“All things change, nothing is extinguished. There is nothing in the whole world which is permanent. Everything flows onward: all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement.” Ovid
Each of us can no doubt think of a time when we have become stuck in our lives. Something happens which affects us so fundamentally that we are unable to move forward. We may not be aware of it, but over time we can start to adopt patterns of behaviour which only serve to cement us in that stuck place – in other words, we lose the flow of our lives and become closed to possibility, growth and change. Homeopathy can help release us from whatever is holding us back and it does so in the most gentle, non-invasive and therapeutic way.
The loss of a loved one
“There is no grief like the grief that does not speak” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Bereavement is a very common cause of people losing their way in life and becoming stuck in their grief. The Kubler-Ross model of grief sets out a progression of emotional states experienced by loved ones after a death: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. These states may be experienced chronologically, or in a different order and over a long period of time. Some of these emotional states may be more difficult to express than others, and this is where people can often become stuck. If we take as an example a bereaved parent, the emotions that first come to mind might be: shock; disbelief; sadness; depression. These words undoubtedly reflect the emotional state of many people who have recently been bereaved.
What might be less easily expressed or recognised is anger. Those who are bereaved may not find it easy to express their anger, for fear of how it may be received by others or that it is perhaps an unacceptable emotion in the circumstances. The bereaved mother may be feeling intense anger towards other parents who on the face of it, have what she has lost; at medical staff who she perhaps feels could have saved her child; at God; at herself; even at her child who has died. The discomfort of such emotions may be so strong that she suppresses them, and the anger is not released. Together with the shock and trauma of the event she becomes stuck and cannot move on in her journey of grief. Over time this stagnancy may manifest in an array of physical symptoms, for example – in the case of one patient – secondary amenorrhea and following on from that, secondary infertility. What had been unexpressed emotionally in grief had found its expression in physical symptoms. The conventional approach in cases such as these is often to induce ovulation using drugs, however this approach proved unsuccessful for the patient. Before embarking on the next stage of conventional treatment the patient decided to try an alternative approach and started homeopathic treatment.
The homeopath’s role is to identify where a patient’s energy is stuck, and what is preventing the vital force from flowing as it should. Shutting down emotionally and keeping things to ourselves can become a pattern and there may be several different layers that have built up over time to produce a picture of suppression and stagnancy. In the case of this patient, the shock and trauma of losing her child a year previously had caused the disturbance in her menstrual cycle. The remedy Opium was prescribed initially to deal with the shock and numbness of the loss – following on from this, Natrum Mur helped the patient release some of the grief she had not fully processed. Ignatia is often the first remedy to consider in the case of acute grief or loss, when the patient alternates between crying hysterically to holding in their feelings. For grief that is more deeply rooted (chronic), Natrum Mur is commonly indicated when the patient appears more closed, controlled and refined. The loss may have occurred some time ago, but it can still be felt intensely when it arises – for example when the person relates their story. Natrum Mur can help someone process grief that has never been fully expressed, and in doing so give them the freedom to move forward.
As this patient began to fully experience the first layer of grief (shock, disbelief, sadness), this paved the way for the next layer to manifest itself – in the form of anger. The remedy Staphysagria provided support to the patient throughout this phase. The typical Staphysagria personality is dignified and graceful on the outside, but inside there is a lot of anger and indignation that is withheld in order to maintain a dignified image. Those needing Staphysagria often recriminate themselves when they eventually explode with irritation – an inevitability if anger is consistently being suppressed. Staphysagria enabled this patient to express her anger, and to feel comfortable with being angry as a healthy human emotion. Over a period of six months the patient’s menstrual cycle returned and she was able to fall pregnant.
When someone is bereaved, it is possible for them to be trapped in a place of shock, trauma or anger for a long time – this patient had been stuck for over a year – but remedies can help us to properly process, that is, truly feel our emotions in grief so that we move past them more easily and have the strength to bear the next phase. When we feel tearful we cry; when anger erupts in us, we express it; when we feel the presence of the person who has died, we acknowledge it in whatever way feels right for us. In essence we are flowing with our emotions and the changes taking place within us, not stuck in them or trying to stifle them. For this patient the true diagnosis was not so much ‘secondary infertility’ but simply grief. Once her emotions were able to flow properly, her body also found its flow and was able to function normally again.
When our emotions are allowed their natural expression, we do not become stuck in grief or trauma. We have the possibility of a greater perspective on our experiences. When we are able to distance ourselves from the intense emotion of a bad experience, we can see it with fresh eyes. We may find that the experience has strengthened us, resulted in us re-evaluating our lives – our relationships, our values, who we really are. This is only possible if we have allowed ourselves to truly feel the intensity of the emotion when it occurred. Time does not always heal if we have ‘put a brave face on it’ and hidden our emotions.
Patterns of behaviour
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”. Haruki Murakami
The conversation between patient and homeopath can itself be an instrumental part of the patient’s healing process. At every consultation the unprejudiced observation is invaluable both for the homeopath in identifying the most appropriate remedy, but also for the patient in providing a new level of awareness. For example, we often repeat particular patterns of behaviour in our lives, even though circumstances may differ. The way we respond causes us to become stuck and unable to move past certain emotions. When we become aware of this tendency we have the choice to respond differently.
Let’s consider again the person who is bereaved; grief may be just the first layer of what needs to unfold for them to move forward. The real place of stagnancy may be somewhere else, in experiences further back in their life – perhaps something very hidden such as an abusive environment in childhood. This may only become apparent in the homeopathic consultation once the uppermost symptoms, such as grief, have been processed. There may have been several occasions in a person’s life where they felt trapped or stuck – as a child in an unhappy home; having controlling parents; in an unfulfilling job; having strained relationships with family or a partner. They may have become used to suppressing their feelings as a way of coping, or perhaps they did not grow up in an environment where sharing emotions was accepted and validated. When faced with grief, or indeed any traumatic experience, the natural response for such a person can therefore be to internalise their feelings, to be silent.
Someone who has suffered abuse or felt marginalised in their life may subconsciously seek out suffering, and not find it easy to experience joy in life – it is as if they are stuck in a place of suffering and low self-esteem. Remedies such as Medorrhinum and Thuja can help lift people out of this negative response pattern, bring clarity, and support them as they embark on a journey of discovery – of who they really are and that they have the power to choose their responses rather than them being dictated by previous experiences. Patients requiring Medorrhinum or Thuja may find change difficult, and it could take time before they are ready to address what lies at the root of their patterns of behaviour. Remedies such as Calcarea Carbonica and Pulsatilla can be supportive in this process.
We forget sometimes that we have a choice about how we respond to what happens to us. How we respond may be governed by what we feel others expect of us, and this can lead not just to an unhealthy balance in our relationships, but also the loss of our freedom and power as we become stuck in conforming to what is deemed normal. Homeopathy can enable us to respond differently and help us break the cycle of conformity. The remedy Carcinosin is a powerful catalyst in this process. The Carcinosin personality has a tendency to give power and control to others, and in doing so loses sight of their own needs. The remedy enables people to reconnect with their own power, to be more confident in asserting themselves in what is right for them. Sometimes it’s a case of learning to say no when we have always said yes – if ‘yes’ has in the past been more of a habit or a learned behaviour than a conscious choice, having the confidence to say no can be very liberating. When decisions come from our inner selves rather than from how we will be judged, we are freely opening ourselves up to possibility and growth, and we are less at risk of feeling trapped in our lives.
Anxiety is a very common cause of people becoming stuck in their lives, and unable to embrace change and opportunities. For some it can be utterly paralysing and prevent them from making decisions on a daily basis, either big or small. Homeopathy can help both with the acute state of anxiety when it hits – Aconite, Arsenicum and Argentum Nitricum (among others) are well indicated remedies here – but it can also help address the underlying cause of anxiety which is key to achieving long-lasting cure. If we address the root cause of our anxiety, its influence on our behaviour is reduced.
Anxiety can stem from a lack of confidence in our own ability, knowledge or experience. In those who are natural ‘people pleasers’ this can be crippling, as it is impossible to please everyone. The remedy Carcinosin can be instrumental in helping to restore a person’s self-confidence, enabling them to make pro-active decisions for themselves rather than others. It can also help us learn to accept ‘good enough’ rather than ‘perfect’ in the outcomes of our decisions. Anxiety may also stem from past events – grief or a traumatic experience can leave us worried about history repeating itself. Being left by a partner for example, could make someone feel anxious about embarking on new relationships. If the emotions around the original abandonment are not fully expressed or processed, they can get in the way of future opportunities. Remedies such as Natrum Mur, Pulsatilla and Staphysagria can be helpful in addressing the underlying cause.
The homeopath’s flow
Homeopathy is a wonderful medicine that can support people in recognising their full potential and rediscovering their flow. It is an important concept for homeopaths themselves to bear in mind. As we prescribe remedies to help release our patients from wherever they have become stuck in their lives, we must be careful not to become stuck ourselves. Clinical experience is obviously invaluable, but we must have fresh eyes for every patient that walks through our door and not assume a case will go the same way as any other. Liaising regularly with other homeopaths can give us a different perspective and keep things flowing in our practice.
There is a certain arrogance in the assumption that homeopathy is a cure-all for everyone – it may be of course, but if we are advocates of a holistic approach to health and healing, we will serve our patients well to recognise the value of other holistic therapies and be open to learning. Hypnotherapy, counselling, reflexology and acupuncture are some examples of therapies which can work alongside homeopathy in restoring a patient’s health. Remembering of course to maintain our own flow through homeopathic treatment and /or other therapies is essential in ensuring we are in an optimum position to facilitate the healing of others.