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An Alternative to Big Pharm: A Mental Health Journey With Classical Homeopathy

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And, truth be told, that vow had served him well in many ways. It allowed him to grow up in a tough neighborhood, compartmentalize the grief of losing his father, and become an outstanding police officer with a clear sense of valor and unwavering integrity. However, his vow was an enormous obstacle to intimacy.

A remedy opens the way

After the first dose of the remedy Natrum muriaticum, real movement began: Keith developed several colds and a couple of rather annoying acne outbreaks, which he loathed (sometimes a well-acting remedy can bring back old symptoms, but in a more minor way). But most importantly, his relationship with his wife changed.

Natrum muriaticum can treat retention in both the physical and emotional sense and is known for addressing a denial of deeply held emotions and what we colloquially call the "stiff upper lip." Even though someone who needs Natrum muriaticum can appear quite carefree, this is often a posture they use to mask inner pain. They bear great suffering and harbor a deep longing for love, but they dare not ask for help or companionship because, in their experience, what is loved is nearly always lost. In vowing not to cry, Keith had adopted the mantra of people who need Natrum muriaticum: "I will never hurt like this again."

The problem with vows when they are made unconsciously in critical situations is that while they may work in the moment, they do not always serve us long-term. It is impossible to love and avoid pain. But hurting, frightened little boys don't know this and can't prepare for it.

Keith's Natrum muriaticum did its work slowly and subtly. At first he barely noticed any changes except for the nasty cold he got, which he was not nearly as happy about as I was, because I have often seen this kind of thing happen when a remedy is beginning its work. Soon, though, he found himself hanging around the kitchen as his wife was cooking, helping a bit with this and that, instead of sequestering himself with a scotch and a book. After a while, their sex life was revived. They started going out together, and he thought there might be hope in saving his marriage. Finally, most importantly, he began to talk about the pain and fear that had been locked away inside him for decades. He wept. He ranted. And finally, he released.

The vow is not only where the road gets bent, but the wound that needs to be healed. Every event brings us a potential lesson. How we interpret it determines how we proceed from there. In this case, the terrified boy's promise--"I will not cry"--had to be erased and rewritten with the hands and heart of a grown man.

Revelations in the fullness of time

Because of the nature of my work, I sometimes have the luxury of waiting weeks to suggest the first remedy. In the meantime, I work in the ways I was trained as a social worker and crisis counselor, using cognitive behavioral techniques, trauma treatment, or hypnosis. While the truth gets revealed in the fullness of time, it is also essential that the questions--the right questions--are asked.

For instance, a beautiful young woman I'll call Ruth came to me complaining  of "depression." She was constantly "sad" and weeping. Her sadness was worst at night, and on waking in the morning she felt despair engulf her. She was isolated. Though bright, attractive, and superficially friendly, she had no boyfriend or close friends. She smoked pot nearly every day and associated with people she didn't like at all. She danced and felt better from it and was fairly competitive. She liked being "spectacular," she said. She was somewhat haughty and held deep grudges.

Ruth's story took approximately two months to unfold to me. Her sadness had a very clear starting point: it began when her father suddenly declared his love for another woman and left Ruth's mother and her children without an income. His behavior and rejection caused them to lose their home, which Ruth loved. Whenever asked to clarify the "sadness," she spoke about this home and her longing to be very little again.

During the first few months of our sessions, the mental and general symptoms that Ruth revealed were not unusual or individualized enough to help me find a homeopathic remedy. And her physical symptoms were nearly non-existent.

 A vow of homesickness

Eventually, I gave Ruth the remedy Carcinosin because it seemed to fit her symptoms of chronic grief and desire to dance. The remedy affected her--she slowly stopped smoking pot and seemed more generally centered--but these results were not nearly as good as I had hoped. After several months, Ruth's progress stopped despite repetition of the remedy. She was still sad, angry, resentful, and despairing. I was confused. I had been so sure about the Carcinosin. What was I missing?

I had to step back and think: What really was Ruth's vow? What had she told herself? And perhaps more to the point: what had she told me that I had missed? Sometimes when I get to a point like this in a case, it helps to actually spread out my notes on a table and look at every page, then at the whole gestalt, looking for repeated words or expressions. That's when I saw it. It wasn't just grief. She -wasn't just mourning a loss. She was in the loss. She was like a bee in amber, frozen in time. What she talked about--all she talked about - really--was her home, her home, her home.

So I asked her, "What is it you tell yourself when you get sad like that?" Ruth answered in a whisper so plaintive, "I can never go home." She wept for nearly 15 minutes. Her "vow" was an erroneous belief formed when she was a young child in the grip of a broken heart. She lost her home when her father left and she (mistakenly) decided she could never replace it. Thus, when the opportunities for intimacy that felt like "home" were made available--a good boyfriend or a sense of belonging or good friends--she failed to take them. She either chose people who were unavailable or she simply avoided relationships altogether. She never allowed herself to feel at home.

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Judith Acosta, LISW, CHT is a licensed psychotherapist and clinical homeopath in private practice in Placitas and Albuquerque. Her areas of specialization include the treatment of anxiety, depression, and trauma. She has appeared on both television (more...)
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