Sunday, March 16, 2008

My First Flower Essence Experiment

Dealing with Shyness and Depression-based Social Isolation

After the experience with my cat I decided to devise an experiment to see what using flower essences might do in the case of an emotional distress for which I was no longer receiving any other treatment. The idea was to do nothing different in my life except take the remedy at mealtime with my normal vitamins and herbal supplements every day for a month. The issue I chose was shyness and social isolation.

I was extremely shy as a child, never spoke in class, and spent most of my time alone in my room or in the woods drawing, reading or lost in fantasy. I deliberately worked on this issue in counseling for many years, made friends, joined communal groups, and in my early forties had more community in my life than I ever dreamed possible. Yet every year at Christmas, and periodically at other times of the year, I would fall into old patterns of depression and social withdrawal.

The pattern stemmed, partially, from my experiences growing up Jewish in a predominantly Irish Catholic community south of Boston. While I never experienced overt anti-Semitism, I was constantly ridiculed and ostracized for being “different.” I tried everything I could think of to be liked until the day a group of popular girls feigned interest in me to trick me into innocently saying something they knew would infuriate a developmentally disabled girl I didn’t know was in earshot. As soon as they left this much older and stronger child attacked me and tried to strangle me to death. I escaped but that was the end of my attempts to be part of my peer group. I just gave up and withdrew into myself for the rest of my elementary school education.

By the time I did my flower essence experiment I had given up counseling on the subject. It seemed hopeless after so many years and deliberate effort so when I decided to choose this issue I really didn’t expect significant change—I just wanted to know if it would do anything. I resolved to mix up a dosage bottle, use it for a month, and change nothing else. I didn’t write in my journal, set intentions, do affirmations, have counseling sessions or talk about my experiment with friends. I knew that just by using the essence combination I would be bringing some conscious attention to the problem regularly so it wasn’t a perfectly designed scientific experiment, but it was as close as I could get without a frontal lobotomy.

The essences I chose were Baby Blue Eyes (for a renewed ability to trust other people), Borage (for courage and optimism), Yerba Santa (to heal deeply buried grief), Goldenrod (to heal the hurt of not being accepted by my desired peer group), and Zinnia (to lighten up and feel more joy).

Within a couple of weeks the skin of my chest and throat itched like crazy but I had no rash. Also, a morning cough I've had since childhood appeared to get worse. The Flower Essence Repertory said that the grief Yerba Santa addressed was supposed to lodge in the chest and throat and my housemate had told me that sometimes symptoms temporarily get worse just before they get better so I had a good cry, gave myself some extra loving care, and a day or two later the itching and coughing were gone. A week later I spent a weekend lost in fantasy, something I hadn’t done for years. I also had repeated dreams in which I heard a song comparing me to a shooting star. This was disturbing to me so I checked the Flower Essence Repertory to try to figure out what to do and discovered that Shooting Star flower essence is for people who suffer from profound alienation from the human race and earthly life. I added that to my formula and the compulsion to daydream immediately went away.

Then the truly unexpected happened.

As I said before, I hated Christmas time. I cringed at the sound of Christmas carols and avoided shopping centers like the plague for the entire period between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. But this year on the day after Thanksgiving—the biggest Christmas shopping day of the year or “Christmas Hell Day” as it’s known around here—I woke up with an intense desire to buy a friend a Christmas present.

And then I got the most outlandish thought: wouldn’t it be great to decorate MY house for the holiday season using purple instead of the obligatory red and green? Off I went to go shopping for Winter Solstice-like “Christmas” decorations with throngs of other people and found myself thoroughly enjoying the experience. I made small talk with other shoppers about what would look best on their trees and found myself happily singing along to the piped in Christmas carols.

Then suddenly I woke up. "What's going on here? I'm singing Christmas carols and enjoying it! I feel connected to everyone in the store! I’m talking and joking with people I don’t know! I don’t do that—this isn't like me at all!" My bottle of flower essences flashed into my mind and I became teary as I realized a deep transformation had occurred that I never would have anticipated.

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