Healing Internalized Oppression Part 1

This blog post is the first of a two-part series. It is also part of a much longer self-study CEU of the same name, worth 2.5 PDA points, presented as a discussion between myself and two colleagues, Dr. Rachelle Dixon and Shawn Richardson. If you are interested in purchasing the full conversation as a CEU, you can find it here.

I want to talk about healing internalized oppression from an East Asian medical point of view. Most of that talk will be in the realm of Liver qi constraint. What is Liver qi constraint? It’s the energy of growth, expansion and renewal and freedom, constrained. Held tight.  

Not all Liver qi constraint is internalized oppression. Internalized oppression is a subgroup of Liver qi constraint. 

All Liver qi constraint is an uptightness of one kind or another, a kind of thinking inside the box, and living inside the box—you being the box, your ideas being the box, your skin being the box, without the creative freedom of the spirit to move anywhere, beyond the bounds of time and space.  

That kind of uptightness, unfortunately, could come from just about anywhere. We get uptight; we limit our own freedom; we’re not free to move. Our imagination is now unable to know the different possibilities—which means that we can’t choose them, nor know ourselves in a larger context than the confines of the circumstances that we are in. 

There are a million forms of inhibition and uptightness, for many reasons—some of them on purpose. For instance, when somebody does some fool thing, and we don’t punch them in the nose. This takes a certain effort, that one could call Liver qi restraint. But sometimes it gets stuck. At that point where it gets stuck—”I’ve been holding it in, I’ve been holding it in, I’ve been holding it in, it’s been a year, it’s been a decade, it’s been a lifetime; I’m holding it in”—we may get to the point where we are just stuck in hold-it-in mode. 

This verges on internalized oppression, but I don’t think it’s quite worthy of that term. What I’m calling internalized oppression is Liver qi constraint that specifically has a down-press feeling to it.

Chai hu bupleurum is the premier herb for lifting Liver qi constraint upward and outward. Not all occasions of Liver qi constraint warrant using chai hu bupleurum. You may instead be a crumpled little person, for whom xiang fu cyperus  would be so such a relief to you, and to everybody around you.  

Chai hu bupleurum is really for when you feel kept down. The chai hu bupleurum opens us into our full size, which is much larger than our physical body. We are enormous, which is much larger than our circumstances, and most importantly may be much larger than how other people are seeing us.

What I am calling internalized oppression is when the observer’s eye is dominating our eye. It is appropriate to notice how other people are seeing us. It is important for our navigation of circumstances to recognize, “Oh, they are seeing me like that.” But the taking on of the other person’s  confining view of us, that’s Liver qi constraint of the chai hu bupleurum kind. That’s down-pressing. That’s internalized oppression. 

John the Conqueror was an American folk hero about whom stories were told by the enslaved people of America. John the Conqueror was a man whom the white people thought of as a slave. He knew that the white people thought of him that way, and that factored into his thinking about what might be happening next. But he knew he was not a slave. He knew he was John the Conqueror, a free man.  

All of the John the Conqueror stories are generally quite funny, quite cheeky, quite clever. More than that, they are living examples of what it looks like when you are in your freedom in very tight circumstances, for example when you are actually under oppression, but not taking on the internalization of oppression. 

I’d also like to mention some acupuncture strategies for internalized oppression. Acupuncture is less specific than herbs are, so anything that we are doing with acupuncture for internalized oppression, we could be doing for a lot of other reasons, too.  

I would start with Sources: Liver 3 and Gallbladder 40. Liver 3 is the general note of freedom, moving in any direction. Gallbladder 40 is translated by J.R. Worsley as Wilderness Mound. But if you look at the characters, it could actually be translated as “ball and socket joint,” or metaphorically as “you could go anywhere from here.”

It’s very important to open Liver 14 Gate of Hope, because a lot of internalized oppression settles right there, in the relationship between Liver 14 and Du 20. If the qi only gets up as high as Liver 14 Gate of Hope, you are not going to have much vision. People think that you need to have vision in order to have hope, but it’s the other way around. Gate of Hope needs to be open, so that the hun can fly free—so that our visionary spirit can fly free—to start looking around, and keep looking around. Then, when somebody comes along and says, “Come on up, I got a lifeline,” your imagination is able to say, “Let’s do this!” as opposed to being trapped in only the reality that you can see all around you, with Gate of Hope closed.  

If there is a great deal of rage, then with a needle already in Gallbladder 40, I would needle Gallbladder 30 in the hips, because the main thing about rage is that you want it recycling as power, not as a stroke, nor any of the other things that can happen.  

When Gallbladder 30 is open, it’s like the turning point of a wheel, so that the anger can come up and come back down again, to settle in the legs and in the gut as power that will be deployed by our choice—because we are not free if we are impulsive, either. That’s not freedom. We are not free if we are out of control. I would put in Gallbladder 30 as nice safety measure, before working with Gallbladder 20, 21, 22, and 23…  which you can read about in Part 2 in a couple of weeks.

This blog post is the first of a two-part series.  It is also part of a much longer self-study CEU of the same name, worth 2.5 PDA points, presented as a discussion between myself and two colleagues, Dr. Rachelle Dixon and Shawn Richardson. If you are interested in purchasing the full conversation as a CEU, you can find it here.

Healing Internalized Oppression Part 2

To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome)

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