My Skill Level:
- Novice -
Novice System Theory
A system is a group of independent
One reason why Eastern medicine is so powerful is that instead of focusing on individual units of disease, it instead views the body as a meshwork of inter-related systems. When a problem arises, instead of focusing on it as independent of the other units and systems in the body, it analyzes and diagnosis the imbalanced systems. Changing a system changes the individual units within that system. Balancing a system balances its sub-units. Even if you do not know the exact cause of the problem, if you treat the system, the units that are diseased will change. Eventually the disease itself may just resolve.
Western medicine takes the polar opposite perspective. It eschews systems for the individual units of disease. When a unit can be identified – usually a molecule, gene, or pathway – the unit is treated directly. When the cause of the disease can be found in that unit, treating the unit can be extremely powerful in stopping the disease state.
The weakness in the Western approach is that oftentimes, more than one unit is implicated in the disease. Multiple genes may need to express themselves to create the disease state, or one molecule may lead to a second molecule's release. If you treat the second molecule but fail to identify the first, at best you can treat the symptoms but never the root cause of the disorder. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies are corporations that must fulfill their shareholders' financial ambitions. It is therefore to the advantage of a pharmaceutical company to only treat symptoms. To treat the root may be less profitable. It is unknown to what extent this myopia actually affects the marketplace.
Another weakness to the Western approach is that treating units without taking the broader system into account can lead to side effects. It is common for a drug to solve one problem but create another. A molecule may be unhelpful in one sub-system of the body but entirely necessary in another sub-system. To eradicate it entirely with a systemic medicine may heal the first sub-system but cause a new disease in the second one. This is cutting off one arm to save the other.
The weakness of the Eastern approach is that treating systems can be awfully slow. When it comes to extremely dangerous diseases or diseases that have terrible symptoms, the Eastern approach may simply take too much time.
Fu Xi Wen bridges the divide in that we can talk about the body as one great system and look at all of the inter-relationships of its sub-systems using the Eastern model. At the same time, we can focus our treatments to extremely refined levels, focusing on individual units of disease, so that the speed of recovery is much quicker.
In my clinical practice, I have come
full circle with Fu Xi Wen. I started entirely in the system
perspective with great success. But as I learned more Fu Xi Wen
theory, I slowly moved more and more towards treating individual
tissues (and tissues within tissues). With these methodologies my
success was hit or miss but when it hit the results were incredibly
fast. Lately, however, I have moved towards the middle ground, using
system theory and unit treatments during the same treatment session.
As I wrote in the chapter “Your Greatest Challenge”, when
you focus on units, you need to treat the absolute correct tissue to
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