Western medicine concentrates its efforts on healing whereas eastern medicine will concentrate its effort on maintaining health within the body.
The result both approaches aim for is the same: feeling and being healthy.
Where they differ is in how they achieve that result.
I’m no expert in either type of medicine and have no intent in recommending either approach. What I’m studying through, is the difference in principles. And in this, medicine is an interesting metaphor.
According to traditional Chinese medicine illness arises as a result of imbalances of the functional entities of the body. These entities are responsible for performing five cardinal functions that maintain health within the body.
What we know, is that our body has an internal regulating process creating a state of equilibrium. In fact, within optimal conditions, there is a natural resistance to change that brings homeostasis. It’s a state of steady internal conditions maintained by living things.
Instead of concentrating on the symptoms of illness a person will show, traditional Chinese medicine will evaluate the illness based on complex patterns of disharmony in the body.
The approach is holistic and takes all aspects of a patient’s life into account. To serve the patient it will address three elements. A patient’s external factors and environment. Help patients develop the ability to relate to their internal emotions in a healthier way. And determine lifestyle factors to be improved.
A holistic approach also means that the body is considered as a complex network of interconnected parts. The other approach is to see it as a separate systems or entities (organs).
What we’ve learned along the centuries, is that both approaches lead to results.
Looking at the world, that is the larger system, what we see today, is a world that becomes more and more complex. One in which more and more connections and dependencies establish themselves. The more dependencies appear the more complicated it becomes to act on one part of the system without affecting the rest of the system. A well-known metaphor is the butterfly effect.
Focusing on health in one part of an organization or a larger system impacts other parts of the system in more or less predictable ways. Even more so, when the regulation is based on external influence and doesn’t take the internal regulation processes into account.
Without a view on all of the system, new symptoms in other parts of the system will be considered as other problems creating a need for a new intervention. Healing the system then becomes a race against the imbalances created. The habit that establishes itself then is one of needing external regulation. A consequence is that it reduces the internal capacity of self-regulation.
All the difference is in the perspective. Looking at a system from a point of view of the problem it presents and which needs to be treated is different from seeing an imbalance and helping the system to restore a balance.