Since the time of Descartes (1596-1650), Western culture has viewed the mind/body as separate from each other. This was due to the conflict between the Catholic Church and newly emerging scientists (Galileo etc) who were exploring what had always been the domain of religion—God’s creation. Gradually, religious leaders and scientists found a compromise: science would study the world we can see, weigh and measure; and religion would continue its expertise in all areas related to the less physical realms such as thought-belief-feeling.
Little did those 17th century thinkers realize that this political compromise would lead to the mind-body split which has persisted into the 21st century. The paradigm of the mind being “spiritual” and the body being “material” is one that has had less than positive results for us all. In Western psychology, the ultimate “science of the mind,” we have tended to examine the psyche in some isolation from the rest of the body; just as medicine has examined various illnesses as localized to a certain portion of the body.
Often the mind has been conceptualized as what goes on in our heads, our brain—and the body is the “rest of us. “ Of course we “know” that the mind-brain cannot be divided up. As the public’s awareness of neurotransmitters has grown, most of us, be we scientists or not, know that 130 or so chemicals allow us to do, think and act in every circumstance of our lives. Oddly enough there is still the perception that these neurotransmitters reside only in our heads. However, they reside in every part of our bodies as a neurotransmitter communication and control system. They are our internal internet.
Over the past 30 years, the emerging science of neuroimmunology has demonstrated the total interrelatedness of that which we once artificially divided into two spheres-our mind and our body. Candace Pert, PhD. one of the neuroscientists who helped identify the opiate receptor sites within our neurotransmitic (biochemical) system, writes of the body-mind: “The body IS the unconscious mind.” (p.141, Molecules of Emotion, 1997, Scribner,N.Y.) With her work, aspects of what we used to think of as brain function actually are found throughout the entire body.
Mind then is not just what happens within the brain, but that total process the entire body participates in. We know this intuitively. When we are ill, we feel down, discouraged, not fully “ourselves.” We know that how we think and interpret a situation can impact how our body responds. If we hear a noise and interpret it as an intruder our body reacts differently than if we interrupt it as the arrival of a loved one. Our day to day experience demonstrates just how interconnected the mind-body is. Homeopathic-psychotherapy then honors this interconnection. As we explore the psychological-spiritual dimensions of ourselves, we also pay attention to the physical-material dimensions and attend to both. We do this in two ways.
The psychotherapeutic approach explores the feeling states, cognitive styles and behavioral responses and strategies. It may examine relationship, history, development, patterns and responses. It helps us recognize our personal mind-body states, identify them, and cope with them, change or reconcile with them. We might use strategies of remembering, talking about, examining, practicing, grieving—all of those approaches which allow for exploration, understanding, reconciliation and recovery.
The second approach is the homeopathic approach. Homeopathy was an approach to healing the mind-body that has its roots in the work of Hippocrates and other healers throughout the centuries who recognized that “like cures like.” In the 18th century, Samuel Hahnemann M.D. (1755 -1843) developed this principle into a systematic approach to healing. It is based on the principle that “like cures like”, which means that a substance capable of producing certain effects when taken by a healthy person is also capable of curing an illness that displays similar effects, irrespective of the name of the disease.
For example, if a healthy person is peeling an onion and having the fumes impact his/her eyes and nose, s/he will develop a runny nose, burning eyes, and sneezing. Sounds like an allergic reaction. If someone having an allergic reaction and manifesting these symptoms took Allium Cepa (onion) in a homeopathic dose these symptoms would abate. Like cures like – the substance from nature which can cause these symptoms can act as a healing agent when we manifest those same symptoms.
There are over 3000 homeopathic remedies. Each remedy comes from something in nature: animal-vegetable or mineral kingdoms. Homeopathic remedies are not herbal. In herbal medicine we take a dose of the medicine by ingesting ground up quantities of the plant itself-roots-leaves-stem or flower-depending upon which part of the plant is medicinal. The unusual aspect of homeopathic remedies is that they are diluted to dramatically small levels! A metaphoric example of a dose of a homeopathic remedy would be if we took one sliver of onion and dissolved it in the Atlantic Ocean and then took one drop of the ocean. How can such a small dose do anything?
Hahnemann believed that symptoms developed because of a jarring of our life energy, our vital force. This jarring might be a fall, an accident, a trauma or a change in our natural immune system which typically allows us to ward off illness and be able to maintain health and balance.
To rebalance our own energetic immune system, the total mind-body of the person (remember that mind body split) needed something. Hahnemann looked to nature to see what in the nature world if taken as a material dose would cause the same symptoms this person was currently experiencing. Like cures like.
The person’s mind-body needed an extra sometime to rebalance. The mind-body expresses this need by developing symptoms within the body to signal that need.
This need for an additional energetic input could be caused by anything that depletes our energy: grief-stress-injury-emotional upset-spiritual distress. Actually, anything having what we would call a psychological impact might cause the body aspect of the mind-body to respond by producing symptoms. The ingestion of a minuscule amount of that needed energy substance within a homeopathic remedy would help our mind-bodies readjust. Modern homeopaths often look toward quantum physics, the aspect of physics, which studies subatomic particles and their interactions, to explain how so small a substance might impact the entire person. It is a mechanism not fully understood, but then again we don’t fully understand how aspirin works. We are simply more familiar with it and don’t even question its usefulness.
Each homeopathic remedy has mental, emotional as well as physical symptoms associated with it. Thus when using a homeopathic-psychotherapeutic approach, you and your therapist will identify the symptom picture of your entire mind-body. Questions about your feelings, moods, and emotional states are considered, as are questions about how you sleep, what types of dreams you have, food cravings, likes and dislikes, general states of being hurried or relaxed , body temperatures, weather preferences and any specific physical symptoms which are part and parcel of who you are. If you are given a remedy it will correspond to your entire mind-body.
Homeopathy and psychotherapy together can open a door for you to a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life. It has the potential for producing more than just improvements in your physical health, and may be the beginning of a process of transformation. Anxiety, depression, grief, phobias and other mental issues can be addressed in a gentle, supportive and effective manner, often avoiding or reducing the use of psychotropic drugs. Homeopathic-psychotherapy can help you recover your soul, your wholeness.
It is useful to remember that if one had a broken leg, a cast would help and homeopathy could speed the recovery—it is the mind-body which actually does the healing, producing the changes in body chemistry to heal and repair broken bones. Similarly, sometimes the “cast” of psychiatric medications can support the neurotransmitter system as it mends and repairs. Homeopathy can assist as well in speeding up the repair process. We find that some psychological injuries can be fully healed with homeopathy and some need homeopathy and psychotropic meds. Typically what we see is a faster healing and a more sustained one if homeopathy is included in the treatment.
As you experience the benefits of homeopathy/therapy, you are likely to experience more energy, to have a clearer memory and more balanced emotions. You may “feel like yourself again”. You may begin to respond in new ways to others around you. You may find you are more tolerant of people who used to irritate you; you may find yourself standing up to those whom you used to let dominate you. Your relationships may start to shift as your internal patterns change. You may start to feel stronger and less dependent. This may be disconcerting to those around you and it is good to let those around you know that you are going through a healing process and that you may be making some changes that may surprise them.
Homeopathic remedies are not, however, magic. Together with psychotherapy, they can support your body/mind in a process of reclaiming your health, and changing habits that have kept you stuck. It is a process, a movement of going toward healing and wholeness. Therapy, together with the correctly selected remedy, can support you in that process, helping you understand and hold on to the insights and changes you are making, encourage you through the ups and downs of the process, help you to find the solutions that work in your life. This doesn’t happen overnight, it is a flowing, changing process. Give yourself, and the process, time.
Homeopathy approaches the person as a whole. There is no particular remedy for a particular disease, or psychological state but there is a remedy for the person with a certain set of symptoms. All the symptoms taken together, point to a remedy. This remedy, in its original form, would cause this sequence of symptoms if taken by a healthy person. As the present problem is important so is the history of the person and all important events in the person’s history are taken into account. It is important for the homeopath to understand your physical, mental and emotional state in a very deep way. Disease is a continually evolving process, so it is important to know its roots in your life.
HOW DO THE REMEDIES WORK?
You may notice an immediate response to your remedy, a gradual response, or no response at all. After taking a remedy you may also notice an “aggravation” of your symptoms – a brief period where you feel worse. Most aggravations last from a few hours to a few weeks. This is a normal part of the treatment and usually means that the correct remedy has been given. However, not everyone has an aggravation and the lack of one does not mean there is no progress.
Symptoms from the past may begin to reappear but briefly. This is like the body remembering, then repairing an old illness. This is a good thing, like pulling the weeds out of your garden, and curing the roots of your disease. This process may continue until all the layers, back to your childhood and even hereditary dispositions are healed.
The correctly chosen remedy works slowly and gently. Sometimes you may not even notice that you are changing. But when you are asked about the original complaints you had, you may notice that they are no longer there. After taking a remedy it may be helpful to keep a journal of changes you notice and dreams that you have. Remember that it took a long time to develop all the symptoms that you have and the nervous system can only change at its own pace – and cannot be hurried.
Homeopathic-psychotherapy can open the door to a healthier and happier life, as career, relationships and health are all open to change. Homeopathy cannot prevent tragedy or problems and crises in your life but it can support you in dealing with them in the most effective and healthiest manner possible. The best way to use homeopathy is in combination with a loving attitude toward yourself, and a healthy lifestyle. We hope to be able to help you to create this in your life.