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Unformatted text preview: LINDA L. BARNES THE PSYCHOLOGIZING OF CHINESE HEALING PRACTICES IN THE UNITED STATES ABSTRACT. This paper explores ways in which Chinese healing practices have under- gone acculturation in the United States since the early 1970s. Reacting to what is perceived as biomedicines focus on the physiological, those who describe themselves as favoring a holistic orientation often use the language of energy blockage to explain illness, whether thought of as physical, emotional, or spiritual. Acupuncture in particular has been appropriated as one modality with which to unblock such conditions, leading to its being used by some practitioners in conjunction with more psychotherapeutic approaches which include valuing the verbalizing of feelings. Some non-Chinese practitioners in the United States, returning to older Chinese texts to develop an American acupuncture, are reinserting diagnoses eliminated from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) by the Peoples Republic of China as superstition. The assumption has been that many such diagnostic categories refer to psychological or spiritual conditions, and therefore may be useful in those American contexts which favor this orientation. Among these categories are those drawn from traditions of demonology in Chinese medicine. What was once a religious category in China turns psychological in the American setting. At the same time, many who use these terms have, since the late 1960s, increasingly conflated the psycho- logical and the religious, the latter being reframed as spiritual. Thus, this indigenization of Chinese practices is a complex synthesis which can be described as simultaneously medical, psychotherapeutic, and religious. INTRODUCTION Transplanted from China into the United States, a rich and complex body of traditional healing practices has been filtered through not only a foreign language, but also a foreign way of thinking. Such filtering tends to charac- terize the translation of any tradition from one culture into another. When groups within one culture voluntarily adopt the concepts and practices of another tradition, it is often because they believe the foreign tradi- tion will address questions being raised on native soil. This has been the case with the indigenizing of Chinese healing practices in the American context. It began in July of 1971, when James Reston, a reporter from the New York Times , had his appendix removed at the Anti-Imperialist Hospital in Beijing. The doctors used biomedical anesthesia. When Reston suffered Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 22: 413443, 1998. 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands. 414 LINDA L. BARNES abdominal pain the next night, however, the hospital acupuncturist treated him by inserting three needles into his right elbow and below his knees....
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- Spring '11
- chinese healing practices