Healing Solutions For You - Alternative and Integrative Healing Practices

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thoughts and Feelings: What’s the Difference?

Through my work as a flower essence therapist I have noticed how often emotions and thoughts are confused. Certainly, if one doesn’t understand the difference they may be unsure how to surmount issues, how to change their thoughts or believe they are incapable to change how they feel. Our basic emotions are: happiness, sadness, love, anger, jealousy, fear. It is normal and healthy for humans to experience all these emotions at times. Compare these two statements. “I feel sad” and “I feel like no one loves me.” The first expresses an emotion but the second is a thought not an emotion although sadness is the emotion behind it. Emotions are the result of our thoughts. They are reactions. A common misperception is that emotions are spontaneous and are not under our control. If emotions were not under our control then we would all experience the same emotion in the same situation. Take getting cut off on the highway. Bob gets scared, Suzy gets mad and Brian gets roadrage even though they were all in the same car. Situations can be a catalyst but it is us who decide how to react. The suffering is within our own minds. It is our thoughts, thought patterns and issues that cause us pain and hold us back. Our emotions are just the symptom. Yogis and Buddhist monks can train themselves to not feel emotional pain without suppressing their emotions. They can still feel compassion for someone in a terrible situation yet not feel pain for having witnessed the situation. They can look at a very scary thing such a cobra in the eye and not be afraid of it. They can be taunted and not feel angry. They achieve this through meditation, self-observation and thought/behavior modification (ie emotional/spiritual growth). This proves that the mind is the maker of our joys and our sorrows. As Aristotle put it, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Emotional Growth: A Missing Link to Health – Part II

Emotions and thought patterns are an important link to our health. They affect our physical and spiritual health. Without mental/emotional health we cannot be balanced individuals. In order to achieve this balance, we must deal with our thoughts and emotions in a constructive way. In his book, “The Celestine Prophesy”, James Redfield talks about different dysfunctional ways that people try to interact with others and deal with their emotions: by attacking (blowing up), being aloof (avoiding things/holding things in) and poor me syndrome (complaining/whining/being high maintenance). As I highlighted in my past article, there are many additional patterns that we follow or things that we do when we don’t deal with our emotions in a healthy way. However, we can choose emotional/mental health instead of dysfunction. In this article, I seek to demonstrate some practical tools which we can use to create that healthy balance.

How Not to Hold Things In
There are certain topics we tend to avoid as a society such as aging and death. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about or will even broach the subject of end of life care. People who have had serious illnesses describe how they discovered who their real friends were as many of their previous friends felt uncomfortable around them or didn’t know what to say so avoided them altogether. Although we are becoming more comfortable discussing things such as living wills and wills, I believe we need to start a society-wide dialogue about these things. After all, they are a normal part of the cycle of life.
Holding things in eats us on the inside just like a cancer. Learning how to communicate with others in a constructive way can help us to voice our concerns and come to a positive resolution. I highly recommend the book “Nonviolent Communication” by Marshall Rosenburg. It provides concrete tools for communication with others as well as ways to overcome negative self-talk. There are many Nonviolent Communication (aka NVC or Compassionate Communication) study circles and trainings, as well, around the nation and world. The study circles are forums where people can hone their NVC skills. I have personally successfully used NVC to stop a sexual harassment situation. Another time, I was absolutely livid about a situation with my bosses at work. I knew if I spoke to them with the anger that I felt, the situation wouldn’t get resolved and I might even be fired. Using NVC, I was successfully able to voice my grievances, they compassionately responded (which astounded me because it was out of character) and the situation was resolved. Sometimes, all it takes to resolve a situation is to say something. Speaking up can be helpful because people might not think or feel the way you do. They may be happy to change something. You’ll never know unless you speak up. Just make sure to speak compassionately so that your message will be heard.
There are times when it is not appropriate to broach a subject. Then the thing to do is to find a way and time to discuss it later. There are people who because of their life experience, culture or personality might not ever listen. If you really cannot broach a subject with someone then you must find a way to heal that emotion within yourself: a new way to look at the situation or a new way to interact positively with that person.

How Not to Blow Up
Blowing up is the result of things reaching a breaking point from being held in, a reaction to stress or the result of poor anger management. The way to prevent things from reaching breaking point is to deal with them before they build up. The way to deal with stress or to manage anger is to find ways to diffuse and decompress. Numbing doesn’t count because it causes additional problems! Get regular massages, exercise tension away, walk away and count to ten, breathe deeply, anything that is healthy for you and is supportive to others too. Try various things and find what works for you. I don’t like the word “anger management” (I use it because simply for ease of communication) because to me it implies that anger is something to be suppressed instead of dealt with. Allowing yourself time and space to decompress can reduce the intensity of the emotion. This allows you to think more rationally and clearly enabling you to address the situation with wisdom and compassion. When angry, consider what it really is that is causing you to be angry instead of immediately deciding that it’s the other person’s fault. Maybe their behavior or personality remind you of someone else, maybe it reminds you of an old situation that you are still mad about. Once you realize the source, try to look at this situation as a unique situation. If you cannot, then perhaps you need to discuss together how you can interact on a positive level so that these things don’t arise again. I highly suggest NVC for that. NVC also helps to remind you that it doesn’t matter the person or situation, it is how you choose to react that can result in a positive or negative impact to yourself.

Avoiding Passive Aggression
Passive aggression is completely unnecessary. Deal with your stuff internally. Catch your own thought patterns and measure your own responses. Then, interact with others in a constructive manner.

Avoiding Denial!
Carl Jung said, “What you resist persists.” Ignoring issues don’t make them go away. Let’s use procrastination as an example. If you were to procrastinate on doing the laundry and dishes for a month, they would pile up. You would run out of clean clothes and dishes to use. The house would begin to stink. What if you procrastinated on something more important like the bills for several months? The electricity might get turned off, the water might get cut off, you might be evicted. Our emotions and issues are the same. Not only do problems persist if we don’t deal with them but they get worse and cause additional problems. For example, if a couple avoids talking about how they’ve drifted apart, it might turn into an affair or even a divorce.
Being aloof is one way in which people actively avoid people and situations which might prove painful to them. The subconscious reason people act aloof is that if they are antisocial, people won’t approach them (ie can’t hurt them). The Truth is that by avoiding people and situations they are avoiding life and preventing themselves from living. Our internal dialogue and our own reactions are the real cause of our pain. Rather than avoiding life, we must engage constructively with it.

Numbing No More
Numbing is an emotionally and physically unhealthy way to deal with unpleasant emotions or issues. It is another method of holding things in and avoiding them. It is not necessary to be working on issues 24/7 as long as you generally deal with them. If you need some time to simply relax and decompress there are many healthy activities to choose from: sports, exercise, board games, cooking, reading, playing with your kids.

Its All in the Interpretation
A major key to our own pain or issues is our interpretation of things. Human beings are unique with unique life experiences, thought processes and ways of communicating. Sometimes we are hurt simply by our own perception of a situation or because we speak or behave in a different manner (ie attach different meanings to a phrase or action) than the person we are interacting with. When in doubt, ask. You may discover there is no reason to be hurt, upset, jealous, etc. Even if there is, you can still choose how you let it affect you with your own internal dialogue.

New Vantage Points
A new way to look at a situation can work to relieve anxiety or stress from a problem or situation. For example, I use to work at health food stores before I went to holistic school. At one point, I couldn’t find a job at any health food store. I ended up working in a grooming salon. I was so angry that the universe had forced me into working there. It was hard, dirty work. I would be pushing, pulling, and lifting terrified, aggressive or untrained dogs in and out of kennels. Many of them were over 100 pounds. When I started massage school, my massage teacher suggested that by working there I had been preparing my body for the physical work of massage. Wow! What a difference a different point of view made!

Flower Essence Therapy
Flower essences can help make the growth process smoother and easier. Flower essences bring awareness to thought patterns that do not serve us and can even help us overcome some things without our even noticing. We can do our part by paying attention to what issues are being brought to the surface. They back us up by supporting us to think in new ways and engraining those new more supportive thoughts.

Consider This
It is easy to want to avoid painful thoughts or use dysfunctional methods to deal with our issues. Dealing with our issues can certainly be difficult in the beginning just like when we start exercising for the first time. We are rusty at first; our progression comes in bits and spurts even with occasional regressions. The reason is that at first we usually have bigger issues to deal with often relating back to our childhood. These are old and deeply ingrained issues. It’s like trying to pull out dandelions without breaking the taproots – very hard to do! Once we start to overcome some big issues and gain a little experience in growth work, things become easier and quicker to work through. Instead of struggling to overcome major barriers we are just polishing and refining our behavior and beliefs.

Emotional growth work is hard but it is so worth it! Negative thought patterns create smoke shields which prevent us from seeing the Truth. When we have unhealed issues, we approach life looking through this smoke. Therefore, we cannot see or even imagine the possibilities of people, situations or life except through this limiting view. Clearing our issues allows us to see things through a new vantage point and can open up endless possibilities. Another universe Truth: the possibilities are endless; this is backed up by quantum physics. Countless things have been invented; people have accomplished amazing things that others have said were impossible because they were looking through their life-limiting smoke shield. Life is so much happier and more exciting when you are able to look at the possibilities rather than limitations.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Emotional Growth: A Missing Link to Health – Part I

Most Americans are aware of the importance of maintaining our physical health. We are bombarded by ads for diets and diet products, reminded on the news about the need to exercise, told of the benefits of certain foods. Some of us even follow the advice. The opposite holds true for emotional health. Although it is known that depression and mental illness are important to address, there seems to be a vast ignorance of the importance for emotional growth and intelligence. In fact, our American society reflects a huge amount of emotional dysfunction. The evidence is found in our behavior: holding things in, blowing up, passive aggression, avoiding things, numbing ourselves. It all stems from not knowing how to communicate with others or ourselves, how to heal our emotional/mental hangups or deal with difficult topics.

Holding Things In
Holding things in can be very damaging to the psyche; it eats at you whether ‘it’ is anger or hurt. What you hold in must eventually come out. Have you ever tried lining a drawer with Contact Paper? Little bubbles can form if you don’t lay it perfectly flat. The only way to get the little bubbles out is to pop them or push them to the edge of the contact paper, in essence, letting the air out of them. The same holds true for negative thought patterns and emotions. It is a universe law: what comes in must come out. Everything in the universe works upon this principle and everything comes out eventually. And while negative thought patterns and emotions remain within us, they poison our thoughts and affect our lives, often without our even noticing. This is not to suggest that we should just blow up if we are angry. We need to heal these things within us.

Blowing up

Blowing up can feel good in the moment. On a certain level, it is good to release that pent up energy. On the other hand, when we blow up we are rarely rational or compassionate in the moment. Someone who is ranting will often exaggerate the situation. This exaggeration is a reflection of their intense emotion, (ie energy buildup) however, it is not rational. Blowing up often results from things being held in. This usually becomes apparent when the person starts yelling about things that have nothing to do with that situation. Blowing up doesn’t improve situations. It is also not compassionate. It doesn’t matter what a person did or did not do, they are still a living being. They have a spirit, a psyche and emotions. It is normal for human beings to experience anger; however, there are healthier ways of expressing it.

Passive aggression

Passive aggression seems to be even more common than blowing up, especially among females. It is an especially insidious way to express anger as it is not as overt. It is used when an individual doesn’t feel safe enough to directly say how they feel. I’ve observed this in many relationships where there is a lack of communication. Passive aggression can be very hurtful. If used in a relationship over time, it corrodes any trust or good will between the individuals.

Avoiding things

Avoiding things is another common pattern I’ve observed. I find it dumbfounding when talking to someone whom I know is having a difficult time (a death, a breakup, etc.) and they just cheerfully respond, “I’m fine!” Certainly, there are times when you simply are not emotionally ready to discuss something. Instead, the healthy response is, “I would prefer not to discuss ________ right now (or with you).” Avoiding situations and topics can lead to resentment, especially in important relationships such as with family. Individuals can actually delude themselves into believing that things are a certain way, for example that their spouse is not having an affair. In extreme situations, people have actually convinced themselves that someone is not dead or that their spouse didn’t leave them. There are certain topics we tend to avoid as a society as a whole such as aging and death. Many people feel uncomfortable talking about or will even broach the subject of end of life care. People who have had serious illnesses often describe how they discovered who their real friends were; many of their previous friends disappeared because they felt uncomfortable around them or didn’t know what to say.


Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, prescription drugs, recreational drugs, hard drugs, packrat behavior, overeating, sexual addiction, in fact any addiction are numbing agents. Numbing is dangerous to our emotional/mental health because it allows us to avoid things and it causes us to hold things in. This is not to suggest that we can’t relax because we need to be working on our issues 24/7. We shouldn’t be numbing ourselves, however. All chemicals (such as alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, drugs) alter our brain/body chemistry, affect our energy field and numb our emotions. There are therapeutic situations in which prescription drugs or small amounts of alcohol or caffeine are beneficial. However, they are detrimental when consumed in the quantities they are usually used. These numbing agents are used to repress many things: anxiety, fear, anger, loneliness, etc. Many people go to the bar if they’ve broken up or feel lonely. Some people smoke when they are stressed. I find it interesting too how some smokers crave cigarettes after sex. When we engage in such an intimate activity as making love, it opens up our heart chakra, breaks down barriers and brings emotions to the surface. This can make one feel vulnerable and they might react by wanting to stuff the emotions back in with cigarettes, etc. Numbing is even a popular pastime in the United States. Yes, it is actually considered a pastime as in going out for a drink (or five or six) with friends.


Emotional and mental wellbeing is just as important as our physical health. Emotions and issues can be difficult and painful to face. There are, though, more constructive ways we can deal with our emotions than to hold things in, blow up, use passive aggression, avoid things or numb ourselves. One very valuable tool to develop emotional wellness is flower essence therapy. Our thought patterns and mental constructs are very complex. Much of these things remain hidden to us. They affect our behavior, our choices and our very lives! It can be difficult sometimes to put our finger on what it is that is holding us back because often the only thing we are aware of are our emotions, the reaction to our thought patterns. Flower essence therapy works with our subconscious minds and brings us clarity to what is going on. As it subtly increases our awareness, we become more conscious of our thoughts and behavior allowing us to grow and change. Flower essences clear away the fog so we can see things as they truly are, to process and understand them, and to enable us to move on, whether it is an old issue or a new situation. Flower essences allow us to constructively interact with others and to deal with our emotions in a healthy way. A healthy mind creates a healthy body.

Balance in Body -Mind - Spirit = True health

In Part II of this article (November), I will discuss ways to interact/communicate with others effectively and additional tools to establish emotional wellbeing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Flower Essences vs. Homeopathy

Flower essences and homeopathy are two popular holistic therapies. When people become acquainted with both, they often wonder what the difference is between the two. Aren’t they essentially the same, they wonder? No, they are not the same but do have similarities.


The father of homeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, lived from 1755 to1843. He was searching for a gentler, more effective way to treat patients. Medicine at the time was rather barbaric. Patients were commonly bled to “bleed out the poison” and were given toxic substances to ingest. His response to the then medical practices was the creation of homeopathy. In the 1920’s and 30‘s, Dr. Edward Bach was also searching for a gentler, more effective form of medicine. He was a renowned homeopathist himself, having created seven new, effective homeopathic remedies from strains of bacteria. He thought if he could address the psyche and emotional patterns of patients he could create a more permanent, effective change within them. This led to the 38 Bach Flower Essences which he created over the course of a decade before his death in 1936.


The Greeks created the theory “like cures like” thousands of years ago; using this theory, Dr. Hahnemann developed the therapy we know as homeopathy today. He observed how substances which caused certain reactions in a healthy person could resolve the very same indications in a sick patient. He used these findings known as “provings” to create remedies. Essences, however, are allopathic. This means that they follow the conventional western way of treating symptoms: if you have problem A you take substance B to fix it.

Making and Mechanism

Homeopathy and flower essence therapy are both energy medicines. In both cases, the original substance is taken and diluted over and over again until little or even no physical substance (in the case of higher strength homeopathics) remain in the remedies. What is left is the universal life force, known as chi in Chinese medicine, from the original substance. It is this chi that is the active ingredient in both essences and homeopathy. In the first step to make a homeopathic, the substance is powdered, then steeped in alcohol or mixed with powdered lactose. The first step to an essence is to place the picked blossoms of the flower in a bowl of water outside to be “sun charged” or, in the case of more woody plants, boiled in water. Then, homeopathics are diluted again by adding more water and alcohol or lactose to the original diluted powder or liquid; essences are diluted by adding water and alcohol, glycerin and/or apple cider vinegar to the original boiled or suncharged liquid. Dilutions for either type of remedies are made in precise ratios for example: one part substance to 99 parts additive. They will continue to be diluted more and more times in this manner to farther concentrate the energy. Homeopathics are available in many different strengths whereas flower essences are diluted to 5X potency (too complicated to explain.) The further a substance is diluted, the more concentrated the energy becomes. The reason essences are not farther diluted is because it would cause emotional reactions which would be too intense and overwhelming to handle.

Source & Form

There are essences and homeopathics made with flowers, animal and mineral substances. Where the two diverge is that essences are also made with color, water, weather patterns and seasons and homeopathics are also made with other plants and bacteria. Homeopathic remedies are available as liquid drops, topical ointments and little lactose pellets which the patient melts under their tongue. Flower essences are most commonly taken as drops under the tongue. They are less commonly used in a mist, cream, added to a bath or drinking water. The 5X strength essence bottles found in health food stores are called mother tinctures. A client can take drops from the mother tincture bottle. The alternative is to add one or more mother tinctures to water and alcohol in a mixing bottle. Flower essence practitioners usually prepare mixing bottles for their clients. This allows them to create a custom, more precise blend for their clients. More drops need to be taken from a mixing bottle, however, it makes it much more convenient than taking drops from six different mother tincture bottles. Mixing bottles also make more economic sense because they stretch out the mother tinctures which makes them last longer.


Dr. Hahnemann and Dr. Bach both recognized how certain groups of patients displayed similar disease symptoms and common personality patterns. Therefore, both homeopathy and essences address body, mind and spirit. I find that homeopathy works best, however, primarily on the physical level, secondarily on mental and spiritual states. The therapist will primarily consider the symptoms the patient is experiencing and then match a remedy which also fits this patient’s personality profile. Essences work best primarily on the mental-emotional-spiritual levels, secondarily on the physical level. The therapist will first consider the client’s personality characteristics and emotional state then match a remedy that meets their physical symptoms as well. When working with either kind of therapy, you discover how intertwined all levels are and how it can become a chicken-or-the-egg situation; emotional states cause many physical ailments whereas disease can cause us to become mentally distressed! On the other hand, both therapies can work well on any level depending on the situation.

In the Clinic

There are thousands of different homeopathic and flower remedies. Each one has many different applications and indications and the differences can be subtle. For example, an essence client who is depressed because of low self-esteem will get a different remedy combination from a client who is depressed because of setbacks. A homeopathic practitioner will give a different remedy to a child who has a raspy cough as apposed to one who has a hacking cough. Remedy selection needs to be very precise or it will not be effective. Therefore, a practitioner must be extremely well-versed in his craft. It often takes many years to master the art of either therapy. The good news is that both of these therapies are very gentle. They do not produce side effects or interact with medications. The worse that can happen is that the wrong remedy was selected and it simply doesn’t work. Finally, they work with the body to generate healing from within rather than simply covering up symptoms. This allows the body to truly heal from an illness instead of suppressing its urge to purge. When symptoms are suppressed the body finds other ways to purge in the form of other problems, often seemingly unrelated, which later emerge. The more suppression happens, the more the body resists “creating” bigger and bigger side problems. As with any kind of holistic medicine, however, “healing crises” occasionally occur. The body’s natural method of healing is to push out sickness and toxins so when a remedy is taken this process is heightened. Sometimes a client may feel ill or uncomfortable. A flower essence client may feel more emotional than usual and wonder what’s going on. It can feel as if they are having a reaction but really it’s just part of the healing process. It usually lasts no more than a few days after which they feel very refreshed and renewed.


Homeopathy and flower essence therapy are two fascinating, useful forms of medicine. They each have their areas of strength and application. Both have a rich history. Though they share many similarities, they are distinct. I invite you to try both of these now. There is so much to be gained!

Bibliographical references

“Educational Information.” NatraBio Botanical Laboratories. <http://www.natrabio.com/edu.asp>.

Scheffer, Mechthild. The Encyclopedia of Bach Flower Therapy. 1999. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press, 2001

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