Why Do I Feel like Acupuncture has to be Serious?

Heart CenteredI’m working with Mark Silver’s Heart of Business year long course this year.  Last week our coaching call was with Jason Stein, who works as a coach with Mark as well as working with Oregon College of Oriental Medicine’s alumni.   Jason started the call with a full minute of laughter.  As I giggled quietly in the background I kept thinking that I really needed to improve my heart qi because I was quite jealous of those could laugh loudly throughout the full minute.  When I tired of my quiet giggle they made me laugh more because of the sheer joy that came from the sound of laughter.

Something else came up for me in that call.  I work on artwork for acupuncturists and I started the class thinking I wanted to focus on that. After that call I realized that this blog and this work is harder for me than the writing I do on my cat blog.  A big part of the reason was because this isn’t as fun.  I feel like I have to be serious when I talk about acupuncture.  I don’t know why.  I feel like in writing something valuable for acupuncturists I have to have some thought provoking and useful post.  I can’t just post the latest Frank and Ernest cartoon that shows them looking at a picture of someone lying face down with needles in their back saying how much back stabbing when on in that school.

Part of that is the fear that such jokes offend people.  The other part is that it feels like it’s not appropriate as a way of offering information.   On the other hand, I am a huge believer that if you can’t laugh at something there’s a problem.  Yes I do laugh at acupuncture but not often among acupuncturists.  When I have patients who were really worried and nervous and it seems appropriate my approach would be to say if it hurt was to “Scream loudly so everyone will know.”  It was such an unexpected response to the fears that they were usually too busy laughing to feel the first insertion, at which point I’d chide them for not screaming loudly.  Most patients were surprised that I had done anything.

Fact it, acupuncture is an energetic medicine that current science can’t quantify in the way the people of the US likes things quantified.  So it’s this strange medicine where people who are already in pain have a bunch of needles poked into them (doesn’t that hurt more?) to get out of pain.  And no one really knows how it works. Acupuncturists do but they can’t put it into terms that Westerners get, usually.  That lack of understanding and that fear of being thought foolish is another reason there is so little humor around acupuncture.   Acupuncturists aren’t out making jokes about their profession.  They want to be taken seriously.

Oddly, the most serious place I worked, an animal hospital, where we were helping people make life and death decisions had more joking around than any place else I’ve ever worked. There was no humor too black or too ironic for the veterinary clinic.  In fact, we had a staff holiday party in a restaurant once.  We were asked not to do it again as everyone seated around us left and many complained about our inappropriate dinner conversation.    We even thought that was funny, if a bit embarrassing.

Why did that staff laugh at things that shouldn’t be laughed at?  Because what else do you do?  As Kurt Vonnegut famously said, if you don’t laugh at it, you’ll cry.  Maybe I need to start realizing that the best way to be taken seriously is to let my hair down long enough to laugh at what I do as an acupuncture practitioner.  How can I be “heart centered” if I don’t laugh? The challenge, of course, is how to lighten the tone of an acupuncture blog like this one.

I guess that’s something we’ll all find out, won’t we?

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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

2 thoughts on “Why Do I Feel like Acupuncture has to be Serious?”

  1. I’m an acupuncturist, and I’ve been talking to the public a lot lately. I always love to bring humor into my presentations because chinese words and concepts (physiology!) can cause people’s eyes to glaze over easily. Breaking up the information in easily absorbed bites and keeping it light seem to help.
    I think you’ve stumbled on something important; we tend to view mental and spiritual health as sacred amongst the chinese medicine community and this does seem to exclude some humor. The issue here for me is to keep the conversation light by including humor, but never ridiculing people’s legitimate fears. Acupuncture can hurt sometimes, but the fear of real health problems is why they are at the acupuncturist’s office (or considering it) and we shouldn’t make fun of it. Of course, if the crowd in front of me has no fears associated with treatment or needles we can joke about anything we want (possibly like your animal hospital crowd), but we always need to be sensitive.

  2. Thank you for your comment Adam. I’ve been in practice for well over 10 years and am retiring. Actually I moved and am retiring because I don’t want to start yet another clinic.

    I think that most people are far more afraid of the acupuncture needles than anything else in the office. Humor can help that fear without belittling the patient. It depends upon the sense of humor.

    Given that I am talking about this for myself on this blog which is written for acupuncturists and other interested in health then perhaps this is a place for humor but even then acupuncturists very often don’t see the humor in what they do. I think that’s too bad because there are so many wonderful and creative ways of expressing what is done that may be a little bit funny or a little bit humorous.

    When I think about the energetics of laughter–it’s very hard to be afraid of something you can laugh at. Maybe that’s the biggest reason acupuncturists SHOULD use humor in descriptions.

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