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

Leave a comment

Nature vs Nurture

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

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.

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.

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”).


Leave a comment

It Doesn’t Just Happen To Us

Rowena J Ronson takes a comprehensive look at cancer, health and the importance of what we can do for ourselves…

When a cancer diagnosis is given to us, it is most likely to be a tremendous shock. Even if we have been having undiagnosed symptoms for a while, and have visited our doctor several times over a period of months and have been told not to worry; even if we have been referred to a few specialists who have come up with nothing – our first reaction is mostly and unequivocally, shock. The fall from denial to awareness is shocking indeed.

Our second reaction is fear. Fear of the unknown, of the loss of the delusion of certainty that we thought we had, the aloneness of it all. And in our blind panic, our independence and choice are taken from us as we are admitted and filtered, as swiftly as possible, through the system. We can lose our dignity, our identity, our self-belief and our power, and for many this process is never questioned.

A common and also very limiting mindset is that our health is not in our control. It is not something to take responsibility for or to learn about. The doctors have the answers for us, and who are we to be well informed and query their authority? For many, this paternalistic medical model appeals. It is easier to accept answers than ask questions. It is more comfortable to feel protected from knowledge, than attempt to understand why we are ill and what we can do ourselves, to take responsibility to recover our own health.

Many will never be aware of their prognosis (the likely progression of their disease), by choice, and will prefer to live and die that way, even if the prognosis is positive. And for some, the choice is taken out of their hands, and the doctors will hold back the information, for, in their opinion, the good of the patient and their family. And many will not be aware of their choices of treatment, and how effective conventional treatment is or isn’t for their particular cancer.

Those who do question the system, might do so when first visiting their GP with new symptoms, and being listened to for a few minutes and then prescribed the current first-line medication that seems to fit their symptoms generally enough, in the hope that it will do the trick and sort them out. In an exhausted and exhausting profession, where protocol is followed to the letter, a curious, independent patient is more ‘heartsink’ from the GP’s perspective than we realise. Their response can be defensive, aggressive, judgmental and hostile, leaving the patient angry, unacknowledged, unsupported and dismissed. And the dynamic can get in the way of a swift and appropriate diagnosis.

Many cancer patients will talk of frequent unfulfilling visits to their doctors, repeated prescriptions of toxic, immune-suppressing medication, and a period in a frustrating and worrying no man’s land, until their symptoms worsened enough to produce a recognisable disease picture.

In fact, aren’t we taught to suppress symptoms with painkillers, steroids and antibiotics, rather than question why we have these signs in the first place? When we are in discomfort or pain, our body is attempting to tell us something is wrong. Instead of seeing our symptom as a message from our body that we are out of balance and need attention, we ignore these signs at best; at worst we suppress them with the wrong medicine, and push our imbalance deeper into our system.

Once in the medical system, as a cancer patient, it is all the more challenging to challenge. Many patients report feeling bullied by nurses and doctors if they question their treatment. Most are open to operations, but some query the need or effectiveness of radiotherapy, chemotherapy or ongoing hormone therapy. There does not seem to be an environment where it is safe to question without prejudice or ask for alternatives and choice from someone who really does understand that there are alternatives and patients are entitled to choice.

And way before we become ill, we might think we are following a healthy diet and taking care of ourselves as long as we are eating our ‘five a day’. After all, this is the only guidance we have been given. But because of advertising and conditioning, most of us see sugary food as treats that we deserve rather than the poisons they are. Most of us do not have a clue what a healthy diet consists of and we are completely brainwashed by television and manipulated by supermarkets, on behalf of the food industry, to buy and eat food that has no real goodness at all. The medical profession does not seem to recognise a link between good nutrition and disease prevention, in fact, all research connecting sugar and cancer is ignored, resulting in doctors advising patients already diagnosed with cancer to gain weight by eating sugar.

And sugar is not the only cause for malnutrition and malabsorption of the vital minerals and vitamins we do need to be and stay healthy. Unless we are as mindful as detectives, the unhealthy and often hidden culprits in food, which is labelled to mislead, can and will actually stop us absorbing the goodness from the healthy food we do manage to eat.

Not only do we ignore and suppress symptoms on a physical and physiological level, we also do not listen to ourselves mentally, emotionally and psychologically. Our physical symptoms are often caused by stress and its impact on our mind and hormones, and we then manifest our dis-ease physically in our bodies. But we live in an era where enough is never enough. We push ourselves beyond our limits, to forever achieve more and feel less; to overthink and never just be; to be in touch with everyone else to the detriment of being in touch with ourselves; to never be present, but have a buried past and a fantasy future.

And consequently and inevitably, our dis-ease becomes us. We take it on and we take it in. Our outer struggle internalises and seeks refuge in our inner being and creates temporary equilibrium, a coping mechanism, until it can cope no more. And then it sends us little messages, which we are, unfortunately, taught to ignore.

With all of this in mind, here are some useful guidelines for ways to stay healthy and prevent dis-ease:

For how to nourish yourself
Get to know yourself mentally, emotionally and physically, and understand your needs as an individual and how to take care of yourself so you can stay in balance and healthy (reflective journal writing can help).
Look for natural ways (for example, yoga, homeopathy, massage, nutrition) to take care of yourself and give yourself support you when you are out of balance.
Find a way of relaxing for your mind and body, which you enjoy and value, and practise it regularly in order to de-stress yourself (for example, meditation, Pilates, yoga, walking in nature, being creative). Hormones adrenaline and cortisol, are over stimulated by stress which includes just rushing around and eating on the go.
Find a form of exercise for your chemical balance and your body, which you enjoy and can practise because you want to, (for example, yoga).
Be mindful of the food you eat and drink, and what substances turn on the addictive part of your brain, which makes you use them despite knowing their detrimental effect on your health short-term and long-term (for example, sugar, aspartame, tobacco, alcohol, drugs (recreational, over-the-counter and prescription).

For the support you seek outside of yourself
Find a GP who is open-minded, understands you and your needs and supports you in your choice to question and have an opinion on your health.
Find a holistic practitioner (a homeopath, nutritionist, acupuncturist, herbalist or other alternative medicine therapist who will view your health holistically) with whom you can build a relationship and trust, and who will help you mentally, emotionally and physically as the whole person you are, with natural, non-suppressive remedies and/or approaches.
Avoid taking medications (over-the-counter and prescription) that you have not fully researched, making an informed choice for your health consciously and continuously throughout your life.
Take responsibility for your health on all levels, from the food you eat to the emotions you express and the thoughts you think. Empower yourself and be the aware, conscious being you are. You are the person who knows you best.
Keep an open mind and encourage your intuition to guide you to find the right answers and support for yourself.

For a healthy relationship with yourself
Take care of yourself as you would a family member whom you absolutely love.
Create time for yourself, even if it is only a few minutes a day, as you would do for those you love in your life.
Listen to your body, become its friend, and take note when it talks to you, especially when it says you are out of balance.
Practise turning negative thoughts into positive ones, keep an open heart and develop your intuition.
Find a creative outlet, even if you are totally convinced you are not creative! Creativity in its many forms feeds the soul.

For healthy relationships with others
Choose healthy relationships that will feed you on all levels and keep you met and understood.
Be yourself, be true to yourself and communicate how you are feeling to those you are in close relationship with.
Practise assertiveness – respecting yourself and respecting those you are in relationship with, equally.
Be in the present, with mindfulness of the past, and openness for the future.
Find a level of acceptance for those in your life who are there not by choice, and seek not only to find ways of dissolving resentment, but also not allowing it to build and fester in the first place.

For the bigger picture – you as a spiritual being:
Find your purpose in life or let it find you.
Practise gratitude – daily list all that you are grateful for, especially at times when you might not be able to see the wood for the trees.
Learn from all your experiences in life and put that learning to good use.
Practise hope and faith, whatever that means to you.
Be in nature. Not only does it ground us, it also helps us see the bigger picture that is always there if we step out of ourselves, open our eyes and take the time to see it.