I’m starting to feel a lot less skeptical about acupuncture. This morning I had my third treatment, and ever since, I’ve felt like I’m on a mix of an anti-anxiety drug and an opioid. Except that I’m a little more clear-headed than that sounds – or so I hope, since I spent much of the day writing a short introduction to Simone de Beauvoir and existentialism for my online feminist theory class, and for that I needed every last synapse to be firing.
The opioid analogy got me wondering whether acupuncture sets free endorphins. You wouldn’t necessarily expect that, since the pain isn’t so very intense. Well, there’s usually one needle that’s really ouch-y, and today one of them hurt before it even broke the skin. It’s really hard to find scientific evidence on acupunture (you end up at a lot of badly designed webpages full of woo on a bright orance background), but there does seem to be a body of research suggesting that endorphins may be one mechanism by which acupuncture works. One theory is that it hits certain nerves that trigger the release of endorphins; if so, that would explain why you get an endorphin-like effect without having to suffer blinding pain.
And that made me think of a conversation I had with a friend the other day about S&M, where we were both trying – and failing – to understand the appeal of practices that appear to be all about pain. I do understand that endorphins are in play, big time, in the recipient. What if masochism is just a different school of acupuncture – minus the heating lamp, plus lots of leather and latex? Is it possible that masochism is a way to treat the same host of ills that acupuncture is meant to address: chronic pain, stress, and so on? I’m not about to start begging someone to whip me, but as an outsider, I’m curious.
For sure, some interesting things are transpiring as I lie there like a cartoon voodoo doll. Brownfeminipower has written about how acupuncture has put her face to face with rage. For me today, it was grief about something I don’t know how to properly mourn. For a few moments, the grief was a series of waves crashing on the Northern California shoreline. First I was watching the waves. Then I was the waves. I thought I was holding it all inside me, because I had the Bear with me (he was home sick from school today). But when I opened my eyes, they were glistening wet.