Like to listen? Click audio below or just keep reading...
This post was inspired by a couple of recent events. The first was a student messaging me because a client had mentioned having a chronic symptom get worse after an Accunect session – and she wanted to know if she had done something wrong or what she should have said to the client about it. Other symptoms had improved, but the one symptom had gotten worse. It’s worth noting that the issue had started many years ago after a really bad infection and had never totally cleared up since that old infection many years prior. The other event was that I had just posted a lecture on Opportunities in the Accunect Practitioner Development Program on how to recognize challenging situations (like serious conditions and chronic illnesses) as really being opportunities to watch a bigger miracle.
So was the client’s symptom aggravation a healing crisis or not?
In this instance, some aspects of health improved although one symptom worsened – that’s not a crisis to me. It’s likely that the Law of Cure applies.
The idea behind the Law of Cure is that in homeopathy and in acupuncture we heal from the inside out. What this means is that more recent symptoms are likely to heal first, and then older symptoms are likely to reappear or re-intensify before being cleared - in the case above a number of newer symptoms improved, while the older symptom worsened temporarily.
I have to say that I don’t really like the term ‘healing crisis.’ Or maybe I don't like the way people use the term. Sometimes the way people say healing crisis makes any response to a session that isn’t instant relief sound like a problem. And other people use the term in a way that avoids the discussion of whether over-treatement or over-stimulation might have been an issue. For some experiences I think the better term might be ‘healing response.’ Sometimes the body needs to rest, or give energy to the immune system so that it can do it's job. That's a healthy healing response. But over-treatment can push the body past it's limits and create a healing crisis where additional stress is placed on the body - more stress than would be necessary to clear the issue.
What is a healing response and how do we define a healing crisis?
There’s lots of reactions that people refer to as a healing crisis, here’s some of the most common experiences:
- ‘Catching’ a cold
- Feeling toxic or foggy
- Feeling tired
- Having soreness or pain
- Feeling very upset or emotional
All of these reactions are possible after any kind of therapy, whether it be massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, energy work or herbal/nutritional therapy.
Sometimes these reactions point to a positive healing response. Other times they can represent over-treatment or over-stimulation. One source of some of these symptoms can be what’s called a Herxheimer reaction, or detoxification reaction. This happens when the body releases old toxins faster than the elimination organs can deal with them. This is where the possibility of over-stimulation comes in: clearing out old toxins is good, but trying to detox too fast actual creates additional stress on the body. It’s not just uncomfortable to go too fast, it’s a stressor that can weaken your system and deplete your Qi/Energy. I might call that a crisis. I think it’s better to encourage the body to detox at a more comfortable pace – one that doesn’t cause additional stress on the body.
Sometimes people are too busy to take time off to have a cold or flu. So they take something to suppress the cold symptoms. The problem is that they turn off their immune system by taking the cold medications. This pushes the virus or other microbe deeper into the body. The body puts the immune response on hold until the ‘emergency’ is passed. The virus is still there, but the immune system is ignoring it so you don’t have aches and pains or fever so you think you aren’t ill.
If an Accunect session brings more awareness and hence energy to the immune system, the person may experience cold or flu symptoms while the immune system clears out the old pathogen. But the energy work didn’t give the person the virus, it just woke up the immune system. That’s a healing response, not a crisis.
Here’s an image to put it into perspective: you’re really busy so you decide you don’t have time to take the trash out from the kitchen and put it into the outside bin for collection. You just keep tossing the trash into the pantry and closing the door quickly so you can pretend everything is okay. At some point someone comes over to your house and notices a smell coming from the pantry. You finally realize that you are going to have to make time to take the trash out. Taking the trash out after it has been rotting in the pantry for a long time is going to be a smelly and unpleasant task. But cleaning out the pantry isn’t a crisis. The real crisis was throwing all the trash in there in the first place.
The good news is that we see far less of these kinds of reactions with Accunect than with any other therapy that I’ve studied or practiced. I believe that the reason for this is that we place such an emphasis on looking for what is ready to shift or change, and not focusing on what is wrong.
As a result, clients typically clear out old toxins, emotions, and pathogens at a more comfortable rate without causing additional stress on the body. There might be some hiccups on the path to recovery, but I generally see far less negative reactions with Accunect than with other therapies.
The healing response may include something other than instant relief and abundant energy because the body has to rest or clean house. But I reserve the term healing crisis for when the patient is experiencing excess stress from the healing process. In my opinion the process of healing has likely been pushed too fast and that’s why they are in overwhelm. Because we only look for what’s ready to change in Accunect and don’t give medicines or manipulations we see healthy healing responses rather than healing crises.
I’ll go into each of the common kinds of ‘healing crisis’ below to shed more insight on them.
Getting a cold or flu after a treatment
Not taking time to have a cold is a very common occurrence. We’re conditioned to think that taking time to get sick is a weakness. How often have you heard someone say “I don’t allow myself to get sick! When I start getting sick I just push harder and tell my body to be strong!” Advertisements for cold remedies show people being too responsible (maybe self-important?) to take time off. So they reach for the cold remedy and trudge on through rain and sleet and snow…
My teacher Dr. Lam Kong used to say that a healthy person should get sick four times a year, once at each change of seasons. The idea is that you need to let the body ‘clean house’ periodically. If you get sick at the change of seasons and don’t fight it, you can be a little bit sick for a day and then be well again. The idea is if it's only been a few months since the last time you let your immune system 'clean house' it doesn't take long to clear out the recent toxins, bacteria and viruses.
Dr. Kong was a tenth generation Chinese Medicine physician who had been in practice for nearly fifty years when I studied with him. People who don’t take to get sick accumulate an immune backlog that weighs the body down. He called it ‘old flu.’ People with old colds and flus that have never been cleared don’t look sick – they look tired.
Many conditions that we call ‘syndromes’ in western medicine are really ‘old flu.’
We call something a syndrome when it is collection of symptoms that we don’t understand the cause of.
Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia syndrome are very often caused by old flu. Depression can be caused by old flu. Infertility can be caused by old flu. And I’ve seen multiple cases of epilepsy and other seizure disorders caused by old flu.
My teacher Dr. Angela Longo taught me Dr. Kong’s method of feeling the presence of old viruses by taking the meridian pulses at the wrist. Then we would use an herbal formula to encourage the body to work on an old/buried virus. And then the patient would have the flu. But we didn’t give the patient the flu – it was already in their system, sometimes from years before. We just raised it to awareness.
Sometimes we would end up having to clear several old flues from someone. It’s a challenging thing to explain to patients, because no one likes getting sick any more than they like cleaning out rotten trash from the pantry. And western medicine often focuses on suppressing symptoms rather than treating the root cause, so people are used to symptoms going away or being reduced.
But after the patient finished having the flu and we could no longer feel the indication of an old flu in the pulse they were healthier. Their chronic fatigue lifted and their muscles stopped hurting. I had one patient who was having several grand mal seizures a day when she began treatment. After clearing one old flu the seizures reduced by half. We cleared several old flues over the course of several months, and when all the old flues were gone she was seizure free. Getting the flu and feeling terrible for a few days is way better than having to wear helmet for protection in case of seizure for the rest of your life.
With Accunect I see this process of having an old flu clear, but usually in a much more gentle fashion. Most of the time their immune system clears out old infections in a graceful way and over time they get healthier and I can no longer feel the old flu in the pulse – without them having to have a full blown flu with high fever and discomfort. Occasionally I have patients that do get sick after an Accunect session, but in general their symptoms are less severe. I believe that this is because Accunect can also balance the immune system in many different ways to make it more efficient.
Again, detoxing is a good thing. But if happens too quickly or in the wrong order it can cause stress on the body. More is not always better.
Liver cleanses are very popular and many people think you need to take really strong cleansing herbs to detox. In Chinese Medicine the preferred approach – developed over two millennia of clinical discussion – is to gently support the liver with strengthening herbs instead. When the liver is strong it’s natural function is to detoxify the body. Trying to detox without making the liver strong first is like putting the cart before the horse: you don’t get very far for the amount of energy expended and you end making the horse angry.
Our approach in Accunect is to look for what is ready to function better and bring awareness to those areas. In this way we help to improve the body’s natural ability to cleanse itself rather than pushing it with powerful herbs or medicines. Hence we see very few detoxing reactions compared to other therapies.
Just like we don’t take time to get sick, we often don’t take time to rest. It’s a myth that we should have abundant energy all the time. We need to rest and sleep every day.
Our culture prizes overwork. The Protestant work ethic dominates many western cultures. America was founded by Calvinists and Calvin taught that you knew God loved you if he gave you the willpower to work hard every day. Taking time off was a sign that you were a sinner sure to end up in hell.
As a result, many people are always running on adrenal energy and they are exhausted without knowing it. They are always in ‘fight of flight’ mode.
Over the years I’ve seen a number of people in chronic adrenal fatigue who didn’t even realize it. They felt somewhat tired, but their commitment to their responsibilities was such that they would just drink more coffee and plow on. They couldn’t function without the coffee, and the combination of coffee and fight or flight energy was making them think they were just a little tired – rather than exhausted.
In a few of these cases, the Accunect session served to finally switch off the chronic fight or flight activation. And then they would sleep for 24 hours straight. That’s a not a crisis, it’s a miracle. If you haven’t rested properly in years, it’s a good thing when you manage to switch off and rest. The key here is that Accunect didn't make them tired. They were already exhausted and running only on adrenal reserves. The Accunect session allowed their nervous system to come out of fight or flight activation and then they realized that they were tired.
Feeling soreness or pain
I’ve seen these kinds of responses over the years more in response to bodywork such as massage or manipulation. Again sometimes it’s an appropriate healing response, and sometimes it’s a crisis.
If a muscle has been tight for a long time there will be lactic acid built up in the muscle. Because the circulation is poor due to the chronic contraction the muscle will more likely be numb than painful. When you release the muscle and the circulation is restored, there is some soreness from the lactic acid release, but this eases over the next few hours and it’s generally good by the next day. That’s a normal and healthy healing response. Muscles can release from Accunect sessions as well, and in some cases there can be soreness when this happens.
I’ve also had massages where the therapist worked too hard or too fast and I’ve been left bruised from the overly strong pressure. In these cases the soreness may last for days. That’s a healing crisis. I would have preferred that the therapist honor how much my body was ready to release on that day rather than literally pushing for more.
Feeling the difference between what’s ready and when you are overworking is part of the ‘art’ of massage and new massage therapists sometimes overwork until they get enough experience to feel or intuit how much to do in a session. An experienced therapist learns to feel how much pressure is enough or too much and gets better results with less effort and less soreness.
With Accunect, we don’t physically manipulate the body, we just raise awareness of areas that are ready to shift or improve so we see healthy healing responses rather than healing crises.
Feeling overly emotional or fragile
Just like we can only clear toxins so fast, we can only release old emotions so fast as well. The ‘better out than in’ philosophy still applies, but if you push too hard to clear everything all at once it can cause additional stress.
Sometimes less is more. With emotional releases many people have been led to believe that a bigger release is better. But I’ve also seen that just as flushing too many toxins out of the body at once stresses the elimination organs, pushing too many emotions out all at once stresses our mind and body.
Some therapies (and some therapists) think a huge cathartic release is a sign of a powerful treatment and a good thing. But there is often a new trauma created by the experience of losing control. One step forward, but also a step (or more) backward.
Since our focus with Accunect is to look only for what the bodymind is ready to release, and then we just hold the space with the tapping for the mind and heart to release it, the process is typically very gentle. Accunect isn’t a counseling therapy, we only hold the space for the person to release whatever they are ready to.
A lot of times people just naturally clear out old emotional baggage in their sleep and gradually feel lighter. Other times there is a stronger emotional release, but it usually passes quickly and gracefully.
I used to get more cathartic releases with other therapies in the past, but with Accunect the process is both gentler and more lasting. The release of old trauma is deeper and more complete when it is allowed to process at a more comfortable level.
Sometimes people need to clear out old toxins, emotions, or immune issues and an Accunect session can help to stimulate that process. Feeling tired or having a cold or flu after a healing session can be a healthy healing response. Tapping over someone's head and heart won't give them a flu or push toxins into their body. But many people have been too busy to take time to detox or cleanse so when their immune systems gets more energy it will start to work on the old backlog of immune issues.
It is possible with many therapies to over-stimulate. When this happens the body releases more toxins and emotions than the elimination organs can handle. Or you can force the immune system into an overly strong response. This is a healing crisis. The art of massage is to not work too hard, the art of herbalism is to figure out the right dosages of herbs to support the body rather than stress it, and the art of acupuncture is to give enough stimulation without over-stimulating the body.
It takes many years of practice to master the art of 'dosage' in most therapies. One of the great things about Accunect is that we simply raise awareness of areas of the body that could function more efficiently and let the wisdom of the body take the appropriate action from there. So you can learn to do safe, effective treatments with Accunect in one weekend!
For an Accunect class near you, please visit the calendar page.
If you have taken Accunect, check out the Accunect Practitioner Development and Certification Program to take your practice to the next level and become a Certified Accunect Practitioner.