22. Patterns of behaviour of Water Constitutional Factors
Patterns of behaviour of a Water CF168
The main issues for a Water CF169
Responses to the issues169
This chapter describes some of the most important behavioural characteristics that are typical of a Water CF. Some aspects of a person’s behaviour can be observed in the treatment room. Others can only be discerned from the patient’s description of themselves and their life. As stated in the previous chapters, behaviour can be an indicator of a patient’s diagnosis but it can only be used to confirm the CF. It should always be used in conjunction with colour, sound, emotion and odour, which are the four primary methods of diagnosis. Once the CF is confirmed the patterns of behaviour may, however, support the practitioner’s diagnosis.
The origin of the behaviours was described in Chapter 7. The imbalance of the Element of the CF creates instability or impairment of the associated emotion. Thus specific negative emotional experiences are more likely to occur to one CF as opposed to another. The behavioural traits described in this chapter are often the responses to these negative experiences. In the case of Water the person experiences a feeling of fear and she or he is responding to this.
Patterns of behaviour of a Water CF
The balanced Element
Patients with a healthy Water Element are able to assess risks and know the appropriate degree of a ‘threat’. People are continually assessing ‘threats’ in their daily lives. These can vary from dealing with cars when crossing a road, the threat of a potential burglary or the threat of physical, or verbal, attack.
People with a healthy Water Element notice danger and assess the extent of the risk it presents. They then take action to protect themselves from it. If a threat has been averted they reassure themselves that they are safe. If it has not been averted they take further action to deal with it. This whole activity is usually carried out in a matter of split seconds, but it is extremely important as it ensures their physical and emotional survival.
Formative events for a Water CF
A Water CF usually has significant difficulties when faced with threats but all people, whether they are Water CFs or not, experience fear at some time during their childhood. Sometimes these fears are appropriate. For example, children who are bullied become scared because they have been threatened or children who have hurt themselves are extra vigilant for a time while they learn how to cope with the situation.
Sometimes children have inexplicable fears. The lines between reality and fantasy get blurred and the child fantasises horrific situations. They may imagine, for example, that the large dog next door will eat them up, or that the toilet will overflow and drown them. If a child tells these fears to an adult, hopefully the adult will reassure them that they are safe. The reassurance of an adult will usually make the child feel less anxious.
Most children who are given enough reassurance learn to reassure themselves. They will be able to anticipate real danger and deal with it and steady themselves when their fears are unfounded. Some children, however, never stop feeling afraid. These children are often Water CFs. Because their imbalance is constitutional they are less able to assess and deal with potentially dangerous situations. They often notice potential threats that people with healthy Water Elements don’t see. They may also ask for reassurance but then find it difficult or even impossible to take in.
Although it is likely that people are born with their CF, many of their experiences, especially emotional ones, are also coloured by it. Many Water CFs didn’t feel reassured as children. Maybe their parents didn’t appreciate the extent of their fear and they were laughed at for being fearful. Sometimes the children may never have spoken of their fears, so they never received the feelings of safety that they needed in order for their Water Element not to be further imbalanced.
A patient who is a Water CF described how she was always extremely nervous as a young child. She was especially afraid of learning any new physical activity such as swimming or riding a bike, and she reported that her father often told her, ‘You’re so nervous you’ll never be able to learn.’ ‘It took “an act of will” for me to overcome my fear and consequently I learned things much more slowly than other children, but I learned to be very determined.’
The main issues for a Water CF
For the Water CF certain needs remain unmet. This situation creates issues which centre on these areas:
• needing to be safe
• being reassured
• excitation in danger
The extent to which someone is affected in these areas varies according to the person’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Relatively healthy Water CFs will have less disturbance with these aspects of life, whilst those with greater problems end up with their personalities being strongly influenced by this imbalance.
Because of these issues they may consciously or unconsciously ask themselves various questions such as:
• How can I deal with danger?
• Who can I trust?
• Where will I be safe?
• How can I be reassured?
Responses to the issues
So far we have described how a weakness in the Water Element leads to a lesser capacity to assess risks and know the appropriate degree of a threat. The issues that subsequently arise lead to a spectrum of typical ways of responding to the world. These are common, but not exclusive, to Water CFs. If other CFs have patterns of behaviour that seem similar it may indicate that there is a different set of motivations underlying them or that the Water Element is also imbalanced but is not the CF. Noticing these responses is therefore useful but does not replace colour, sound, emotion and odour as the principal way of diagnosing the Constitutional Factor.
The behavioural patterns are along a spectrum and can go between these extremes:
|1 risk-taking||––––––––––––||fearing the worst/ over-cautiousness|
|4 driven||––––––––––––||no drive|
Risk-taking – fearing the worst and over-cautiousness
Risk-taking or bravado
People take risks on a daily basis, usually without much thought. Driving a car, crossing a road, operating a power tool and climbing a ladder are all potentially risky everyday events. The risk potential of an activity depends on the individual. Running downstairs is dangerous if people are unstable on their feet. Jumping into a swimming pool is risky if a person can’t swim. Most people avoid taking these kinds of risks. Many Water CFs, however, like to push themselves beyond ‘ordinary’ risks to give themselves much greater challenges. As it says in Ling Shu Chapter 64 ‘The Water type of man has no respect for fear’ (Wu, 1993).
Why do they need to do this? There are a variety of reasons. Often Water CFs of this kind present a rather still exterior. They may suppress their fear and try not to feel it or they perceive that they never experience fear at all. Often they like to feel challenged or they just enjoy the release of adrenaline which accompanies the risk-taking. They may have suppressed their fear and sense of excitement so effectively that life often feels lack-lustre. Participating in activities that adrenalise them is often the only time they feel any sense of vitality or exhilaration at all.
Evel Knievel, America’s legendary daredevil, is an example of someone who took many risks and showed an extreme lack of fear. He finally retired in 1981 having broken 35 bones, been operated on 15 times and spent three years of his life in hospital. When asked about this, he is reported to have shrugged and said, ‘Hey, you have to pay the price for success.’
Not everyone takes such high-profile risks as Evel Knievel. Others take risks by undertaking activities such as deep sea diving, riding motor bikes, hang gliding, rock climbing, parachuting or snowboarding in order to give themselves an adrenaline rush. Sometimes when questioned, however, these people admit that the risks are not carried out recklessly. They often calculate exactly how ‘safe’ the risk is and know how close to the edge they can go.
A patient who was a Water CF worked as a tree surgeon, which involved a certain amount of danger. In order to ‘relax’ in his spare time he loved to go rock climbing. He told his practitioner, ‘When I climb a rock face I know the dangers. I check and I double check. It’s a calculated risk because I know my equipment and I know the people I climb with and so I know it’s a safe activity.’
Others take needless risks in their day-to-day lives. They may knowingly drive too fast or overtake when it is not safe. One Water CF told his practitioner that he was known for a ‘devil may care’ attitude when it came to crossing the road. He described launching himself in front of a car and expecting it to stop. It always did! He said, ‘I know how big the gap is and I know I can make it. I know exactly how far I have gone and what the situation is. One of these days I might come unstuck but it’s a calculated risk.’
The need to cover up fear can also lead people to do risky things to prove to themselves that they are not afraid. Unlike those who calculate the risks, they love the buzz of taking needless risks. Examples of people who are driven to do this are rich people who shoplift, or people who take recreational drugs when they do not know what constitutes a safe dose. The poet Percy Shelley met his death after insisting on setting sail when all the locals warned him not to.
An acupuncture student who is a Water CF described how, when she worked as a lighting technician, she would focus the lights for large concerts. In order to do this she might be 100 feet above the ground. To move across the ceiling of the large hall she would jump from beam to beam. ‘I’d lean out and get one hand on the next diagonal beam. Once I’d put both hands out I was committed and had to leap across and catch it with my legs. If I’d missed I probably would have fallen to my death.’ She admitted she was terrified of the jump but said, ‘I think I was more scared of not being seen as “one of the boys” than falling to my death, so I carried on doing the job for two years!’
Fearing the worst
At the opposite end of the spectrum to the risk-takers are Water CFs who fantasise about potential threats. The thought of what might happen can grow large in their minds until it becomes almost a reality. They constantly anticipate an impending disaster. They may describe themselves as constantly on the alert, always having their ‘antennae’ out and taking in all the ‘vibes’ around them to ensure there is no danger. If this tendency becomes too strong then the person may start to get ‘panic attacks’, especially if the imbalance in the Water Element starts to affect the Heart across the ke cycle.
To compensate for any impending crisis some Water CFs plan for emergencies. They prepare themselves by learning first aid, knowing the exits in buildings or becoming skilled in martial arts. ‘You never know what might happen.’
A Water CF told his practitioner about his constant paranoia, saying that if people were late by ten minutes he wouldn’t suspect that they’d got stuck in traffic but would imagine they were in a serious road accident. ‘I laugh about it but it’s such a real feeling of paranoia and I feel it several times a day. Paranoia is such a big thing for me but it’s quite hard to admit it. I know the rationale and intellectually I know I’m being stupid but I can’t stop myself having those feelings.’
Because of their ability to think of the worst possibilities Water CFs can be very imaginative. Unfortunately their imagination sometimes gets the better of them and they easily think of worse catastrophes and more horrifying disasters than most people. As one Water CF put it, ‘I imagine very dramatic, huge, dreadful things or somebody will say something to really hurt me and it’s like I will dramatise it in my mind and turn it into something much bigger than it really is.’
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