the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical signs one’s senses invoke when one is near to it occurring again. Furthermore, lack of access to those areas keeps that individual from being able to move beyond and out of a state of trauma, as the once free flowing dialogue and dialectic among the Eight Extraordinary Vessels is now hindered due to a scar, creating blockage in one or more meridians. The logical way in which that individual once dealt with thought, action and his sense of self has become perverted.

Chellis further states,

Our primal matrix is the part of us that says YES to the future. It welcomes the stages of the life cycle that present themselves as we grow from infancy through adulthood to old age, moving through each developmental phase so that we mature into the dynamic human beings we were meant to be. Our primal matrix contains within its sphere the ability to heal ourselves.

If one has nearly lost their primal matrix, what does this mean with regards to one being able to heal oneself? Furthermore, if society “is characterized by dislocation and abuse,” does this not indicate that the foundation of our society is structurally unsound? In fact, Chellis argues that, “we have access to the love for life, equanimity and resilience that are inherent in the primal matrix when our lives are imbedded- with all Creation’s animals and greens, insects and microbes, rocks and roots- in the rhythms of the Earth. We are fully who we are when we live in the natural world.”

It is arguable that modern society has completely lost its connection to nature. In many ways, modernism can be characterized by its attempts to thwart nature’s own rhythms. Man’s evolution is characterized and has succeeded through man’s inventive methods to make man’s life physically easier to the extent of mental, physical or financial satisfaction. Michael Greider attests to this in One World Ready or Not, that “Economic Revolution always originates with the invention of a new power source- a machine that can do the work previously done by human toil but cheaper, faster, more effectively.”

Just because one can, does not always mean that one should. Chellis makes a good argument that man’s initial trauma occurred when man broke off from the natural and harmonious biorhythms inherent to Earth and the universe. When man decided that keeping animals corralled was more advantageous than migrating with them in search of food over vast terrain due to weather change, when man began slaughtering animals for preservation and then later sale, when man began cultivating botanicals in preference over others for their good taste, or their hardiness to survive long months for good shelf life and an increase in sales; man traumatized man as man was no longer participating in the Earth’s destiny, man was participating in man’s own destiny. This is the gravest of all human traumas, the most enduring and has vast implications on our behavior and actions.

Therefore, given the nature of trauma, as discussed above, man’s pragmatic nature in survival allowed for the trauma of those events to scar over, so that the effects and actuality of those events would never be felt or experienced again. Ironically, man continues to function in this ahistorical manner. In general ahistoricism “refers to a lack of concern related to history, historical development or tradition, is frequently used as a criticism, referring to being historically inaccurate or ignorant. It can also describe a person’s failure to frame an argument or issue in an historical context or to disregard historical fact or implication.” Ahistorical attitudes can also illuminate how the Eight Extraordinary Vessels, post trauma, allow for an individual to negate, forget and become unconscious of traumatic events. Since society’s values are based on belief systems, if these belief systems negate an event due to its traumatic nature, over time, the individuals in that society will forget what it was that caused the trauma. Furthermore, cultural celebrations and events at times can be interpreted as a metaphorical attempt to cover up that for which it cannot or does not want to culturally take responsibility. Perhaps one can interpret Thanksgiving in American culture as a good example of this ahistorical dichotomy.

Perhaps even more poignant is a literary interpretation of different representations of sin The Bible recounts through Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael. In each situation, it can be argued that the natural was thwarted by an egocentric regard from an individual acting in ways God had not intended.

Again, thanks to human pragmatism, one continues regardless. However, interestingly, modern culture has become more egocentric and more oriented around the individual, and finds strength in the individual’s buying power to affirm that social and cultural norms and regulations are forthright and serve the individual’s own healthy interests. It can be argued that what the individual is actually purchasing is a celebration of man’s separation from nature, and the cover up of all the unnatural ways man has evolved.

For example, to purchase a t-shirt manufactured in China, India, Indonesia, or any other country where the workers involved in the shirt’s production are mistreated or taken advantage of, is excused by the cool logo on the t-shirt. Essentially, the shirt may help the individual feel more unique, and may assist the individual in a subconscious way to negate and ignore the guilt associated with the fact that he is reaffirming and supporting his own social needs over that of another individual. Michael Greider states,

Mass assembly imposed dehumanizing clockwork routines, treating workers like moving parts in a lager machine, but it was also strangely egalitarian: the unskilled and ill educated could enter, too, to work at jobs in which they focused on narrow, regularized functions in a complex process they themselves did not have to understand or manage… In those terms, the new technology is more individualistic and anti-egalitarian: it restores a premium for the higher technical skills held by the best educated people, it demands more sophistication and flexibility, even from many routine jobs.

Therefore, in this sense, new technologies, being more individualistic arguably make the individual participate in dehumanizing practices that negate egalitarianism, and the individual does not have to understand or even be responsible for managing those practices. In a sense, he is reaffirming the same thought process his ancestors used when they decided that their needs were more important than the health and natural balance of the Earth and all its creatures. He is perhaps assuming a cultural guilt, and repeating it thanks to human pragmatism in avoiding the pain associated with trauma.

Cultural and social support to society’s negation of its own guilty practices is possibly furthered by things representative of the individual such as the ‘i’pod, the ‘i’mac, myspace, facebook etc. What society may be supporting through this is one’s individual attempt to forget humanity’s natural origins, future and potential. One can argue that society is perhaps trying to rationalize to the individual, the importance of the individual’s needs over that of the society’s. Its only way to successfully do that is to make the individual feel that he is free and can act freely within his social confines.

However, given this ahistorical negation of cultural and social guilt, perhaps this social attempt at rationalization has backfired. Interesting to consider is the understanding that at times, those abused are abusive themselves. Returning again to the Eight Extraordinary Vessels, perhaps if one’s experienced abuse was traumatic enough for the individual to forget how it felt, as their desire to not experience the same pain allowed for the natural progression of thought and logical processing to become scarred, perhaps one repeats abuse because one has forgotten the events of their own trauma. George Santayana, in The Life of Reason, states,

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

None-the-less, given this human condition, some do attempt to work through pain, suffering and the scars left over from a traumatic event. As they go through the process, they must rebuild the structures, pathways and dynamic intricacies inherent to their primal matrix, or their Eight Extraordinary Vessels. In seeking to understand, one relies on social support, advice and counsel. In terms of disease and illness, social labels placed on these individuals mark them as damaged, scarred and sick, but ironically what the individual is attempting to do is healthy. Working through and with trauma in a social arena is inherently problematic as an aspect of society’s strength is seen through its resilience and employment of mechanisms to facilitate the negation of guilt, and ahistorical attitudes about social and cultural responsibilities. Perhaps the truth is that these individuals are seeking to undo the scarring that thwarts their dynamic potential in the natural balance of their Eight Extraordinary Vessels, so that they no longer feel a sense of guilt and do not repeat that which has been done to them, so that they themselves do not participate in abuse and cause further trauma.

Therefore, given the endowed qualities inherent to an individual, through the unique development of consciousness, thought and form, trauma is the precursor to a rewriting of the dynamic pathway of one’s development as seen through the Eight Extraordinary Vessels. Additionally, society is a reflection of the health of its individual constituents just as individuals reflect the health of their society. If the individuals in a society have rewritten the unique pathway due to traumatic events that each of their Eight Extraordinary Vessels would naturally follow, then there is perhaps a wide scale hindrance to understanding the severity of certain traumatic events. Even more poignant, is the argument toward what society defines as health, given perhaps its inability to be accepting and responsible for its own actions. Eradication of a disease with an appropriate treatment and course of action, at times in Western society involves forgetting about it, which in fact is not healthy and does not allow for individuals or society to learn from mistakes and examples of poor judgment. The society therefore, at large cannot move beyond its own guilt and will continue to influence abusive behavior.

I believe that when, “The famous classical physician Penn Qiao said, ‘Only those who master the Eight Extra Vessels, besides the Twelve Major Meridians, can make a correct diagnosis, and only those who know how to use the Eight Extra Vessels can eradicate the illness, which is often deeper than one thinks,” he was perhaps referring to the way in which some individuals have not yet mastered the free flow energy within their Eight Extraordinary Vessels, and the depth and repercussions of an inability to do so results in a profound illness that affects not just the health of an individual, but the entire society in which the individual finds himself.

In addition, perhaps humanity’s fascination with space travel can be understood as a manifestation of humanity’s own guilt at separating human development from the natural laws of the Earth. Forgetting about what we have done, dictates that we remove the reminder. Furthermore, perhaps technologically based methods of communication were developed along these lines, and could possibly be considered an unnatural progression of our ability to communicate with each other and other beings in the universe. As we become more and more one world, and we identify with foreign societies and cultures, influence and are influenced by individuals in other cultures, is this not a predicament that has enormous ramifications for the goals of the entire planet and those residing upon it? As psychic communication involves an openness of thought and a profound awareness of self, guilt and denial of those feelings leaves us very closed and we proceed with much trepidation, fear and mistrust. In the past have humans not behaved as such towards indigenous cultures whose practices were deemed heathen and evil? In the future, what makes us think that we will not continue the same patterns?

Michael Greider argues even further that, “… a tiny semiconductor chip that does the work of the human brain is perhaps more threatening to people than a lightbulb or telephone or automobile that augments human physical strengths.” I believe this threat is due to the simple truth that we in fact do not in know ourselves, our thought processes or how the interaction of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels negotiates our primal matrixes in conjunction with a natural state of Earth’s homeostasis. And for that reason, we are perhaps very afraid of ourselves, as we do not understand the harm we have endured, caused, experience, and continue to perpetuate.

From my own experience in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Twin Cities, individuals who attempt to realign themselves with Earth’s natural biorhythms interestingly have a much more profound sense of their own responsibilities, vulnerabilities and hindrances. From my experience, they ironically also have a better ability to communicate with others. Understanding that the Eight Extraordinary Vessels’ health relies on their free flow of energy and provides a foundational framework to one’s health in thought and action, necessitates that one get more in tune with nature to understand what it is that one is meant to be in nature. One patient’s experience with this entailed: suggested attempts to do personal treatment with meditation and qi gong. The experience revealed to the patient a dark gold colored viscid honey fluid that went out through the patient’s feet. She asked the Earth if it was ok to let this material go into the core, where her feet had been tethered, and the Earth said that she was replacing that which we have already depleted from the core. This possibly reflects a profound attachment and communication with Earth that perhaps leads to a more profound healing and transformation. The patient after further treatments declared, that there is “…beauty in pain. When all this PTSD adrenaline rush is over, I’ll actually be me…”




  • דירות דיסקרטיות בחולון-israelnightclub Posted September 9, 2022 7:04 pm

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    • RWB-Staff Posted October 28, 2022 4:08 pm

      I guess there is something to be said about experience in this… ha. Thank you for your comment and support!

  • דירות דיסקרטיות בירושלים Posted September 21, 2022 4:16 pm

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    • RWB-Staff Posted October 28, 2022 4:04 pm

      Thank you for your comment! Glad to be of service!

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