养生 Yǎng shēng – The best treatment

A lot can be written about medicine, medical practice, treatment techniques and medical research. Common for them all is their focus on pathology; what is wrong in the human being. Never forget that pathology is the study of wrong. It is not and has never been the study of what is working correct or how even to make something work correctly for that sake. In western medicine we find a strong medical tradition for using reductionist methods. In Chinese medicine and – psychology the focus is more as you know on holism.

Yang sheng is one of the most important concepts in the understanding of Chinese medical sciences. 养 Yang means support or increase, and 生 Sheng means life; support life. Yang Sheng is when everything is correct; in other words not wrong. In the body Sheng exist when everything works at it should. The word Sheng qi is used to describe a understanding of correctness in the body. The presence of Sheng qi is when the Qi (a type of energy understanding) both flows freely in the body and in a proper manner. A state of balanced function; all the different aspects in the body exist in harmony and perfect interaction. When everything works as it should you have health and you will not get ill.


Any treatment should according to the Yang sheng concept; a focus on promoting health and not on fighting disease. In spice of this, even within Chinese medical tradition hard core Chinese doctors often focus on eliminating pathogens or

祛邪 Qūxié. Quxie mean translated directly expel evil or a type of exorcism. This use of words comes from the old way of seeing disease as a devil entering your body; a devil that was needed to be expelled. That misconception have been dropped long ago, but we still might find the need of the devil possession thought in smaller tribal societies. This to construct an excuse for future interaction between the members; he were possessed by a strong demon, but he is cured now. Normally we find the elimination process of qu xie differs from western medicine. Pathogens would in Chinese medicine be eliminated through strengthening the antagonist; in short we have two main paths: 1. Simply strengthen what works, and 2. Ignore the pathogen and strengthen the body. The better the body works, the more difficult for the pathogens, Quxie, to make roots.


In the Yang sheng method it is thought that happiness will give happiness, positivity will give more positiveness, and pease will give pease. On the other side, anger will create more anger, Conflicts will create more conflicts, and negativity, more negativity, and war is the root to all wars. A treatment that is founded in this way of thinking implies that the main focus are to strengthen a healthy body to prevent disease to enter. Through making the strong and healthy aspects stronger, Quxie get trouble in penetrating. Just to eliminate symptoms will never really cure a disease completely. The body is an integrated organism where the different aspects interact. Interaction is necessary to obtain health. If something is wrong in the body it will not help to inject a chemical that you are missing. Best case scenario is a temporary relief, before the problem returns again. Of course, it exist some diseases that requires symptomatic treatment; just to have mentioned it. Symptomatic treatment will not bring permanent health back to the body. Health is gained through supporting bodily functions that works well, and thereby the non-functioning processes will receive Qi to start regaining health.


Yang sheng is where holism and the modern preventative medicine emerges. In the west we have the term Salutogenesis (Salus = health and Genesis = origin), invented by Aaron Antonovsky in the beginning of the nineties. This concept overlap many aspects of Yang sheng, but is more superficial due to (among others) its limitations to autonomy, independence, free creativity of the individual.


Yang sheng focus as we know on factors like human health and well being, and not on the cause of the disease. Yang sheng do not divide between health and disease, it is two different extremes of the same continuum. Of course, we prefer to stay on the health side of this continuum. Within salutogenese we find the coping resource GRR or Generalized Resistance Resources like some of the most important aspects. GRR is thought to protect us from problems. The three most common GRRs are money, social support and a strong ego to resist psychosocial stressors. Within salutogenese we circle a lot around the Selye created concept of Stress, stressors and the process of coping with stress; in Yang sheng we focuses more on the process of internal health and strong aspects than on the actual penetration of stressors. To divide salutogenese focuses on reducing stressors as the main goal, and Yang sheng focuses on strengthening a persons strong aspects when managing stress; over-simplified. For example within salutogenese we have three main components regarding coherence: Comprehensibility (a predictable world), Manageability (resources to fix things) and the most important Meaningfulness (Life is a type of satisfactory). According to salutogenese we need an experience of coherence. Without coherence we have a problem with our health.  Coherence is so important that it can be used as a predictor for health. The stronger Sense Of Coherence (SOC) the stronger health. In other words, Persons that feel that life gives some type of meaning have better health than others. People also need the privilege of predictability in their life; they need to know approximately what tomorrow will give. Living in insecurity about tomorrow will drain the body of energy, and overtime lead to disease. The last but not least important topic are the persons resources. To be able to fix things in life; this mean connections, friends, money, and possibilities and so on. This three main SOC is often named Comprehensibility, Manageability and Meaningfulness (CMM).


Yang sheng have an aspect that overlap with SOC and that is 目的 Mùdì or purpose. This includes the understanding of a life without purpose, Mudi, is not worth living. A difference between the western concept of salutogenese and Yang sheng that is important to understand is that salutogenese focuses on individual satisfaction and individual realization in life, but Yang sheng sees a person as a part of something bigger; a group, a tribe or a society. If we see a person like an integrated part of a group and analyze its actions as an extension of this group. Then we will understand the difference between SOC and Yang sheng. The individual aspects of SOC exist in Yang shang as 未卜先 知 (Wèi bǔ xiān zhī) Predictable, 资料 (Zī liào) Resources, and 真谛 (Zhēn dì) Real meaning. This three aspects are basically the same as in SOC, but with a touch of collectivism inside. Normally Chinese psychology use the name Mudi to simplify the purpose of life; a meaningful life where you know what is happening and have a possibility to move around.  Mudi is not limited to a single person. As a member of a group we find the person harvesting satisfaction its successes. Just think about how the population of a country feel and expresses joy and happiness when its national team wins a football game; they do not know the players, but they are a part of the same group or tribe if you want.


It is important to never forget that health is variable state of being. Classification of health would be some place on a continuum between life with perfect mental, physical and social well being and the other extreme the termination of life with death; where one is good health and the other one bad health. What is the best treatment: Eliminate the disease or strengthen health? Medical dilemmas occur when we reach a crossroad. What medical procedure should be selected. Let us say you have a depressive patient. Would you select lobotomy, antidepressants, psychotherapy, relaxing massages, physical exercise or socialize with friends as your primer choice of treatment. Everything depends on multiple factors that need to be considered. At the same time, we got the etiological question about what are the most important risk factors for the patient and the complete history of the patient to guide us. The strength of the SOC depends on the possibility for the person to develop as individual. The strength of Mudi depends of the possibility of the person to develop as an integrated part of a group. The more tied up a person become, the more difficult it becomes to strengthen SOC and Mudi through the common paths. Mudi is normally considered more open than the standard SOC criterias. In a complex world where people think and act according to different preferences it is important to be more open and less closed. Yang sheng represent a possible better way of conceptualizing SOC; after all the theory of Yang sheng is about two thousand years older than the Antonovsky theory of salutogenesis.


Yang sheng is the origin of the holistic concept and preventative medicine. Only through keeping all the bodily organs, brain and vital functions balanced and in good shape enters health and good life quality. A classical example is boiling water. To make the water stop boiling we have to take away the flame. It does not help to  put some cold water in the boiling water. The cold water works like a painkiller; it reduces pain in the moment, but after some time the pain will come back. You have to treat the founding cause for the pain. Use Yang sheng in preventing disease and like a guiding concept when treating disease. Never forget the guiding concept within Yang sheng, enhance positivity and what works. Focus on Ben, the cause, and not Biao, the symptom. Because it is Ben that need treatment, and Biao is just the reflection of an imbalance.


Often you find Yang sheng in relation to psychology, but psychology is just a part of the use of this concept. Yang sheng includes four pillars psychological, physical, social and spiritual aspects. That is why doctors needs to investigate or search for the real cause for the disease; Ben. It is not sufficient to make conclusions based on shallow information or only base a treatment on a main complaint. Everybody that is treated according to this system will get a better quality of life and feel balanced mentally as well as physically, socially and spiritually. A person in balance will better stand stress than others. This person will have a more healthy healthy life. Disease reaches everybody at some stage in life. A person with a balanced Yang sheng will not become sick like others. When the average gets very sick the balanced Yang sheng will just become a little sick.


To be able to understand the very base of Yang sheng we have to look for the essence . When life starts to become stressful; it becomes important to use the Zi liao aspect of Mudi or resources if you want. Most easy is to use a person to ventilate with; meaning to speak together. The ventilation should include a search for solutions and in this process it is VERY important to search solutions where we have the actual problem. (Here we also have a gender problem; men search quickly for the solution, but female simply starts speaking about all and everything.) If the problem is long working hours, the ignorant boss or simply a lack of motivation; we have to start addressing that distinct root-problem. It is not really that interesting that the person have a high blood pressure, tense muscles or migraine. Where does the root to the problems origen; where is Ben? The complete treatment focus has to be on the real problem and not the reflection. The cause(s) need to be identified and addressed. Needed resources have to be used. Zi liao (resource) can be everything from having money in the bank to get the proper treatment or to stop working to friends you can speak with. Zi liao is wide and an including term of Mudi. Inside all this, the person need to have a strategy to put the problem behind and move on in life. One of the main goals are to leave 以往 Yǐwǎng (past) and move on to 未来 Wèilái (future), but to live in 今 Jīn (present). This is often done through a positive attitude to life, making goals and progressing with life in short making the life Weibuxianzhi (predictable). Yang sheng focuses on Wei lai (future), on building the functionable, stable and through not wasting time on the collateral symptoms of the cause; Bian. Yang sheng is Mudi in active use on all levels.


So how do Yang sheng function? In general terms, first we have to identify the problem and the cause of the problem. Then we have to find a solution to the cause; not the problem. The best solution is to strengthen something that is functioning, and then transfer that Qi to the non functioning. Meaning, we have to find what works and make that improve the not proper functioning function better. The important is that a person with problems is activated. Of the simple fact, when we feel good we simply do better. That means that we should rather focus on the constructive, good and positive than the destructive, bad and negative to promote health; as well as any other aspect in life. We should not focus on lies and falseness, but rather search for differently charged aspects that pull up and that don’t pushes down. After all Yang sheng is prepares your body to resist pathogenic factors rather than fighting the pathogens directly. Health has to be read as a continuum between dis-ease and ease, or disease and the perfect healthy condition. The idea is to place the state of being as close to ease as possible through supporting Yang sheng.  Most important is capacitating the person to move there by himself. The common way to promote Yang sheng is through stimulating to life changing activities like eat and drink properly, breath properly, meditation and through intellectual stimulation like reading or artistic activities. It is also very positive to be with animals, do other things than normal and simply positively distract; in other words, different health promoting relations and activities. Yang sheng is about pulling forward and not staying in the past. It can be done on general terms as read above or in more specific terms by the Chinese doctor through his way of focusing on the other aspects that is not really the problem, but who will afflict the problem in a positive manner. Empowerment over the disease through in-direct channels describe the path of Yang sheng. As a pattern emerges in Yang sheng –  you should think about the patient. The health of the patient depends on a reasonable predictability and continuity in life. When the patient can estimate future he can relate to the coming. Making him better in coping with what will come for him. Giving him an edge in combating everyday problems.



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