For the sake of my bank account analogy, all of the resources you have in your body equates to money in your very own personal bank account. Some folks might translate this “money” as energy, nutrients, vitality, health or resilience, or (if you’re an acupuncturist like me) qi, blood, yin and yang - whatever you call it, this “money” is the good stuff that allows you to live well and be healthy (or not). Like an actual financial bank account, each person’s energetic bank account is influenced by a set number of things… The first is your starting balance.
We all open our accounts with a different amount of money - this is to say we all start with different constitutions. Some people begin with robust constitutions - they come from families of strapping, virile stock - have ancestors who were fertile, prolific, and who lived to be independent 90-year-olds despite years of hard labor and stressful life events. People with strong starting balances had mother's who were able to carry them to term and had pregnancies with no major complications. This type of person begins life with the equivalent of a trust fund. Trust fund infants and children are likely to be developmentally on track (or even ahead of their peers), teethe early, rarely get sick, recover easily, have little to no allergies, digestive issues, asthma or other health concerns, are full of energy, have strong teeth and bones, and are also emotionally balanced and not timid (this is an actual sign in TCM!). There are plenty of ways you can deplete your starting balance as you age, so the best assessment of your starting balance is through looking at your infancy/younger years alone. If you are reading this and relate to having a strong constitution, congratulations! A big starting balance will help you have a bigger buffer in life, age less quickly, and enjoy a high quality of life (unless you squander it… much more on this to come). The down side of having a big starting balance is that you can often get away with neglecting your health and seem to suffer little or no immediate consequences (eventually it will catch up).
On the other side of the spectrum are those who begin life with weak constitutions - perhaps they were born prematurely and didn’t get enough time to fully establish their starting balance or couldn’t receive due to maternal infection or placental dysfunction, perhaps their parents didn’t have as much to give to them because they were low on their own funds for one reason or another and didn’t have as much to pass along. Their parents and grandparents may have had fertility struggles, issues with chronic health concerns, or even died prematurely. These people start in a deficit. They may be developmentally delayed (sometimes subtlely sometime obviously), teethe late, are prone to illness, allergies, asthma, and digestive problems, are fearful, and struggle to have robust health. These are the people who seem to suffer despite taking better care of themselves than their peers and who need to be more aware and proactive to be healthy. It is hard and completely unfair to be born with a puny starting balance, but it is helpful to realize when you have one because it can help you make sense of your struggles and know how and why you need to work at keeping your bank account built back up in other ways. It can be empowering, (if not frustrating too)!
Of course, most of us are somewhere in between deficit and trust fund.
Whatever your particular history illuminates about your own starting balance, your starting balance is hugely important, because, like an actual bank account, your starting balance is your backup reserves and safety net. As you go through life, if you have trouble with some of the other areas I'll be discussing in coming weeks (your income, budget & investment choices to name a few…) your starting balance will either keep you afloat or lead to financial woes. This can be the difference between maintaining a good quality of life, and feeling sick, "old," or run down.
So, in summary: Take a look at your family history as well as your own gestation, infancy, and early childhood to get a good idea of the strength of your starting balance. Specific questions you might think about include:
Around the time I was conceived, did my parents have significant health issues or were they run down from having lots of previous children?
Did my parents or grandparents have significant fertility issues?
Did my parents and grandparents age prematurely?
Was my mother's pregnancy with me difficult?
Was I born early?
Did I have any developmental delays as an infant or young child?
Did I have frequent illnesses, digestive problems, asthma or allergies as an infant or young child?
Do I seem to break bones easily?
Do I currently show signs of early aging (premature grey hair, knee and/or lower back pain with overuse, memory loss, diminished hearing or vision, early menopause, frequent urination or night time urinary frequency)?
If the answers to these questions is by and large yes, your starting balance is low. If they are mostly no, your starting balance is high.
Up next… Part III Income - Eating, Breathing and your Bank Account