As one of just five caucasian kids at a predominantly Asian school in Vancouver, Paige Bourassa spent her teen years hanging out with Chinese friends who lived with multiple generations of grand and great grandparents. She recalls a constant thought: ‘Why are these people not dying? I have Aunts and Uncles who are dying of cancer at 40, and this Chinese guy over here looks like he’s 120 years old.’ She spent the better part of the next decade studying numerous methods of healing, before finally settling on acupuncture, which she now practices full-time in Chelsea, NYC. We met at Maderas Village in Nicaragua last month, and I was fascinated to hear that she spends a lot of her time treating patients with broken hearts and sexual hang-ups (alongside the more traditional aches and pains you’d expect). Intrigued, I decided to ask her a few questions about how acupuncture pins can help the lovesick:
Let’s talk heartbreak and relationship breakups.
In Chinese medicine, all the different organs in your body relate to a different emotion: The liver relates to anger, the lungs relate to grief, the heart relates to connection, the spleen relates to worry, the kidneys relate to fear, and so on. For every person going through a breakup, a different organ is going to be out of balance. Some people go into a hole, and that would be the kidney, or fear person. They’ll shrink into an absolute depression and think, “I’ll never be loved again, this is the end, I’ll never be married, I’ll never be connected, I can’t get any better than this.” A lung type person will have a lot of grief, which is different from fear: “This is never what I thought it would be, I am so heartbroken and I’m grieving this perfect picture in my head which is now shattered and and ruined.” The liver/anger person will react with, “I wasted so much time with you and I did this and this and this, why can’t you be more like this, and now I’m going to go and f*ck everybody because f*ck you!”
I’m relating to a lot of these different reactions.
Oh yeah totally, they all overlap, but each person will always resonate with one emotion the most. With the seven stages of loss you can go through a whole range of emotions, but typically we will always go back to one major emotion.
So how do you treat heartbreak as an acupuncturist?
From a Chinese medicine point of view, in a relationship there’s an energetic cord between the two hearts and when the breakup happens, that cord is cut. It’s a disconnect: We were connected to something even if it was dysfunctional, we knew who we were, we knew our place in the world, we had a pattern, and now it’s all gone. You go through this shock, and the body treats emotional and physical shock the same way where it shuts down most cognitive functions so you can just continue breathing and digesting — the vital things to stay alive. Obviously the level of shock depends on the intensity of the relationship, but there will always be shock. So when people come into my practice and tell me about that heartbreak and loss, usually the first thing we’ll do is address that shock. It’s like going back to the scene of the crime. And since each person typically feels the breakup specifically in one organ, we concentrate on that organ to get them back on their feet.
I’ve always wondered: How do you know where to put the pins?
Every point has a little vortex of energy and in the acupuncture study process you learn where all those pressure points are.
Okay, so what are the most common sexual problems people come and talk to you about?
Not feeling confident during sex, and once again when we talk about this we go back to the organs — are they sitting there in the kidneys with fear like, ‘I’m never going to be enough, I can’t even function, I’m closing in on myself,’ or is it the spleen, which is to do with anxiety, and they’re like, ‘Okay, so maybe if I move this way, or adjust the lighting like this, oh my god did he see that,’ or the lungs, which is grief and loss, like, ‘I hope this is good enough, there was that one time we had the most incredible sex ever, but no! Don’t compare it to that,’ everybody has a thing, and we have to narrow down the specific problem. That’s Chinese medicine in a nutshell, you feel the pulses, read the person and see where they’re stuck, and help them move out of that. It’s not like Western medicine where you have 20 people suffering from depression for 20 entirely different reasons, but here take Prozac, that’ll solve it.
What do you tell the naysayers?
Lots of people say there’s no such thing as chi or energy or that what I do is make-believe. I just say, when someone you love touches you, there’s a nice, warm energy; and if you think about the most uncomfortable moment of your life, were you getting your hand sawn off? No, it was a feeling of awkwardness and negativity. Everybody can feel that energy, positive and negative. That’s what we work with.
Check out Paige’s Acupuncture practice here! (I tried it, and can highly recommend the effects.)
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