Georg Ivanovas From Autism to Humanism - systems theory in medicine

5.6. Chinese Medicine


d) the relational aspect and circular organization

The neurophysiological model does not match the Chinese thinking. For the Chinese all points are seen as interconnected, forming a complex polycontextural structure.

The logical operator under which this structure is investigated is Yin and Yang. The two represent the ‘sunny’ side or the ‘shady’ side of a situation. Nothing is Yin or Yang. It only characterizes a relation. An element (an organ or something else) might be Yin in relation to one element and Yang in relation to another. This relational concept is fundamentally different from Western thinking as it assigns no definite value to a certain state. Actually there are four pairs of relations which have to be investigated in every patent, the Eight Principles or 8 Rubrics:

  • Yin, Yang
  • Interior, Exterior (Biao Li)
  • Cold, Hot (Han Re)
  • Excess, Deficiency (Xu Shi)

These are the modalities that, according to Chinese medicine, characterize every symptom and express all living processes. The understanding oft this structure enables the therapist to observe the floating processes, to intervene adequately and to judge the development of the therapy.

Furthermore, the whole is embedded in the cyclic process of nature, in the circular organisation of CHI. The so-called five elements, fire, earth, metal, water, wood are a blueprint for this change which governs also all physiological processes.



The five elements are organized in a circular way. Energy is given clockwise from one element to the next.

Chinese medicine describes the relation between the elements with an analogy of the family. The element or meridian that gives away energy is called the "Mother" and the element or meridian that receives energy is called the "Son" or ‘Child’.

If the child is disturbed then the mother becomes sick. It might sometimes even be the grandmother (Worsley: 46). Therapy has to understand this and take it into account. The ‘Mother-and-Child-Rule’ says that if the mother is in excess the child has to be sedated and if the child is in deficiency the mother has to be tonified. If in such a case the child is treated the mother might even become worse (Worsley: 48)

It might be accidental that Chinese medicine uses examples of the family structure (mother-and-child-rule, husband-and-wife-rule). But they resemble strikingly the circular causalities of family therapy (chap. 5.2). Also the conclusions on how to change a pathological pattern is not so different.


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