Double Take

'When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you – George Harrison


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Nature vs Nurture

Published in the Society of Homeopaths Journal, Spring 2012
Double Take by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

RJR
Was Lionel Shriver’s Kevin born a psychopath or was his parenting a strong contributory factor?

When we reflect on our own lives, how much do we honestly blame our parents for our issues, our stuckness and how we are in the world? Are we parenting our own children in spite and in opposition of how we were parented ourselves or do we consider our parents to be good role models and are consequently continuing in their flow?

How much do we judge the parents who sit before us in clinic when their conditioning differs from ours? Are we able to be the unprejudiced observer when a child is smacked, for example, if we are not raising our own children with that style of discipline? How do we feel if a child is punching or kicking his mother? By just bearing witness are we quietly condoning their behaviour? Do we find ourselves sympathising with the younger of two siblings if they are being bullied by the elder, if it touches a deep unhealed or perhaps even unknown wound in ourselves? We have all been affected by our upbringing and our aim as homeopaths is to be self aware and clear enough about our own individual conditioning to be clear in clinic.

As homeopaths we are in a privileged position to have the opportunity to create change in our patients’ lives. This potential is increased substantially when we are working with young children and their parents. Their journey is just beginning and can be influenced not only by our prescriptions but by what goes on and how we subtly respond to it in the clinic setting.

My experience working with families with children and ‘their’ behavioural issues is that the underlying problem sits within the family and is being projected on to the child. Bringing a child to see us can be a form of scapegoating. After all it is easier for someone else to have a problem than take responsibility for it ourselves. Systemic family therapy encourages us to view the family as a whole even in cases of anorexia, schizophrenia or other personality disorders. It is useful to approach families holding this in mind and to have an eye on the dynamics occurring between parent and child in the room, as this is often where we can find the centre of a child’s case.

But is a remedy capable of being a cure all? Will the family heal its trauma by the child receiving an indicated remedy, even when their dynamics are taken into consideration when prescribing? Is it our place and part of our role to point out any familial obstacles to cure that we observe when our patients are with us?

My belief, having worked with many families, is that there is a diplomatic way to bring parenting issues to the attention of a mother or father without making the parent feel judged as a consequence. It is important to hold an open and trusting space where we are approachable, wise and honest, so that both parent and child feels safe and able to be themselves and bring forth what needs to be treated. But in that space of trust, I often feel there is an underlying unspoken request by the parent to whomever they are consulting, for their lives to be made easier. They do not have the answers they need and they are searching for them.

I feel it is a wasted opportunity if we do not offer some guidance when we see a dynamic that may benefit from a slight shift, as the ‘nurturing’ by some parents can inadvertently create the state that needs treating within a child. How often do we see a Sepia mother forsaking her child creating in them a Pulsatilla state? And how often do we see the reverse too, a needy child bringing out Chocolate tendencies in their parent?

We know that even a foetus can have issues with nurturing. They can feel insecure from their time in the womb or traumatised from their birth process. These experiences are beyond their nature and are in the realm of nurture, so much so that it might shift them out of one remedy state and into another. A babe who might have been destined to be a Calc Carb could adopt a shocked and fearful Stramonium state as a result of an emergency C-section, and who knows what state this might trigger for the parent.

Incidentally, how we nurture our patients is influenced by how we were nurtured when we originally learned to be homeopaths. If we were role modelled supportive, long term holistic treatment to create deep and profound change in our patients, then it is more likely that we will follow that approach with our patients. It is one way of creating a busy, fruitful and fulfilling living as a homeopath, and as a result the benefits work both ways.

NS
The flipside of nurture is supposed to be nature. But what is the true nature of ourselves and our patients? Perhaps we have all had so much nurture that we can’t actually answer that question any more. It’s all very well to talk about the effect of the nurturing/conditioning perpetrated on us by our parents (variations of which we perpetrate on our children), but all human beings are the results of thousands upon thousands of years of nurturing/conditioning — by culture, creed, religion, family, philosophy… And that’s before we add on for good measure what the media, the politicians, the advertisers and the multinationals have done to us. How does the practitioner find the true nature of themselves and their patients in the midst of all this?

The therapist — even one enlightened enough to be able to operate as an unprejudiced observer – can only scratch the surface, and any real change in the patient will be superficial. Perhaps deep change can only come about when the nurturing of millennia is cut through. But how can that be done, and does homeopathy have a role to play?

Homeopaths are well used to dealing with “delusions”. The ultimate delusions of humans are those of “self”, “selfishness” and “self-preservation”. The human brain did long ago what the computer HAL appeared to do in 2001; A Space Odyssey: the ability to think created the delusion that “the self” exists, that this “self” is central to existence, and that it must be protected at all costs in the hope of survival.

This “self” delusion is primitive stuff. When people say human nature will never change, they actually mean this delusion won’t ever change. But can we work on the basis that real human nature is still there, even if it is buried deep?

As homeopaths, we know that sometimes near-miraculous changes can come about. Many things that have been done can be undone. But we also know of the power of “maintaining causes” — of which the most powerful must be the world we live in and which flows in and out of us.

Do we need a new kind of “selfishness” — a “true nurturing” of ourselves which destroys the self created by the “false nurturing” of conditioning?  For, in nature, there are no individuals and there is no self.

As patients, homeopaths, humans, we do not know our true nature. But there must always be the chance that it will be revealed. In crude terms, there could be a return to “Eden”; a state in which love overrides thought.

Such a transformation of the human being can only come about from within. But surely homeopathy can play a part — however small — in enabling the patient to come closer to that transformation.

Ultimately, we might equate nature with god/truth, and nurture with the delusions of humanity that go against nature. Homeopathy — using nothing but the energies of nature — could be part of a revelation.

RJR/NS
Our conclusion is . . . difficult . . . but despite the fact it is easy to be pessimistic, maybe there is optimism that homeopathy is one of the best therapies equipped to help the evolution or perhaps more properly devolution of the human being. Just as the remedy stimulates the body in its efforts to heal itself, then perhaps homeopathy stimulates the life force, the opening of heart/mind, the seeing of true nature (as Hahnemann says in the Organon, “the reasoning spirit who inhabits the organism can thus freely use this healthy living instrument to reach the higher purpose of human existence”).

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‘Friends say I am in an abusive relationship…’

Q
All my friends tell me that I am in an “abusive relationship”, but I think they are wrong and they just don’t understand. I love my partner because he is deeply caring towards me, as well as being a wonderful lover and companion. He is also extremely intelligent and creative and generous. His downside is that he is prone to sudden mood swings and has a violent temper. He has never hit me – although, if I am honest, I suppose sometimes I have been frightened that he might do so – but he does shout at me and sometimes uses quite horrible language. As I say, I love him and feel that I understand him, and when things are good between us, they are really good. Is there anything that I can do to avoid provoking him (he often loses his temper because I have said something that he doesn’t agree with) or, more importantly, to help him stop behaving like this?

RJR
My feeling is that even though we all adapt our behavior sometimes within a relationship, to handle each other when we are out of balance, it is useful to really identify what is ours and what are our partner’s issues and whose responsibility it is in any given situation to step back or step up. For you to feel you have to avoid provoking your partner into anger, for me feels like you are taking on too much responsibility. I can understand your compassion, your love and your understanding for your partner, but I am also hearing your fear and your tendency for him to take advantage of your good nature at times. You can’t stop him behaving in any particular way. That will be his choice and is his responsibility. You can examine your role in the relationship, as you are, and ask yourself what advice you would give a friend if this were their scenario.

NS
Do your friends say that you deserve something better than this? I’d be surprised if they don’t. You sound willing to take responsibility for your partner’s lapses into abusive behaviour (yes, that is what this seems to be) and you want to see what you can do to prevent it happening. Shouldn’t your partner be the one looking into stopping this happening? Fear of being assaulted (verbally or physically) should not be part of a loving relationship, and I am sure that you know that. Look at whether you are having to sacrifice too much of yourself in this relationship. And look at whether you are selling yourself short.

RJR/NS
The key really does seem to be to step back and ask what you would say to a friend who was in this position. And also to look at whether you love your partner or whether you love only part of them (or an idea of them that you have). And are you being treated with love and respect? When you are able to answer these questions clearly and honestly, you should see a course of action. When you are able to, try to talk (or write) to your partner to spell out how you see things and how you feel. Your situation does not seem to be a happy one, and so you need it to change in some way. In the end, only you can find that way, through truthful reflection.