Science Explains Why POCA Patients Are So Nice and Why POCA Punks (mostly) Love Each Other

OK, this article and the research it describes don't actually say anything of the kind, and it's not about us or our patients. It discusses the opposite phenomenon, that having money makes people unpleasant. I'm totally extrapolating that the converse is true, and I know you can't do that in research. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating article, and it might in fact explain some things about the acupuncture profession as a whole.

“While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff says, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” from “The Money-Empathy Gap” by Lisa Miller in New York Magazine, 7/1/12.

And doesn't it make sense, if priming people to think about money causes their social interactions to become more selfish, that being in a context like a POCA clinic — where money is deliberately played down and set aside — might make people behave more selflessly? Read it — I bet it will make you say, “Ah- HA.”

Author: lisafer

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


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  1. The other aspect of this that interests me, one which, like Lisa’s, can only be extrapolated from study, is how if you’re taught to have these “selfish” qualities, then you also going to lose out, yourself. You lose community, connection to the rest of the world, the ability to make a positive difference to people around you other than with material resource. I’m interested in this because I’m interested in how babies don’t choose to be owning-class. So, there you are, a naturally loving young person getting taught to be isolated and oppressive. This is brutal to that young person, brutal enough that they might get good at being “an asshole” to others. What chance does this person have of escaping this? Well, not many people give away their money and join the rest of the world. That’s exactly what gets trained out of us in capitalism. BUt, occasionally, someone in this wildly over-simplified category of people make their way into community acupuncture. I’m not saying there’s any big dramatic enlightening that will result in this instance by virtue of having access to connection. But, it is one of many examples of how important it is that we hold space for a relatively level playing field where people get to spend time, pretty intimate time together, with our maladies and super-powers. My classism has me sometimes assuming someone, like someone who comes in talking about their boutique acupuncturist, is going to act entitled and take up more space/time that the clinic can afford. And, sometimes my stereotype bears out. But, sometimes, good stuff happens, where someone has the chance to turn down their “asshole”ness and join people.

  2. I remember reflecting on the punk side of this at the first CANference, cause folks were just so damn easy to get along with. It occurred to me that we are a group of people whose livelihoods depend on being able to very quickly connect with a large and diverse bunch of folks. It only makes sense that ‘punks would be able to make friends really quickly.

    I always figured POCA patients are just nice because they are some of the greatest folks ever.

  3. There have been international studies for many years now showing that one of the strongest factors on the happiness of people is income disparity. Countries where there isn’t much of a gap, people are much happier.

    I guess we should all be happy to see that this information has finally reached America; if only they would see it as a simple truth and not just dismiss it as more socialist nonsense (wink!).

    Everywhere could be so much better if kindness would replace politics, but I guess it explains the (mostly) in the title.

  4. “T. Byram Karasu, a psychiatrist at Albert Einstein/Montefiore Medical Center who treats wealthy clients, believes all very successful people share certain fundamental character traits. They have above-average intelligence, street smarts, and a high tolerance for anxiety. “They are sexual and aggressive,” he says. “They are also competitive with anyone and have no fear of confrontations; in fact, they thrive on them. And in contrast to their image, they are not extroverted. They become charmingly engaging when needed, but in their private world, they are private people.” ”

    Very interesting. Because this seems to describe many community acupuncturists I have met — above-average intelligence, street smarts, high tolerance for anxiety, competitive, have no fear of confrontations, not extroverted. Many CAists seem to have these traits of very successful people. But I don’t know about the ‘wealthy’ part. It’s success not based on wealth.

    David Villanueva
    Oasis CA
    Newark, CA

  5. My experience with wealthy people is so many of them have had it so easy they actually have a very low tolerance for anxiety and the difficulties life can throw. They’ve never had to struggle or worry about paying bills, so have little empathy for those that do. It just isn’t on their radar. Among my patients, it’s the wealthier ones that are less patient about getting results and least compliant. Working class people are used to working hard at everything, and will work hard to get better. They are also far more grateful for what CA has to offer than their wealthier counterparts.