The Martial Arts Inspired by Tao – Written by Nadia Clementi

We interviewed Dr Liliana Atz on a previous occasion, and met her again to talk about EnneaMediCina, an alternative health discipline that brings together two ancient medical-philosophical systems, the Enneagram and Chinese medicine, revisited in the light of the neurosciences. EnneaMediCina offers a new approach to well-being and to the integration of body, mind and spirit involving various disciplines that join with – and reinforce – each other. As Dr Atz explains, the Enneagram is a symbol representing reality in its entirety, a dynamic model that encapsulates the Universe at macrocosmic and microcosmic levels, and which groups human beings under three centres and nine types. Chinese medicine, on the other hand, is based on an ancient medical-philosophical culture in which a human is considered a combination of ‘something’ that – although not defined as ‘genetic’ – includes a couple’s energy at the moment they conceive a new being. Other factors include the movements and energy of the stars, and the circumstances that brought the couple together at that moment – does their union take place in time of peace or war; is it an act of love or an act of aggression? These diverse elements form the initial substratum that give rise to a unique and unrepeatable individual that – interacting with the environment – breathes life into what we call ‘personality’.

In psychology, differing psychological reactions have long been explained as the result of the interaction between specific genotypes and phenotypes. This is where PNEI (Psiconeuroendocrinoimmunology) comes into play. PNEI is a scientific model that considers the working of the human organism as it is in life: a totality. For a long time, medicine has studied human beings by carrying out detailed investigations of systems, organs, and tissues, thus obtaining a mass of extraordinary ‘mechanical’ information, but losing sight of the whole. The scientific evidence gathered by PNEI on the constant communication between biological systems has allowed a reconnection between what, in life, has never been separated: the mind and the body.

This discipline provides confirmation that human beings are not fragmented, that they play an active part in their health and are not helpless victims of the whims of chance or of an inescapable genetic inheritance.

Dr Atz, when did you first learn about the disciplines that led to the creation of EnneaMediCina?
“I first encountered the two great strands of knowledge that lie at the core of EnneaMediCina between the mid-1980s and the early 1990s.
“I am, fundamentally, a studious, a researcher, a person who is never satisfied with outward appearances and the ordinary, or the non-sense of things and situations.
“EnneaMediCina is the result of a long period of study, and a curiosity driven by an existential unease that was searching for answers. This led me to a train of thought that has met increasingly with validation in the fields of neuroscience and in leading-edge theories on the workings of the human psychosoma.”

What are the differences between the language of the Enneagram and the language of Chinese medicine?
“Our Western cultural model leads us to compare, to search for the infinitely small, to separate, divide and categorise. Our mind is built on a framework of right/wrong, good/bad, and health/illness.
“The Eastern model, on the other hand, has a different vision of reality that is more holistic, more global. Thus, light is not in conflict with darkness, just as health is not in conflict with illness, etc.
“The two models are simply different approaches to the same phenomenon. History has divided the tasks: to the West it assigned research, experimentation, the risk of ‘pushing the boundaries’, of understanding and dominating matter, and the exaltation of the power of humankind over nature (microcosm, the infinitely small).
“To the East, history assigned the tasks of conserving dominance over energy, observing spirituality and understanding one’s inner self; denying the exaltation of ego, promoting the harmony of man in contact with nature and respect for the universe (macrocosm – the Oneness).
“Macrocosm and microcosm are thus inextricably bound to each other: the infinitely large contains – in a mirror version – the infinitely small, just as the infinitely small contains the infinitely large.”

How has the approach to these ancient healing practices changed following their re-evaluation in the light of the neurosciences?
“The Enneagram defines nine personality types arising from nine ‘traps’, ‘passions’ or ‘mortal vices’. These are the Seven Deadly Sins – Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Greed, Gluttony, and Lust – plus two further vices, Deceit and Fear, which block the infinite possibilities enclosed in the DNA of our cells.
Hidden behind our interpretation of reality – deformed since infancy by our subjective point of view (behind which we all learn to mask our individuality) – is the separation from Self, but also from others and from the divine.
“The Sins are, therefore, exacerbations of personality that prevent energy from flowing freely.
“In Taoist philosophy, which runs through TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), the entire cosmos is the manifestation of Tao (the sphere representing the continual alternation of Yin/Yang), and is the primary law on which TCM is based. Moreover, it is thanks to the two poles – Yin and Yang – that the movement of energy is created, giving life to what exists.
“In TCM, which is a vibrational medicine, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood express the diverse vibratory characteristics of Qi (energy) present in the Universe and in humankind and which, combined in different ways according to the principles of Yin/Yang, give rise to a multitude of psycho-physical-emotional responses. Today these can be explained by western science.
“In fact, Quantum physics and neuroscience agree that our level of consciousness stimulates the nervous system, creating one of the infinite possible realities, both individually and collectively.
“We can, therefore, switch our genes on or off by starting to move: we can choose to actively experience life, or to block its flow because we are afraid or because we resort to habitual, consoling patterns of behaviour, even when this leads to malaise.
“All of this is represented psycho-spiritually in the symbol of the Enneagram and, in TCM, by the Taijitu symbol.”

What are Enneagram types?
“The Enneagram types are numerological archetypes of typical and recognisable models of human behaviour. Because these archetypes are situated in the depths of the collective subconscious, they influence behaviour without the individual being aware of it.
“This archetypical genetic potential, which we are all born with, determines which set of talents and innate abilities we are endowed with.”

What is epigenetics?
“Epigenetics is the science that studies how DNA functionality is modulated by information arriving from the environment. Our choices in terms of diet, physical activity and the ways we handle stress have the ability to switch genes on or off, thus influencing their functions without altering their sequence.”

Is it actually possible to influence one’s own DNA? What does ‘neuroplasticity’ mean?
“Epigenetics is the branch of molecular biology that focuses on the modifications that genetic material can undergo during the life of an organism as a result of the causal interactions between genes and their product. Contrary to what was once believed, genetics is not an insurmountable obstacle to change.
“According to the latest neuroscientific studies, we can modify our life path by activating what is defined as ‘neuroplasticity’: the brain’s capacity to modify the restrictive beliefs about ourselves and the world.
“It seems to be ever more a statement of fact that DNA can be influenced and reprogrammed through words and energy waves – a concept embraced by Eastern therapies right from the start!”

When does the psyche influence our life, and when does it affect our health?
“As both epigenetics and PNEI have demonstrated for some time, childhood experiences are consolidated in beliefs, thoughts and feelings that mark the life trajectory of an individual. If children are given a loving and protective environment that nurtures their growing personalities, they will be able to face difficulties with optimism and confidence.
“As proven scientifically by PNEI, this kind of environment stimulates hormones that promote well-being rather than stress and discomfort; it is the quality of our thoughts and belief in our own potential that helps us to stay healthy.”

How are the organs of the human body linked to the psyche?
“It is now clear, even to Western medicine, that unity of mind and body underlies the treatment and cure of illness, and that harmonising the five emotions and seven feelings of Chinese medicine are intimately connected to what PNEI calls ‘the healing of psychological scars linked to constricting beliefs and states of mind”.
“According to PNEI, emotions are biochemical; they transform into cascades of molecular messages, and these messages reach the various parts of the body, including the immune system, establishing a continuous dialogue between the nervous system, endocrine system and immune system that can determine good health or illness.
“This had already been established thousands of years ago in Chinese medicine, according to which good health is the result of a balanced diet, correct breathing, a functioning system of defence against external and internal pathogens, and the harmonious flow of the ‘five emotions and seven feelings’.
“When an imbalance occurs, the organ and the viscera connected to the element (the structure most characterising of the particular Enneagram type) will be first to signal the disharmony and suffer a disorder. If the problem finds no solution, the entire psychophysical structure will eventually be affected.”

Could you explain what the ‘Qi of Healing’ consists of?
“The set of ancient Chinese practices used in the pursuit of long life were a form of shamanism and have been lost in the mists of time.
“The shamans were tribal leaders – often women – who were experts in herbal medicine, exorcism and spiritualism, and sought contact with the forces of nature. They were the first doctors in Chinese history.
“Their healing techniques included sequences of physical movement and vocal expression.
“By means of sacred dances, they coordinated the movements of the body and respiration with the breath of creation, eliminating negative energies from the body.
“Many academics believe that these dances were the precursor of present-day Tai Chi Chi Kung, whose basic purpose it to enable the body’s Qi to resonate with the breath of nature.
“In fact – as confirmed by an increasing number of studies – the correct practice of so-called ‘medical exercises’ helps to increase the production and flow of Qi (breaths, energy) in the body, while at the same time stimulating the circulation of blood and emotions.
“It is interesting that in 2004, for future medical protocols, the World Health Organisation had already included acupuncture, manual therapies, Qigong, Taiji and other physical, mental and spiritual therapies, such as shamanism, alongside western medicine.”

You are the author of various publications including books on EnneaMediCina. Could you tell us something about them? Where can they be bought?
“Temperament and personality, residing in various facets symbolised by the nine basic types of Enneagram, are united under EnneaMediCina with the fundamental laws of Chinese medicine to broaden the vision of humankind on a quest for global and conscious well-being.”

Who am I?
Which of the Enneagram types characterises me best?
What are the mental and physical problems that characterise that Enneagram type?
Which psycho-spiritual dynamics form its matrix?
“The book begins by asking these fundamental questions and by identifying the reader’s predominant psychological type. The physical problems connected to the type and the underlying psycho-spiritual dynamics can both be verified.
“Psyche and soma speak the same language and, taking for example Enneagram type 9 – whose themes are related to procrastination, the difficulty of self-expression, and to the passage to other levels of consciousness – we will see how the emotion that initially characterises it is unrecognised and unexpressed anger. Type 9 belongs to the Instinctive Triad, to the reptilian brain – which means it relates to survival, reproduction and the control of territory. If the anger problems remain unresolved, type 9 may exhibit signs of physical and mental imbalance, as follows.

Body: digestive problems, weak tendons and joints, testicular and prostate disorders, inflammation of female genitals, irregularities of the menstrual cycle, tremors, spasms, tics, blockage of the diaphragm and pelvis, paresthesia, problems with eyesight, arthritis, obesity, psoriasis…

Psyche: excessive oneiric activity, ravings, exaltations, emotion and energy swings, depression, instability, the urge to cry, shyness.

“Quantum physics reveals that everything is interconnected: the observer becomes part of what is observed; that the probabilities of the vibration (Qi) become material only in the presence of an observer; and that our awareness determines the reality in which we live.

“To escape the dynamics at the root of these problems using EnneaMediCina, the reader may decide to follow a path leading to awareness and consciousness of – and experimentation with – their self and their other potential. This is the path of neuroplasticity, as described above.”


Enneagram in Light of Neuroscience ON ENNEAGRAM MONTHLY

What messages have the symbols and models of the archetypes held steady throughout time, that are within the collective unconscious?
Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and an- thropologist stated that the archetype is like an invisible model that determines what structure an object will assume; for exam-ple, how a crystal will form. He considered numbers themselves to be numinous and sacred entities. He described them as “an archetype of the order that became conscious.”
Pythagoras believed that “the whole universe was harmony expressed in numbers” and that mathematics was the ultimate essence of reality. Similar to the Pythagoreans St. Augustine too believed that everything had numerical relationships and it was up to the mind to seek and investigate the secrets of these relationships or else have them revealed by divine power. St. Augustine wrote “Numbers are the universal language of-fered by the divine to humans as a method for the confirma-tion of what is truth.”
Archetypes as collective representations of the inherited unconscious, are the common heritage of humanity, found in the myths and legends of all civilizations. In life there can be as many archetypes as there are characteristic situations we can see in typical and recognizable patterns of human behavior, for example, as symbolized by the nine Ennea-gram types.
On the psychological level, the Enneagram sees human intelligence as expressed in three fundamental ways that are related to the Instinctive, Mental or Emotional centers.

These three centers correspond to three different ways of being. According to the evolutionary vision of MacLean, it’s as if we had three different brains, each characterized by behaviors and deep rooted connota-tions of character that are typical of the center itself.
Reptilian Brain

The first brain, reptilian (instinctive center), is connected to automatism, the spontaneous and unconscious acts, for example the heart and the di-gestive system. This center is working to ensure the physical and psychological survival of the individual, it is the source where energy, motivation and actions originate.
Enneagram types 1, 8 and 9 use primarily this center to adequately address the different situations of life. The digestive system and the area of the so-lar plexus are very involved here, hence we call them “belly types.”
At the level of mind, our memories, including those stored mostly unconsciously, are strongly related to this center. Nobel laureate Eric Richard Kandel describes the long-term memory system as two-fold: the explicit, autobiographic that can be expressed in words, and also the implicit underground memory, not remembered, as it cannot be verbalized, as it has been created by sensations and emotions, rather than words; a somatic memory, that are all connected to the reptilian brain.
In the first two years of infancy experiences are mostly recorded by this form of memory which is mostly managed in the center for instinctive emo-tions, the amygdala. Given that such memories were mostly not conscious, they can’t easily be remem-
bered, recorded or released, without precise psycho-body work.
This unconscious memory is in fact the base, the backbone, the “mother” of the individual’s personal-ity. It continues and endures over time, influencing the individuals emotional, cognitive and affective life.
I would say it is here where the enneagram archetypes and their functions are determined.

Limbic Brain

The feeling center, the limbic brain, is the place for emotions, affectivity, aspirations and relationships. It is mainly concerned with the present. Types 2, 3 and 4 use primarily this part of the brain as it’s centered around relationships with the people.
It is here that the heart and circula-tory system are mostly involved.
In neuroscience, psycho neuro en-docrino immunology (PNEI), investi-gates the relationship between the psyche, the nervous system, the en-docrine and the immune system. It is through neuropeptides, the small protein-like molecules (peptides) used by neurons to communicate via pathways with each other and to transmit the signals needed between the brain and the body. The neuro-peptides are signaling molecules as they convey emo-tions and psychological as well as physical stimuli that elicit and maintain the unconscious responses in every part of the body.
It is well established now that emotions are, first of all, primarily physiological event, closely related to the unconscious, to the experiences, although not remem-bered, that will affect all mind and body functions.


The neocortex, finally, is the seat of the higher-order brain functions that defines human possibili-ties concerned with making sense of the self and the world by using reasoning, imagination, and the study of different possibilities and perspectives.
The enneagram “head types” 5, 6, and 7, use pri-marily this center for information and rationalization.
This operative center consists of the central nervous system, the brain, and the spine.
According to the neuroscientist Goldberg Elk-honon, the right hemisphere of the human brain deals with what’s new, while the left hemisphere deals with the well-developed and established con-figurations and stereotyped concepts, so all new information is first processed in the right hemi-sphere and then sent to the left where a model is created.
Parts of the right brain, while mainly dealing with emotional processes, are also involved with reason-ing, decision-making and processing of thoughts. It appears that as the brain ages, the ability to learn new things decreases due to an emotional rigidity that dis-courages new discoveries and experiments as well as creating new models.
Coming back to the Enneagram, we find that types 2, 3 and 4 are positioned more in the right hemisphere connected to news, and analysis of the emotional content of experiences; whereas types 5, 6 and 7 occupy the left side of the model, assigned with the analysis and meaning of words and the creation of operational models. Above, the instinctive center with types 8, 9 and 1, takes in the dialogue between the left and right cerebral hemispheres and offers a visceral gut response.
The personality masks serve to protect the indi-vidual’s survival and are nothing more than a con-sequence of the interaction between the centers, be-tween genetics and epigenetics.
In conclusion, everything is in a state of constant vibration, including the human DNA. We can say that the rhythm and pace respond to different emo-tional states. Scholars speak of a closely woven net-work that is connecting all matter through vibration-al events.
DNA acts like an antenna, as an electric capacitor, an oscillating circuit able to receive and transmit elec-tromagnetic waves and therefore information.
The nine ‘traps’, or ‘passions’ of the Enneagram (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lust, de-ception and fear) symbolize impediments of charac-ter that prevent energy to flow freely, by hampering the activation of genes within the DNA?
On the other hand, could it be that moving in the opposite direction of the Enneagram arrows, would be a way to activate the motion towards integration of psyche and soma?

Liliana Atz is the creator of EnneaMediCina. A psychologist, adept at Traditional Chinese Medicine, and a Tai Chi Chi Kung and Shiatsu trainer, Liliana has also authored EnneaMediCina as well as a num-ber of trade articles and publications.


EnneaMediCina. Le Cinque Vie dell’Anima – Liliana Atz
In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind – Eric Kandel
The Age of Insight: The Quest to Understand the Un-conscious in Art, Mind, and Brain, from Vienna 1900 to the Present – Eric Kandel
The New Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes in a Complex
World – Elkhonon Goldberg
The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow
Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older – Elkhonon Gold-berg
Sentieri verso la libertà – Arnaldo Pangrazzi

First part of the article
Second part of the article

The Biological/Emotional Psychology of Enneagram Types

Self-awareness and emotional control is the very prerequisite of a holistic health of body, mind and spirit, as this article shows.

I believe that EnneaMediCina can be truly understood only by learning about its founding principles.

I will approach the Enneagram in small increments, starting with an analysis of the Enneagram in the light of Western scientific findings.

Aside from every individual’s unique differences, the Enneagram allows us to identify our character dispositions, world view and talents. In doing so, we can broaden our self-knowledge and the opportunities for inner change which influence overall health.

The nine Enneagram character types occur in three centres, aka the ‘three basic brains’:

1. Instinct (gut): 8, 9, 1;

2. Emotion (heart): 2, 3, 4;

3. Thought (head): 5, 6, 7.

Each centre is characterized by a fundamental emotion, which is the same for all enneatypes in every triad, affecting their way of being and the way they experience relationships.

Nowadays, it is well-known that foetuses develop their subjective identity as early as during pregnancy. Canadian psychiatrist Thomas Verny showed that an embryo’s experience within the uterus is its first contact with the world and as such it will deeply inform its future personality.

Each type comprised in the enneagram circle is characterized by a specific defense strategy, which is used by newborns in their process of adaptation to the relational dynamics of their family environment.

Thus, every genotype and fenotype combination can be ascribed to one of the three centres containing three enneatypes.

Such defence strategies are perceived by children as effective behavioural models which not only ensure survival but also enable them to receive affection and attention. These experiences become imprinted in their psyche and, later on, also affect behaviour during adulthood.

The Gut Centre: Types 8, 9, 1

In newborns, the first parts of the brain to fully develop are the brainstem and the midbrain. They control bodily functions which are key to survival, such as breathing, digestion, excretion and thermal regulation.

As a newborn’s brain is not yet fully formed, perceptions during early childhood are recorded in the ‘instinctive brain’ – the most visceral of the three centres which lies at the core of psychic and physical well-being.

The next parts of the brain to develop are the lymbic system, which controls the emotional side, and the neocortex, which enables abstract thinking.

The growth of each cerebral region and of its related functions largely depends on the stimuli received by children since pregnancy or, in other words, the extent to which new neuronal connections are promoted. Positive, rather than negative, experiences help individuals to grow and develop harmoniously.

How the brain develops determines an individual’s cognitive, affective and social skills, as well as his or her susceptibility to physical or psychological disorders.

Several studies have shown that children who are listened to, stroked, supported and encouraged have a more intense cerebral activity (as measured via EEG) as well as lower levels of cortisol – the hormone of stress – and adeguate levels of Igf-1, a hormone which plays a key role in our growth processes.

Other studies have confirmed that anxiety and tensions affect the functionality of the gut – our ‘second brain’ – which in turn dramatically affects the workings of the entire body. Dr. Gershon of Columbia University says that ‘the gut helps to fix emotion-related memories and therefore plays a key role in signalling joy or pain’.

Therefore, the abdomen hosts a brain which absorbs and digests not only food, but also information and emotions which come from outside.

(to be continued …)


– Michael D. Gershon – The Second Brain – HarperCollins.
– Glaser D. (2000) Child abuse and neglect and the brain –
a review. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 41, 97-116.
– Glaser D. (2003) Early experience, Attachment and the Brain in Corrigal J. & Wilkinson H. Revolutionary Connections:
Psychotherapy & Neuroscience pp. 117-133. London: Karnac.
– Parent Network for the Post-Istituzionalized Children (Spring 1999): overview of the post-istituzionalized child.
The post, 1.
– Perry BD (2000) : Traumatized children : how childhood trauma influences brain development. Shore R. (1997): Rethinking.the brain. New York: Families and the Work Institute.
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The Dana Forum on brain science, 2(4), 50-67.

The Biological/Emotional Psychology of Enneagram Types – 2

The instinct/motor centre

Each centre is characterized by a core emotion, which deeply affects the way of being of different enneatypes and how they relate to each other. Acquiring awareness about this and learning strategies to control this emotion is the first step in the successful practice of integrated biomedicine. Types 8, 9 and 1, the so-called ‘gut’ types, are characterized by the prevalence of the instinctive component. These enneagram types tend to act impulsively and to respond with actions to both environmental and relational stimuli. The emotion which characterizes this triad is ‘anger’ and each of the three enneatypes deals with it in a different way: by showing it (type 8), by denying it (type 1) or by remaining unaware of it (type 9).

An 8, for example, processes anger consciously, driven by the need to appear as the strongest. A 9, on the other hand, processes it unconsciously and tends to hide it because of his/her instinctive need to pacify his/her environment. 1’s react in yet another way – by internalizing anger and denying it verbally, while expressing it through their body. People belonging to this enneatype yearn to prove they are perfect, but knowing that perfection is impossible engenders anger, which they cannot afford to acknowledge, and somatisation arises as a consequence …(to be continued)

Psychology and EnneaMediChina

Can Western psychology have a notion of Man as the summation of all his many parts – physical, mental, emotional, social, relational, cultural, etc? To demonstrate that it can, I have looked into research by several scholars and embarked on a journey within the microcosm of Man as a whole of body and mind.

As we shall see in this article, what I found out resonates with both EnneaMediChina and its core ancient symbols.

Several psychological studies are focused on infancy, which is regarded as the structuring core of the universe of man. They show that the relationship with the mother and/or other role models plays a paramount role in the activation of temperament traits which appear as early as the first year of life. Such traits constitute the biological blueprint which, as it interacts with the environment, results in personality traits. The latter are defined as the individual characteristics that tend to remain consistent over time and that determine observable behaviour.

The dispositional theory, for example, states that each of us is endowed with specific attributes which are biological in nature. They predispose us to automatically adopt given behaviours, regardless of the circumstances under which we interact with other individuals. Traits have a biological substrate. However, the environmental context – physical, family-related, social and cultural conditions – is no less important and it can dramatically affect an individual’s behavioural characteristics.

Allport (1937) stated that temperament refers to the characteristic phenomena of an individual’s emotional nature, including his susceptibility to emotional stimulation, his customary strength and speed of response, the quality of his prevailing mood, these phenomena being regarded as dependent upon constitutional make-up and therefore largely hereditary in origin.

Lisa di Blas wrote that ‘the word temperament refers to a group of individual characteristics which can be observed in behaviour. They have a genetic and physiological substrate; they broadly affect emotionality, appear within the first year of life and are relatively stable over time’.

Eysenck argued that although temperament traits are genetically determined, this does not mean that behaviour is inherited. Rather, individuals inherit biological structures which originate behaviours that are adopted more frequently. He goes on to say that some biological intermediaries, such as hormones and neurotransmitters, translate this genetic potential into behavioural constants (aka, personality traits). Through interaction with the environment, such inherited physiological characteristics produce both behaviours which can be observed in a lab setting (such as memory retention and sensory threshold) and behaviours which are observed in natural contexts (such as sociability, sexuality, aggression).

It is thought that the period from 6 to 12 years of age is paramount in the development of personality traits resulting from the interaction between temperament traits and the environment. Eisenck identified three traits in his theoretical model: Psychoticism, Extroversion, and Neuroticism.
Psychoticism is characterized by aggression, selfishness, impulsiveness, antisocial behaviour and lack of empathy.

Extroversion is, in any given individual, a unique mix of sociability, activity, vitality, assertiveness, search for sensation and dominance. The third trait – Neuroticism – includes characteristics such as anxiety, tension, depression, emotionality, shyness, moodiness, low self-esteem and feelings of shame.
Although a univocal and convincing conceptualization of the word ‘personality’ is still lacking, it may be useful to describe personality as the ‘outcome of the reciprocal articulation of the cognitive, emotional, volitional and motivational aspects of an individual in their interaction with the environment’ (Giannelli, 1993). ‘Hence, a thorough analysis cannot refrain from taking into consideration cultural, ethical and social aspects as factors which are poignant for the personological structure of each individual’.

Thus, personality should be understood as a summation of temperament traits, emotions and motivations of an individual moving in space and time.
Affective communication is the first source of stimulation of a child’s behaviour and it is subsequently internalized to become the foundation of his inner world.

The ability to do this appears to be deeply affected by the kind of emotional response a child was given during his early childhood experience.
From this standpoint, the intrapsychic world of a child is the outcome of a dialectical construction process involving the child’s original emotional, communicative, responsive and temperament competencies and those of his attachment figures. Attachment figures, in turn, have their own attachment modes, temperament traits and emotional regulation patterns.

A study by Haft and Slade showed that there is a close connection between the mother’s inner working models of attachment and her affective concordance patterns towards her child. They went on to precisely outline that this latter becomes a powerful tool in the intergenerational transmission of internal attachment models.

The intergenerational transmission of secure attachment styles provides infants with a basis to control emotions, resulting in a sense of security and a more stable basis for the development of his mentalizing function, which in turn favours his propensity to establish secure relationships with others.
A parent who has an insecure attachment model would also transmit to the child the defences against his/her own emotions, thus encouraging the child to avoid expressing emotions in order to maintain his relationship with the parent. In so doing, the child would both feel secure and maintain his parent’s state of mind (Main, 1995).

“The child cannot find himself in the other”, Fonagy writes (1998).

Moreover, studies by Grossman and Grossman (1991) have highlighted that ‘mothers of insecure avoidant children, unlike mothers of secure ones, do not prove capable – in the play situations they studied – to connect with the negative emotions of their children. They keep away from them when they express such emotions and only approach them when they communicate positive emotions …’

In 1988, Cassidy and Kobak “…analysed affective communication by three and six-year old insecure avoidant children towards their mothers and showed that they consolidate strategies of masking and falsification of negative affects which could be found as early as at 12-18 months … and succeed in only communicating positive emotions to their mother…’

Winnicott (1965) argued that a mother’s inability to adequately respond to her child’s emotional needs might elicit in the latter ‘unthinkable anxieties, going to pieces, loss of orientation, falling forever which affects his processes of constitution and integration into an original sense of Self’.

According to Bowlby (1991) the ability to recognize emotions, which are increasingly articulated by the child without resorting to defensive acts of deformation and limitation of emotional information, is paramount for his development because it enables him to establish adequate intrapsychic communication with his affectional world. On the other hand, this ability seems to be deeply affected by the type of affective communication he has been able to use with his attachment figures during the history of his Self-constitution. (to be continued)

Che cos’è la Personalità ” Lisa di Blas – Ed. Carocci – 2002
Le interazioni madre bambino nello sviluppo e nella crescita – D. N.Stern . –ed. Cortina 1998
La comunicazione affettiva tra il bambino e i suoi partner” a cura di C. Riva Crugnola – R. Cortina ed. – 1999
Manuale di psichiatria e psicologia clinica – G. Invernizzi – Mc Graw-Hill

Chinese Medicine The creation of life: the laws

In ancient Western civilisations, numbers performed more than just a quantitative function. They also held a secret code for interpreting the universe and its laws. One of the most famous and prominent experts on numbers was Pythagoras of Samos, a great philosopher and mathematical genius who lived in Greece in the 6th century BC.

According to Pythagoras, everything is related to numbers. Every symbol, sound, letter of the alphabet, planet corresponds to a number. Numbers set the rhythm, trigger motion and allow the universe and matter to exist in an orderly fashion.

In his view, all the building blocks in the world were linked in a numerical chain that controlled their relationships to the surrounding objects, thus fully expressing the holistic approach, typical of antiquity, where Spirit and Matter are unified into Being, “the essence of things”.
Also for the Chinese culture there was no separation between macrocosm and microcosm. All things shared a metaphorical language where the connection between phenomena affecting people was but an aspect of what was happening, on a larger scale, in the surrounding environment.
Their attitude towards numbers was extremely respectful as they symbolised daily life with a whole range of representations. Numbers either possessed a great descriptive power or showed a hierarchical order and epitomised the close relationship between Man and the environment.
Ancient and modern sciences show that the wholeness of the cosmos is amenable to a mathematical allegory exemplifying the harmony between all living systems.
The whole perfection in nature, from snowflakes to genetic code, from leaf canopies to the fractalness of human liver, is tied to specific numerical sequences.

Drawing inspiration from the study and comparing symbols in these two cultures, a new model takes shape, a new way to look at mankind, called EnneaMediChina.

Tai Chi Chuan: “movement of emotions.”

Symbolism is the most suitable and viable method for man to pass on his teachings and knowledge. It is the most natural way to do so. This is not surprising since language itself is, after all, symbolism. Any human expression is a symbol of a thought being translated outwards. The only difference is that language is analytical and discursive, whereas symbolism is essentially intuitive.

The precise movements of Tai Chi Chuan, which is widely known as a martial art and as a proven healing practice, express a symbolic body language with other layers of meaning. The latter reveal a connection between Oriental culture and the most recent findings in Western science and psychology. Let us take a closer look into this connection.

When unmanifested, still energy – Wuji – begins to unfold, it gives rise to the first Yin (feminine) – Yang (masculine) polarization which originates Chi, or energy. Like all existing things in the universe, Chi is the expression of the cyclical movement of Tao (1) – the Way – whose symbol has become widely known.

These are the principles underlying the Tai Chi Chuan discipline. The whole universe, both visible and invisible, results from the interaction between Yin and Yang.

The ancient Chinese psychophysical discipline of Tai Chi Chuan is historically rooted in the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which prescribed breathing exercises, body massage, hand and foot exercises as early as before 1000 bC.

The Taoists introduced Chi Kung, a series of psychophysical and breathing exercises for maintaining health, preventing disease and treating ailments.

These energetic gymnastics were constantly studied, extended and integrated with ancient Kung-fu styles, giving rise to Tai Chi Chuan.

However, Tai Chi goes well beyond this. In fact, a body in balance is the natural outcome of a harmonious flow of energy; as the son of Heaven and Earth, Man can only be healthy when he can keep harmony between the ascending Breath of Earth (Yin) and the descending Breath of Heaven (Yang).

Movement as the foundation of life

In Scienza, Tao e Arte del Combattere, a book by Master Flavio Daniele, Professor Carlo Ventura writes that: ‘There is no relevant biological phenomena that is not caused by movement … It has been found that no change in gene activity occurs without DNA movements, deformations and vibrations of both the nucleus and that network of microfilaments and microtubules which is called cytoskeleton. These movements anticipate the same changes in function at various cellular levels … Applying a sound vibration to a cell or to signal molecules within a cell can cause these structures to vibrate and to give rise to morphological and functional changes. Sounds and movements can therefore be termed a <> within cells and tissues’.

The Law of Three in movement

The union of shapelessness – the hereditary energies of male sperm and female egg – and acquired energies, i.e., the product of innate energies after fertilization, results in the energy configuration of a new being. It is the fruit, the union of masculine and feminine, of passive and active – the number Three – the number that balances opposites.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, according to the traditional Chinese view of human physiology, ‘Dantians’ are the three centres of the body where Chi is stored and accumulated. From there, Chi radiates along the meridians in the body. These notions are found in Taoist Inner Alchemy, in meditation techniques and also in Tai Chi, which divide the body in three areas, each with a focal point called Cinnabar Field, where the essence of the primordial Oneness resides (2).

The same notions have been implemented in Western psychology. Eric Berne’s transactional analysis, for example, theorizes that the psychic structure, or ‘Ego’, comprises three structures which are graphically represented as a consistent model of personality. They are the three Ego states, each with its own specific functions. Each Ego state can include both positive and negative features, depending on whether it favours or hinders an individual’s independence.

The Parent Ego-state includes experiences and examples.
The Child Ego-state includes spontaneous feelings and emotions.
The Adult Ego-state is the domain where information is processed.
How can these different domains be made to communicate?

Transactional analysis proposes that individuals can be ‘cured’ by strengthening the Adult Ego-state’s ‘problem solving’ skills through emotions. Rather than being seen as a hindrance to the client’s ability to thrive as was previously the case, emotions are used as a tool with a view to fulfilling and solving his/her needs.


The way of the Heart, the way of emotions, the way of Chi, turns out to be – as mystics have always claimed – the frontier between the instinctual centre and the mental/spiritual centre, the ‘way to evolution’ for man throughout the ages. Indeed, the electrochemical processes which translate into what we call ’emotions’ occur deep in the cerebral areas of the limbic system and the hypothalamus. From there, through the mediation of specific substances called neurotransmitters, messages are transported throughout the body/mind.

‘It is becoming increasingly apparent’, says Professor Ventura, ‘that the nervous and cardiovascular systems develop through coordinated action by common factors which drive the differentiation and migration of future neuronal and cardiovascular cells. The latest research shows a remarkable parallelism in the development of both systems …’.

In other words, movement is the catalyst of emotions, which stimulate a different interaction of the three brains.

This is where the power of Tai Chi movement comes into play.

Starting with conscious work on the body, aka the neocortex, with time a change occurs in the patterns which drive the functioning of the nervous system and the three brains. The three Dantians, as they are called in the Oriental language, are the focus of an alchemical process, which stimulates the re-patterning of ingrained psycho-physical borders, with the aim to restore psychological, physical and spiritual balance and to re-establish Oneness.

  1. Tao: All matter in the Universe, both living and non living, is pervaded with this eternal, essential and fundamental force. The symbol of Tao represents the universe. From the initial undifferentiated stage, two opposite yet complementary poles formed, which are the fundamental principles of the universe: Yin, the negative principle, is passive and is represented by the colour black while Yang, the positive principle – is active and is represented by the colour white.
  2. Primeval: That which was generated first.

Excerpt from: Scienza e Conoscenza


Scienza, Tao e Arte del Combattere – Flavio Daniele – Luni Editrice;
Frammenti di un insegnamento sconosciuto – In Search of the Miraculous – Fragments of an Unknown Teaching . P.D. Ouspensky – Ed. Astrolabio;
Medicina cinese –The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine Ted J.Kaptchuk – Ed. Red;
Huangdi Neijing – Jaca Book;
Candance Pert – Molecole di emozioni – Molecules of Emotion – Ed. Tea.

The East through Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a very ancient discipline that seeks to achieve health and harmony by rebalancing the energy of body and mind. This medicine, based on the concept of energy flows, consists in the art of restoring functional harmony in the exchanges between different life forces (vital energy or Qi). The object of this energy medicine is to regulate the energy flows constituting and animating an individual within the broader framework of the flows constituting and animating the universe.

What has been delivered to us is the outcome of integration and adaptation to the different philosophies it has come into contact over its evolution and, in particular, with Taoist thinking, the Confucian School and the Theory of the Five Elements.

This tradition considers the universe as an energy field resulting from the seamless interplay between two fundamental cosmic principles: Yin and Yang. It is an all-encompassing analogue view of the individual, according to which health and wellbeing are the consequence of our psychological, energetic, physiological and spiritual equilibrium. The observation and classification of the connections between the two principles has led us over the millennia to assume a comprehensive knowledge of the real world where things happening in the Macrocosm (cosmos) also happen, on a smaller scale, in the Microcosm (individual).

According to Taoism, by understanding the cosmos, the universe and nature we come to understanding ourselves and our personal growth. There is no contraposition between good/evil, right/wrong, etc. Opposites become identical aspects, as well as an integral part, of the same reality/phenomenon. Every time the observer’s perspective changes, a different interpretation of the ethical/moral value of an event is given. There are no absolute values – only values relative to the system/model used as a yardstick.

Attention must be focused on the observation of Nature and its manifestations, for it alone will allow us to recognize the characteristics of Tao.
From Nature comes the very idea of Yin/Yang, the two opposites forming the Tao symbol, which represents the most important and distinguishing concept of Taoism. The study of the cyclical alternation of day and night is symbolically related, respectively, to the shaded and to the sunny side of a hill, a single entity carrying shadow and light, the two universally joined opposites eternally chasing each other and following one another.

As a consequence, a physical or mental symptom is not the sign of a localised condition or disease, but points to an imbalance of the whole body.
Traditional Chinese Medicine does not break everything down to its individual constituents in search of its smallest component, thereby losing sight of its purpose, unity: the individual and his/her psychophysical equilibrium, deeply immersed in the surrounding environment.

As an integral part of the macrocosm, we are fuelled by the same life force flow, Qi, circulating within our body along the network of meridians, the invisible channels making up the interconnection system between organs and life-giving functions.

Qi is the product of Yin/Yang interplay. It is the foundation for the phenomenal world.

In the human body, Qi is the driver of movement and transformation, the principle that moves, warms and protects us from external influences.
At a psychological level, its free flowing allows us to change state and to cycle through different emotions when switching over from work to leisure, from activity to rest.

Health and physical wellbeing, therefore, are nothing but the natural outcome of a harmonious circulation of Qi, whereas any disharmony furthers the onset of illness and disease.

Here is where we find the originality of Taoist thought: an opposition exists, as Nature teaches us, but it is relative: darkness only exists if contrasted with light – and no reality is ever absolute.

Shape originates from shapelessness, just as shape will eventually lead to shapelessness. This existence prior to existing, this “shapelessness”, this not yet expressed potential is designated by the term Tao, literally “the Way”, the matrix of the Universe.

From this obscure mystery emerges something called “WuJi”, the “non-pole”, the embryo of a not yet polarized – and therefore not yet differentiated – existence. That is why the symbol is an empty circle. This empty circle appears filled in the TaiJi, “the greater pole”, symbol. Taiji is a potential, but not yet occurred, differentiation. Whilst still being a unity, it already harbours the seed of division and, therefore, birth. The symbol recalls the natural ebb and flow, the merging of white into black and black into white, of union within contraposition and, naturally, of movement.

At the centre of the black side (Yin) there is a white dot, just as at the centre of the white side (Yang) there is a black dot, to emphasize how either part contains the germ of the other, just as in the winter solstice, under the snow, the seed of summer bloom is already alive. Drawing the two halves within a circle conveys the idea of the intimate blending of the two aspects which, together, make up the whole of life.
Tao is a constant flow causing perpetual and unavoidable transformation.

Il libro della Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – Carlo Moiraghi – Fabbri Editore
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – J. Schatz C. Larre E. Rochat De La Vallèe Edizioni Jaca Book, Original Title Aperqus de modecine chinoise traditionelle, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1979
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – F. Bottalo Rosa Brotzu – Edizioni Xenia
Medicina Cinese – Ted J. Kaptchuk – Red Edizioni – Original Title The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, McGraw Hill Professional, USA, 2000
Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – M. Corradin C. Di Stanislao M. Parini Casa Editrice Ambrosiana
Teoria e pratica Shiatsu – Carola Beresford Cooke – ed. UTET – Original Title Shiatsu Theory and Practice, Churchill Livingstone, Elsevier, 2011

Health and disease: the Five Movements of TCM

Each individual is born with an inherited endowment of energy – ancestral Qi. Transmitted from parent to child, it is the source of our vitality. This force is neither modifiable nor replenishable and once it is depleted, death occurs: therefore, it must be preserved.

Beside ancestral Qi there are two fundamental forms of energy that can be drawn from the outside environment: breathing energy, which is absorbed through oxygen in the air, and food energy, supplied by food.

These two forms of energy can be continuously replenished.

Therefore, to preserve health it is paramount to eat quality food, to practise medical gymnastics and to do breathing exercises.

According to ancient Chinese theory, the universe is made up of five primordial elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water.

The Five Movements theory divides most natural phenomena into five categories. During the Western Han dynasty (206 bC – 24 aD) the Yin-Yiang theory and the Five Movements theory were combined together, resulting in a single scheme – ‘Yin Yang Wu Xing Xue’. This scheme is conceived as a flow of Qi, whereby each movement corresponds to a phase in the five-step cycle of Yin Yang transformation.

Earth is at the heart of each transformation and lies at the centre of the scheme. It is associated with yellow and it favours seed-sowing, growth, and ripening; it symbolizes late summer and it expresses the balance of the Yin/Yang polarity.

Wood represents the sprouting of vegetation from the soil and spring awakening – the passage from Yin to Yang, from darkness to light. Its colour is green.

Fire includes all things burning and rising: associated with red and the summer season, it is the ultimate expression of Yang because of its mobility, brightness, and heat.

Metal, the colour white, stands both for hardness and for the ability to be pliable and to transform oneself. Its corresponding season is autumn – the passage from Yang to Yin, from light to darkness which occurs as the qi of Heaven descends on Earth.

Water corresponds to the maximum expression of Yin – when darkness, cold, winter and black reach their highest point. The Five Elements (or Movements) should not be understood as passive and static substances but rather as dynamic forces engaged in a cyclic transformation.

First of all, the five elements interact through a ‘generating cycle’. Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth with its ashes. Earth bears Metal, Metal liquefies into Water. Water nourishes Wood. This ongoing cycle ensures creation and transformation in nature. In it, interaction occurs through two types of relationships – between the generating mother and her child and between the generated child and its mother.

The second way in which the five elements interact is the so-called ‘controlling’ cycle. It is necessary because any excesses in the generating cycle can cause damage to the five elements, whereas if they keep each other under control they stay in balance. Also called ‘grandparent-grandchild’ law, it establishes that every movement controls the second next element in the generation sequence and is in turn controlled by the second prior element. In other words, Wood controls Earth and Earth controls Water; Fire controls Metal and Metal controls Wood.

When there is a lack of coordination between the five elements, two imbalanced cycles occur. The first of them is the so-called ‘overacting’ cycle. Though elements interact in the same order as during the control cycle, they provide too much control. For example, an overactive Wood element cannot be controlled by Metal, thus causing Earth – the element usually controlled by Wood – to be disrupted.

Finally, there is the ‘insulting’ cycle. In this cycle, control occurs in a counterclockwise fashion. For example, the Blows of Metal naturally control Wood, but if the latter is too strong or if Metal is too weak, Wood takes a ‘revenge’ on Metal.

Each element is linked to an organ of the human body: Wood is linked to the Liver; Fire to the Heart; Earth to the Spleen-Pancreas; Metal to the Lungs; Water to the Kidneys.

A therapist should always bear in mind the interdependent relationships between organs and body functions, emotions, climate, the environment and seasons.

From this perspective, Chinese Medicine is a metaphorical science which aims at teaching us that we are part of nature. Each phenomenon corresponds to a season, a cardinal point, an energy from heaven, a natural mutation, a colour, a taste, a sound, an organ, an internal organ, a sense organ, a part of the body, an emotion, a secretion, an individual structure (see attached table).

In a psychological sense, it aims at helping individuals to recognize they are an integral part of a universal system, as well as to establish, maintain, and promote the integration of all aspects of such a system.

Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – F.Bottalo Rosa Brotzu – Edizioni Xenia
Medicina Cinese – Ted J. Kaptchuk – Red Edizioni – Original Title The Web that Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine, McGraw Hill Professional, USA, 2000
Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – M. Corradin C. Di Stanislao M. Parini Casa Editrice Ambrosiana
Elementi di Medicina Tradizionale Cinese – J.Schatz, C. Larre, E. Rochat De La Vallèe – Jaca Book, original Title Aperqus de modecine chinoise traditionelle, Maisonneuve, Paris, 1979


Wood Fire Earth Metal Water
Seasons Spring Summer Late Summer
Autumn Winter
Directions East South Centre West North
Cosmic Energies Wind Heat Humidity Dryness Cold
Mutations Birth Development
Colours Green/Blue Red Yellow White Black
Tastes Sour Bitter Sweet Pungent Salt
Sounds Xu He Hu Shi Chuei
Organs (Zang) Liver Heart/MC Spleen Lung Kidneys
Viscera (Fu) Biliary vesicle Intestine Small intestine
Triple Burner
Stomach Large intestine Bladder
Sense organs Eyes Tongue Mouth Nose Ears
Body parts Muscles
Blood vessels Flesh Skin/Hairs Bones
Bone marrow
Emotions Rage Joy Reflection
Sadness Fear
Secretions Tears Sweat Saliva Mucus (nasal) Dribble
Individual structure Dry
Active and warm Sweet, firm,