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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On Birth And Death

Published in the Society of Homeopaths Journal, Summer 2005
Double Take by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Several years ago while sitting in a religious service, a rare occasion for me, the sermon-giver discussed the topic of birth and death. It was a special, annual ritual where all those in the community who had died in the previous year were mentioned. Those whom they had left behind sat silently in grief and remembrance. I was there to support my mother who had recently lost her father. After the long list the holy man talked of the joy of birth and new life, which, without death, would not exist.

I pondered afterwards on his words and thought of my own young children and chose the perception that my grandfather hadn’t died but continued to exist not only in our memories but through his great-grandchildren. His physical form had returned to the earth from which it came, but his essence, his genes and his spirit lived on.

The lightning bolt of homeopathy struck our founder Hahnemann some 200 years ago. Our healing art was born, embodied in a strong and influential man who was brave enough to hold onto what he believed in, learn from his mistakes and grow. He lived and worked long and hard enough to achieve what he did and leave for us, with his spirit, an eternal legacy which is still developing but will never die.

Ever since, the flame has continued to burn. Sometimes it has only been a flicker with a handful of homeopaths practising quietly in tune with nature. But the whisper that passed through the 20th century has been succussed in the past 30 years into a very audible hum. We are witnessing the raising of awareness and consciousness on a grand scale.

And the homeopaths of today are working in many different ways but with the same aim, to heal the sick. They all have good intentions and are getting results that they can learn from and cultivate in line with nature’s evolution.

I am in the process of writing a book Looking Back Moving Forward, a collection of thirty five interviews with our homeopathy teachers here in the UK. Some of them lit their candles from the two main wicks of homeopathy in this country back in the late Sixties – Thomas Maughan and John Damonte. I start each interview enquiring how homeopathy was born to them and one of my last questions I ask is: do they see homeopathy becoming dormant again? Mostly they reply with an adamant ‘no’. The flame is shining too strongly and too brightly for it to return only to a flicker.


Just before I qualified as a homeopath, I had a shock. My cases supervisor, an excellent homeopath, announced that she had decided to close her practice and return to her original field of employment. Why, I wondered, would anyone do that? The more years I have spent in practice, the more I have come to understand her decision.

Everything has a birth, life and death. Nothing is exempt from this – whether it be a starfish or a star. There are some religious beliefs to the contrary; but such beliefs may also die, as people become more enlightened and see organised religion as an escape from facing the truth of death.

Homeopathic careers and practices must also come to an end. And must homeopathy itself, as in the nature of all things, die one day?

Sometimes I fear it may already be terminally ill. Whether we like it or not, the monstrous regiment of allopathic medicine, media animosity and a society largely based on ignorance predominates.

Of course, it could be that we’re just on one of the downward dives on the rollercoaster ride that homeopathy has always been on; and in a few years’ time, we’ll be heading upwards again. That is definitely how things have gone in the past – cycles of ups and downs. But could we have been nudged off the rollercoaster and be heading for a fall?

In the very moment of birth, there are the seeds of death. Is it possible for a therapy based on such an iconoclastic set of principles as that devised by Hahnemann to survive in a world lacking true imagination and the ability to challenge orthodoxy? Was it always too revolutionary to last?

Perceptive as they are, many homeopaths don’t want to see any possibility of the death of homeopathy. In the UK, they seem to devote much energy to discussing remedies, potencies and prescribing, rather than survival as a viable healthcare profession. There is a danger of missing the big picture – which may be one of a large hooded figure with a scythe. And to survive, we need to persuade allopaths, politicians and the public that homeopathy works.

There are times when I’m not sure I can afford to be a homeopath any more – which is what I think drove that supervisor to reluctantly do what she had to do. I suspect, if we’re honest, that applies to a lot of us.

I truly don’t want to play Cassandra – I have invested as much in homeopathy as the rest of us. But, as in the wider context of life, we may have to look unflinchingly into the face of death on a daily basis – for, in doing that, we may learn the most important lessons about life.

Homeopathy is a remarkable yet mysterious therapy. In the treatment of chronic disease, it so often does what allopathy fails to do – restores people to health, without suppression and side effects. But because, in the West, we live in a world dominated by “science” and the attitude that everything must be explicable – and if it isn’t explicable then it can’t be real – homeopathy may always be regarded as little more than sophisticated voodoo (and, by some allopaths, as a nuisance or threat). This may mean that homeopathy will always remain a therapy used by a minority on the alternative fringe of society. Which means that homeopaths might always struggle to make a living. To avert the death of homeopathy, we need seriously to tackle the issue of survival – now.


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‘My daughter is a nightmare…’

My daughter has become a nightmare child. She was always so easy going and well behaved. She is now 12 and everything seems to have changed. She is moody, argumentative, demanding sometimes and distant the rest of the time, up in her room listening to music and shutting off from the rest of the family. She has become one of those irritable, difficult daughters that I have only heard about, and I can’t believe this has happened to me and my little girl. I have tried reasoning with her, punishing her, shouting at her – but everything I try doesn’t work. I am guessing she is just about to start her periods and this is because of her hormones. I really haven’t got a clue how to be her parent anymore. She is always arguing with her father too, and he just tells me to ignore her, but we both see that doesn’t help either. Advice welcome!

It feels very much as you are upset about losing “your little girl”, but “your little girl” is about to become a young woman – and she is not exactly “yours”, she is her own person. This is a tough time for her – and for you too – because it’s a time of huge change. The fact that she is asserting herself as an individual and starting to go her own way should, in theory, be a cause for celebration, but in reality it is an extremely difficult time for any parent. Reasoning, punishing and shouting, as you have found, don’t achieve anything. Did you really think they would? Expressing your love for your daughter – either by staying distant or getting close, depending on her mood – may be the only thing that will work. Is it possible that you can remember how you felt when you were your daughter’s age and when you were on the verge of starting to have periods? Perhaps by doing that you might find a way to get close to her. Whatever you do, you do need to let her know that she can talk to you – and you probably need to talk to her to give her some practical advice.

Being 12 is a difficult time for young people, particular in this day and age. There are many demands, and it is quite different from when we were young. Our world used to be a much more innocent one, with far less, or perhaps, very different pressures in many ways. So whereas it is useful to identify with our children, as it helps to put ourselves in their shoes and remember what it feels like, it is also very easy to project our own experiences on to them, and this can cause great difficulties as our kids can feel judged by us and misunderstood. This can lead on to what can be perceived by us as ‘difficult behaviour’. I see a great deal of young people in my practice and often the parents present with similar situations and feel it is for the child to resolve and be ‘treated’, they are the one with ‘the problem’. I find that by seeing the issue as a family one, which can be resolved by listening, true empathy, communicating and collaborating, this important part of a family’s journey together can be transcended with ease.

Your daughter is a developing individual in her own right, at a time of huge change in her life. Trying to cajole her into behaving or conforming will not work, as you have found. Somehow you need to let her know you are with her not against her. She is not ‘the problem’ and nor are you; but there is a problem, and it is a family matter. Her father should be part of looking at this too; he may be right in standing back to a degree, but totally ignoring what is happening is unlikely to be the way forward. This is a family problem (and a common one) and somehow the family needs to look at it together. Ideally, sit down and talk and listen to each other. But if that is ultimately difficult for one or all of you, then consider family counselling – if you can all agree on this path. You came into this difficult time together – and you can come through it together.

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‘I fear that I will lose everything…’

I came across your Double Take website by accident. I wouldn’t normally write to a problem page, but I liked the way that you seem to look at the different angles to a problem – and you don’t dictate to your readers. What’s my problem? Well, in theory, I don’t have any problems. I’m 35 and in a really well paid job with a financial services company. I earn enough that my wife doesn’t need to work – which is good because she’s just about to give birth to our second child. Our son is two years old, and the new baby should sort of complete our family. The trouble is that my work is really demanding – to do it well and to continue to be thought of quite highly in the company, I have to work long hours, I sometimes have to travel and be away overnight, and my wife complains that I never seem to be at home. And when I am at home, I tend to be exhausted. The thing is that if I don’t work flat out, then I won’t have the money coming in to keep paying the bills and keep the sort of comfortable lifestyle that we’ve become accustomed too. I’m not really the type to downsize or drop out of the ‘rat race’, nor do I think that my wife would want to live in a smaller house and manage with a smaller car. It’s difficult to explain, but I have a fear that I’m going to lose everything – my job and my family. What can I do to make myself feel ok about all this?

It is interesting that you use the expression ‘rat race’. Is that how you see it? I can see that you have thought through various options. I am wondering what other ways you can look at your life, including the grey areas, in order to reach a perspective that will work for you and your family. To live in fear of losing everything must feel like a very heavy burden to carry. I am wondering also, what you do to relieve your stress and how much you are running on adrenaline, which will be detrimental to your health long term. In the short term, your exhaustion is probably linked to that. Your fear is your mind and body sending you a warning sign that something needs to change. And the process starts with communication with your wife, discussing your priorities as a family, and how you together, as a team, maintain your individual and family health and happiness.

It sounds more of a ‘rat trap’ than a ‘rat race’.You seem to have got into a situation that is not only likely to be damaging to you, but also one that is not easy to extricate yourself from (if you wanted to). There is no doubt that you are in a ‘good’ job – but is it really good for you and your family? In purely material terms, it seems to be worthwhile. But your own anxiety seems to be a warning from yourself to yourself that this situation cannot be sustained in the long term. Something is going to have to give – and it could be your health, your relationship with your wife or your relationship with your children. Everyone seems to be benefiting from what you are doing – but are they really benefiting? And perhaps you also need to ask why you are driving yourself so hard – is it really just for your family, or is there something in your psychological make-up that is responsible for your working in the way that you do?

There seems no doubt that you are putting your health in danger. Human beings who find themselves in rat traps or rat races don’t fare very well, either physically or mentally. Your anxiety and stress are alarm bells that some sort of change is necessary – because this situation can’t last. If you care about your family, you need to take care of yourself. Talking everything through is a large part of the solution – talking between you and your wife, and possibly also the two of you talking with a couples counsellor. You are lucky in that it is not too late – yet – to avoid an unhappy outcome.