Windows into the mind of acupuncture practitioners, part 2 – Restorative dynamics

Last time, I shared some insights concerning “symptoms as messages,” a particularly unique way of approaching the body that the lens of East Asian medicine affords us. Today, I’ll share anotherpractical understanding that I apply in clinic during every single visit…

The teaching of the body and its restorative dynamics

“Restorative dynamics” is the teaching that reframes any and all pathology as the body’s positive effort establish equilibrium and deliver messages to the body. The teaching of restorative dynamics goes along with another saying from my lineage, which states that we are all simply and always “making contact to stay intact,” the two really help make sense of each other and cannot completely be understood one without the other.

Let’s start by exploring restorative dynamics

Symptoms, or pathology, basically what any patient “complains” of,  can be seen through the lens of physiology. This means that the disease, complaint, or symptom is interpreted as something that the body was first trying to do to help itself. We see through the pathology into understanding the physiology that brought the symptom to bear. This logic extends that at one point or another what created the pathology was at some point, a physiological process.

For example, someone with an elevated heart rate may have just encountered a stressful influence. The person’s heart rate increases to afford the body extra circulation in case of the need to run or move quickly, defend itself, etc. After the stressor has left, gone away, been resolved, sometimes our heart rate stays elevated. This is because the body didn’t get the message that it was okay, to relax and slow the heart rate down again. So the body’s inherent wisdom can turn on itself, or get stymied in the process of trying to help us!

Doesn’t life feel like that sometimes? You just want to help yourself but you can’t?

Practitioners of Chinese medicine commonly understand pathology and disease as nothing more than life force attempting to express itself, and being stymied in that process. The theory behind restorative dynamics is that the body will not, for any reason whatsoever, produce a symptom (read: energy, personality, pathology) that has not served a purpose at some point in ones life. Further, any manifestation of pathology is one such dynamic that has, quite simply, outlived the circumstance in which it was called upon. This notion is predicated on the body’s inherent wisdom and the ecological approach.

A body (and necessarily a being) will do whatever it takes to maintain the integrity of the organism.

Here we bring in the saying that each human being is doing its best to maintain contact and stay intact.

chinese medicine human beings in contactThis ‘making contact’ can occur at the level of interaction with another human being, or within the body as organ function, or on a grander, deeper scale where the individual tries to maintain relationship with life itself. Staying intact means doing anything that assists the being in a state of relative health and wellbeing, or, not obliterating itself. The idea of ‘making contact to stay intact’ speaks to personalities, attachment styles, and can even be translated directly to physical symptoms.

I have found that this is a concept that is easily thought of in a theoretical manner and often misunderstood or misappropriated when encountered in practice. This is not an easy teaching to put into practice, and often as human beings, and as practitioners we fall short, as we too, attempt to make contact and stay intact.

Making contact to stay intact means that every single action and interaction a person takes part in is their attempt at making contact (and staying intact) with their own experience, as well as maintaining relation to the world around them. Making contact means that each incarnate being wants to have connection, relationship, and interface with the world and the beings that make it up.

Staying intact means that as one makes contact, they do so to the degree that they are able to, based on that which holds them together, or makes them up. One of the first ways in which individuals manifest pathology is through personality; this is a very direct expression of energy. Chinese medicine is in the life, as Dr. Shen said; this means that every single movement, action, or thought a person makes is significant.

It is their attempt at maintaining contact with life and their attempt at living their life they best way they know how.

This means that when a person’s body produces an enormous rash that weeps copious amounts of pus and burns red, it is doing all that it can to make contact and stay intact. This also means that when a person enters into a deep depression wherein they are unable to talk to anyone, reach out to another human being, ask for help, or do much of anything – they too, are doing their best to make contact and stay intact. These manifestations are not limited to states that society commonly deems negative.

Alike, a person may encounter love, appreciation, and affection and react in a fearful manner. This is yet another example wherein the individual is attempting to make contact and stay intact. This tool gives us the opportunity to evaluate, or reevaluate, all of the times within our own lives wherein we interpret ourselves as misbehaving, doing wrong, making mistakes from this new lens of contact.

These two teachings are deeply expressed values of my clinical practice.

Is this a way you have thought about your body before? Does this feel new? Please write a comment below and let me know! And, as ever, if you would like to see how these principles integrate with the tools of classical Chinese medicine during an appointment with me, feel free to read more about my practice, and schedule online at any time. Thank you.

Written by Melinda Wheeler, LAc


My care is personalized and tailored to each individual. Through my studies and training, I have developed many techniques and tools to treat anyone, no matter their ailment or injury. Whether you have identified symptoms of physical pain, emotional instability, or you aren’t quite able to put your finger on any form of dis-ease, but you want to try acupuncture and/or Chinese medicine, come and see what we can accomplish together for the betterment and evolution of your well being!