As an acupuncturist and hypnotherapist in a large city like Quincy, just outside of Boston, I see a wide variety of issues come through my door. What I’ve learned in nearly 20 years of practice, is that when a patient comes in with what may seem on the surface to be a simple issue, many times we need to dig deeper, and find the hidden blocks that are contributing to that problem and preventing that patient from making progress.
Recently I have been working with a patient around using hypnotherapy to break some unhealthy addictive habits. While hypnosis is tremendously effective at correcting negative thought patterns and behaviors, it’s not always the miraculous overnight success it’s made out to be in the movies. For many patients, it can take between 4-6 sessions, and if what we are working on is a particularly stubborn, lifelong pattern, we may need to add other treatments like acupuncture, herbs, meditation, behavior modification, and spiritual work.
This particular patient is progressing toward her goal, but more slowly than she’d like. She’s frustrated that this particular bad habit is so tough to break, and mentioned that she felt like a “loser” that she’s been unable, after only 2 sessions, to put a stop to this habit altogether. Coming in for a third session, I asked how things had gone over the past week, and was greeted with a “Meh.” She was once again feeling really down that she had been unable to 100% eliminate this behavior, and she was beating herself up so badly that she’d not noticed that she had made a TON of healthy progress in identifying the triggers for the behavior, using other strategies to cope with these triggers, and that she’d actually made a lot of progress toward reaching her goals in only TWO SESSIONS.
This really made my heart hurt for her. Here she was, working SO HARD to create change in her life, and she was so frustrated, that she was only able to see the parts where she’d stumbled. She was so focused on the moments when she’d “blown it” that she was unable to see her overall successes and progress toward her goals, and this outlook was only serving to reinforce the negative behavior.
Think about it for a minute. If you had a child who was a poor student...let’s say they got all D’s last quarter, and this quarter, they had worked really hard and brought home a report card with C’s on it, would you berate them for not having straight A’s, or would you congratulate them on their improvement thus far, and encourage them to do even better this time around? If you were to tell that child that they are capable of success and that they’re great at working hard, then they’ll internalize that they ARE a hard worker with great potential. If you were to tell that child that the C’s weren’t good enough, and clearly they were either lazy, irresponsible or stupid for not bringing home all A’s, then you’ve just programmed them to see themselves through exactly that lens.
We all screw up. We all blow it sometimes, but it doesn’t mean that we’re terrible people and it damn sure doesn’t mean that we throw in the towel and just give up. Think about it...If you went out right now and saw that you had one flat tire on your car, would you go and slash the other three? Would you just shrug your shoulders and have it towed to the junkyard?
Is there a time and a place for tough love? Absolutely, but tough love needs to come from a place of positivity. Shaming and berating is an entirely different matter. If you wouldn’t talk to a child the way you speak to yourself in your own inner voice, you should probably take a close look at learning to reframe your narrative.
What tone of voice do you speak to yourself in? What negative internal messages can you let go of RIGHT NOW to make space for more gentle nurturing of your true potential?
Those who know me well, know that I LOVE my work, and I am ALWAYS either studying medicine or working on the admin and marketing aspect of running a busy Acupuncture clinic. I thrive on working long hours and I will admit to being “just a little” Type A. I like taking charge of my life and my business, and over the last five years, I have built a thriving Acupuncture and holistic health clinic and excellent reputation by being in control of 99% of every aspect of my business.
The 1% that I was NOT in control of was my physical, brick and mortar space. Over the last five years, I have watched as my original location in East Boston evolved. Massive real estate development and construction, noise, heavy traffic and lack of parking became a major disruptor for every business and household in the area. Commuting from my home in Quincy to my clinic was not making things easier, but…..I still wasn’t really looking to relocate.
A couple of weeks ago, an unexpected set of circumstances set some wheels in motion. My world turned upside down, literally overnight. The Universe had spoken! It was time to move and to grow. In 48 hours I went from business as usual, to a completely new Acupuncture clinic in Quincy Center!
This is a HUGE deal, for a lot of reasons.
This move meant coming up with much more capital, taking on more overhead, and to a certain extent, starting over. It is only a difference of 7 miles, but with Boston traffic, that can become a 90 minute drive. It also meant that I’d be taking the month of July off (with no income), as the new space won’t be officially ready until August 1st.
While moving my clinic was a challenging choice to make, it was not the most important one.
The moment I signed the new lease, I was faced with a choice. I could choose to panic and be fraught with anxiety over the change, and angered about the circumstances that were out of my control and that had led me here. This is the type of reaction that would usually lead to not just negative emotions, but could also have implications on one’s physical health. Insomnia, muscle tension, heart palpitations, tension headaches, and “knots in your stomach” are all physical manifestations of stress, anxiety, and anger.
Spending a month panicking and stewing didn’t seem too appealing, so I made a different choice.
You see, the only thing you truly can control in the world, are your own actions and RE-actions. You are in control of your own perceptions of the events in your life. So, what did I do?
I chose to embrace the risk. Instead of being worried about increasing my overhead by more than 50%, I chose to get excited about having a larger space that could accommodate 100% more patients! Instead of worrying about my existing patient base not following me for Acupuncture in Quincy, I was thrilled with the possibilities of being able to become more involved and invested in the community in which I live. I was never able to do that while commuting to and working in Boston 5 days a week. Instead of experiencing those negative physical symptoms I mentioned above, I’ve woken up every day bursting with enthusiasm, creativity, and a sense of peace that this move to Quincy is going to be the best decision I’ve ever made.
This is more than just “looking on the bright side” though. To override the natural reaction of fear and anxiety takes training and effort. I’ve studied stoic philosophy and meditation for years now, and I suggest that anyone facing a potentially negative situation that they can’t control, to consider the following strategy:
First make a list of anything about the situation that IS in your control. Don’t take action just yet, just make the list.
Sit in a quiet area. Take a few deep breaths, and consider what the absolute WORST outcome to the situation could be. Feel how terrible it would be. What would happen, and how would you handle it and move forward? It may seem counterintuitive to focus on the negative, but this exercise is how I have successfully inocculated myself against adversity. It is the way to cultivate fearlessness.
Next, close your eyes and visualize what the BEST POSSIBLE outcome could be. Imagine every minute detail of a successful conclusion to the situation. You have to get very specific! Really FEEL that in your body. Do a scan and see what physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing.
For me, I saw the sun beaming through the windows, happy patients in all of the treatment rooms, getting treatment with acupuncture, cupping, massage and hypnosis, green plants in the waiting room, and a full event calendar of workshops and classes. My body felt relaxed and energized. Emotionally I felt peaceful, happy, and most importantly, free.
Now, compare these two outcomes, consider the list of what you are in control of, and only after should you decide on a course of action.
My mantra as I wait to reopen my business will be:
I embrace unexpected change and new opportunity. I am resilient and resourceful.. I possess great power and and ability to weather any storm, and to create abundance from adversity.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), summer is the season of the Fire element - a time of busy activities, growth, warmth and joy. This season rules the Heart, Pericardium, Small Intestine and San Jiao meridians. Here in Quincy, MA, most everyone looks forward to summer, and relief from our often brutal winters, but sometimes...Summer can be a little TOO...well, summer-y.
We’re in the midst of a heatwave and coming up on the 4th of July holiday right now. This usually means beach time, barbecues, beer, ice cream, fried seafood from our favorite clam shacks, (I’m planning to head over to Wollaston Beach for some fried clams as soon as I finish writing this!) and other indulgences. While we all LOVE these things, sometimes, they can throw us out of balance. Too much time in the sun, alcohol, fried, greasy, sugary or cold foods can leave us overheated, fatigued, and experiencing headaches, indigestion, reflux, or other gastrointestinal issues. In TCM we have a term for this is “Summer-Heat-Damp,” and we use certain herbal medicines and nutritional strategies to combat this!
The Watermelon & Feta Salad recipe below is one of my go-to favorites for summer barbecues and pot-lucks. It’s a perfect dish to serve or bring to a party when you want to have something healthy on hand, but don’t want to seem like the clean eating police.
One of the first foods we think of in TCM for the summer season is watermelon. Watermelon is cooling, hydrating, and naturally sweet. We also add a healthy dose of fresh mint, which is also cooling, and is naturally soothing for any tummy troubles. This is a super simple recipe that you can make in minutes. You can adjust any of the ratios of the ingredients to your personal taste preferences. Try our recipe below and let us know how you like it
Watermelon & Feta Salad
One whole seedless watermelon, chilled, cubed, and drained.
½ a red onion, diced (optional)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil depending on taste
Juice of 2-3 limes
1 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped, save a few full sprigs to use as garnish
1-2 cups crumbled feta cheese, depending on how much cheese you like
Salt & pepper to taste
Remove rind from watermelon and cut into cubes. Drain excess juice so your salad isn’t soupy! You can save the juice to add to sparkling water or summer cocktails, if you wish.
To create your dressing, blend the olive oil, lime juice, salt & pepper in a small bowl or jar.
In a large bowl, combine waterrmelon, feta, mint, red onion (if you use it) and dressing and gently toss. Garnish with a few mint sprigs to make it pretty and serve!
Allison Blaisdell, MSTOM, Lic.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in private practice at Fitchburg Acupuncture, and also at Massachusetts General Hospital. She offers Acupuncture, Hypnosis, Nutritional Response Testing, and Frequency Specific Microcurrent, as well as online holistic health coaching and consultation. Her mission is to educate and empower her patients to achieve their best possible health.