Can Acupuncture Improve Self-Esteem?

Chinese acupuncture is an ancient form of healing which began in 12 BC. The Chinese had discovered a practice of identifying key pressure points in the body and when pressed with a needle could cause relief. Today acupuncture is very common practice for many of us. People go to acupuncture to relieve headaches, bodily aches and pains, as well as a way to deal with anxieties and depression. So why can’t acupuncture improve self-esteem?  I recently brought this topic up to an acupuncturist and she agreed. She stated that acupuncture would be valuable and helpful for teens with self-esteem issues due to the positioning of their chakras i.e. energy sources and their levels. Acupuncture would be able to rebalance them for maximum health quite easily because of their age. At a time when hormones are running wild, acupuncture may be able to regulate their mood for a more balanced and productive life. Therefor, they wouldn’t experience the emotional extremes during those already difficult years that wreak havoc on our self-esteem. When looking at it this way, acupuncture for teens kind of reminds me of  a car getting a tune-up. It takes less work to maintain a new car (i.e. younger body) than an older one and you get faster, long lasting results.

So, should we be sending our teens to acupuncturists?

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The Psychology Behind Self-Esteem

When understanding self-esteem, we have to first look at the psychology behind this concept. For this to happen, we must dive into developmental theory, which helps us design a conceptual framework for self-esteem.

For me, Erik Erikson’s (1963) Theory of Psychosocial Development does just that. He chronicled eight phases of human life exploring how physical changes and environment are linked to the development of self and identity.  He proposed the following stages of psychosocial development as occurring during one’s lifespan.

(a) Trust versus Mistrust

(b) Autonomy versus Shame and Doubt

(c) Initiative versus Guilt

(d) Industry versus Inferiority

(e) Identity versus Role Confusion

(f) Intimacy versus Isolation

(g) Generativity versus Stagnation

(h) Wisdom versus Despair

When looking at self-esteem, we must look at  the 4th stage of psychosocial development, which Erikson referred to as Industry vs. Inferiority as well as his 5th stage of psychosocial development he termed Identity vs. Role Confusion.

So….stage 4 begins at around age six.  This is the point in their life where your children enter school and learn the appropriate norms within a classroom.  They seek out approval from their peers and well as their teachers.  At this stage, children seek success in the form of good grades, mastering classroom directions and obedience.  Girls usually flourish during this stage academically and often develop a strong sense of self. However, during the later years of stage 4, (about age twelve) is when things get complicated.  At this age, many girls begin puberty and they start to develop more sophisticated views of themselves and the opposite sex. A shift in the way they see themselves and how they relate to one another begins to occur. This leads up to the complexities of stage 5.

Gradually, around the age of thirteen children enter stage five of development. According to Erikson, this is the critical period of development where unfortunately self-esteem declines for most adolescents, especially girls. Your child is now knee-deep in puberty, positioned halfway between childhood and adulthood and confused by the changing way they look, feel and think.  At this point, they are primarily concerned with fitting in with their peers and so they start to move away from mom and dad, stretching their independence. They want to make their own decisions at home. They start questioning the world as well as themselves all the while trying to discover a true sense of self.  In order for healthy self-esteem to grow, it’s important that this independence be permitted (obviously, within reason) and the journey encouraged by mom and dad.

Prevent Child Sexual Assault—be part of the solution

I learned this past weekend that a victim of child sexual assault has to tell at least 7 adults before he/she is believed. Why?  Because people can’t process the message and don’t want to believe.  A healthy brain isn’t wired to think in these terms especially in relation to a child.   An adult will attempt to reinterpret what the child is saying in a way that makes it less damaging/threatening for them to process. The child very quickly sees that the adult just doesn’t get it and moves on until he/she encounters another adult they feel safe enough with to tell.  This was both shocking and terrifying for me to learn.  As adults, please don’t be the problem, be part of the solution.  If a child tries to engage you in a conversation that you can tell they are both physically and emotionally struggling through, please stop and listen.

It seems that predators target kids with lower-self esteem the most and prey on those who lack strong identity and/or have a weaker social network.  Most disturbing for me was to learn that these predators can actually walk into a chat room, play ground, mall, etc., and can target these kids instantly, almost like radar.  We must protect.

Teach your kids to be aware of adult strangers that seem too interested in them too soon.

Dr. Michele Borba’s Reality Check is a great blog that provides tips, warning signs and workshops for parents and kids.