A Certification Case Study by Julia Capistran de Early
Anger, nightmares, fears & difficulty reading
During the intake session I read him two stories and he asked me to photocopy one of them so his mom could read it to him. The second time he came he was sleeping better and did not have bad dreams, but was still afraid of the dark.
Edwin is an 8 year old boy with behavioral problems; he is very aggressive and cannot relate to other children or adults. Also, he is extremely angry and has sleeping problems and nightmares. Despite his age, he does not know how to read. He is also very shy. His mother is 24 years old; she describes herself as very nervous and is a chain smoker. She says that Edwin is out of control and she does not know what to do with him anymore. When they arrived at the appointment, Edwin’s mother seemed very stressed and exasperated.
Edwin has a constant scowl on his face and a chip on his shoulder. He is also very shy and when he speaks he sounds angry. He lives with his mom, his 5 year old sister, and his mother’s boyfriend. His father left them 5 years ago and Edwin, his sister, and his mother lived with his paternal grandparents until two years ago. I was impressed because he was able to identify his problems and he was open to tell me how he felt, even listing his problems in a clear manner. He described himself as “shy and super angry.” He said “My memory is bad, I am 8 years and I still don’t know how to read.” This seemed to be the issue that bothered him the must. He was also able to identify the things that made him angry and the things he did wrong. He told me about his nightmares and fear of darkness as well.
He started having problems when they moved out of his grandparents’ house. He says he never feels good at home. “My mom,” he says, “is always angry and her boyfriend blames me for things I didn’t do. I am super angry, I am never happy.”
He looks very clean and neat, but he seems emotionally disturbed. In his mom’s words: “I have never been loving. It’s hard for me to show affection.” The mother’s lack of showing affection is reflected in his attitude. Every two or three sentences he says, “I am SUPER ANGRY!” “I have bad dreams,” he added, “I wake up often and I sleep badly. When I wake up I am afraid. I don’t like it if it’s dark. I am afraid of darkness.”
“I flunked 2nd grade. I don’t know how to read yet; my memory is bad. My mom always yells at me when I try to do my homework. I don’t have friends at school. I pick fights. I hit other kids badly because they make me mad. I just play with one boy, who lives next door but he is 5 years old. My teacher makes me mad, she blames me even if I don’t do anything. I am never happy. I am super ANGRY. I am happy with my grandparents.”
Edwin is a very angry boy who has had to cope with abrupt changes in his life, and has also had to bear some of his mother’s issues as a young, single mom. He has trouble socializing, frequent nightmares and a severe fear of darkness. In a later session, his mother also told me that he had been hospitalized on several occasions due to severe headaches, and she had to take him to the doctor often.
For him his major achievement was to be able to learn to read. He was very happy when he finally learned to read, and it seemed as though a great burden had been taken off his back. Edwin had thought that he was unable to learn, but finally realized the he is a capable person. His communications skills also improved a great deal. He stopped his violent behavior, specifically beating other children at school, and improved the way he related to his teacher. His grades improved dramatically. Now he has friends and can play and enjoy playing with other children. He also got over his shyness. After using the flower essences he stopped having headaches.
Detailed background information
Family background: Edwin’s mother is a young woman with a lot of internal conflicts. She got pregnant when she still was a teenager and being a mother seems to be a heavy burden for her. She had a severe depression when her husband left them that took her a long time to get over. She grew up in a very dysfunctional family. When she was 6 years old, she was sexually abused by her uncle. Also, her father kidnapped her and her sister and made her mother believe they had died in an accident. She found out the truth a week before her mother died when her father took them to see her. She is angry and very fearful. She had problems with alcohol and drugs and also tried to commit suicide. In spite of that, she is a hard working woman that tries to get her children ahead. Her children always look very neat and clean; it is clear that she makes an effort to assure her children’s wellbeing, even though it extremely difficult for her.
When the father left them, they lived with Edwin’s paternal grandparents. They were very controlling and supportive at the same time. The grandmother raised Edwin until they moved out. She still has a good relationship with them; Edwin still misses them. She hardly has any contact with her own family.
Current family situation: Edwin’s mother got divorced from Edwin’s father recently, but has lived with her boyfriend for two years. Edwin gets along well with her boyfriend, but they have some differences. She works from noon to 8:00 p.m. and sometimes Edwin and his sister stay by themselves without supervision. Her boyfriend keeps an eye on them after 6 00 p.m. Edwin has to serve himself and his sister and keep the kitchen clean, so he has to assume responsibilities that are beyond his age. The neighbors have complained about that and have even complained at the Department of Family Services (DIF).
Edwin is very responsible—at least with his drops—and was sure to always take them on time. One time I told his mother to bring the bottles to recycle them but she always forgot, but every time they came Edwin would tell me, “my mom forgot but I didn’t,” and he had the clean bottles in a plastic bag. In other words, Edwin is able to assume responsibilities over himself and look after his own (and his sister’s) wellbeing.
Edwin is repeating the 2nd grade.
Medical history: Edwin has had severe headaches. The doctors said that he probably has epilepsy, but they never gave a final diagnosis. The psychotherapist said he was hyperactive. Edwin has taken Ritalin among many other medications. His mother says she is always taking him to the doctor for different reasons. She brought a lot of prescriptions but I am not qualified to evaluate them.
Summary of major biographical life events: Edwin’s father left when he was 3 years old, and he hasn’t seen him since then. His mother, his sister and himself stayed with his grandparents in an extended family where other uncles, aunts and cousins shared little houses in a property that was owned by the grandparents. When Edwin’s mother decided to move out from his grandparent’s house, Edwin began to have both physical and behavioral problems. This was a dramatic change, going from a large extended family where he got a lot of attention to a small apartment where he was isolated. While the mother was working, Edwin and his sister stayed with a babysitter. Later she found out that one of the babysitters was abusing them verbally and physically and she decided not to hire anybody anymore. Also, according to his mother, her boyfriend is very strict and demanding with Edwin and his expectations for an 8 year old are very high so he feels pressured. This is perhaps a reason why he gets angry when he is rushed. Edwin says that he gets along well with him, but at the beginning said that he made him mad all the time.
Presenting issues or symptoms and reasons for seeking therapy: At the time of Edwin seeking therapy, he suffered severe headaches, although his mother did not mention them until a few sessions later. He was very angry at the world, did not obey his mother, who was very aggressive and even violent. He was very shy and could not relate to other children or teachers and at 8 years old he had not been able to learn how to read. He also had sleeping problems and nightmares.
My immediate goals were to solve his sleeping problems and resolve his fears. I addressed these with flower essences and reading children’s stories. I used the book Flores y Cuentos by Diana Drexler. During the intake session I read him two stories and he asked me to photocopy one of them so his mom could read it to him. The second time he came he was sleeping better and did not have bad dreams, but was still afraid of the dark.
My intermediate goals were dealing with his anger, aggressiveness, and shyness and help him to be able to make friends with other children. I continued to use flower essences, stories and drawings and we talked a lot in a non-directive manor. I found it interesting that he preferred to be read stories rather than to draw. He was very open and receptive to stories and greatly enjoyed being read to. The third time he came he was placed in a new school and was beginning to change his aggressive behavior. He began to make friends and play with them.
Long term goals for Edwin were reading and improvement in school. He would always say that he was shy and had a bad memory. Other long term goals were to get along with other children and his teachers. He would say “the teacher makes me angry and blames me for things I did not do. I am super angry!” To address these issues I relied again on flower essences, stories, drawings and conversation. The fourth time he came he was happy because he was beginning to read. His mom said there were no longer complaints from the school about his bad behavior. The fifth session he was happy and he said “my memory is better and I know how to read now!!!”
Session one: Aug. 22, 2005
The combination [I gave him prior to this first formal session] helped him to be more calm. He was more talkative and less tense. He was smiling and excited, and was particularly looking forward to having stories read to him during this session. He identified himself with some of the characters and explained to me why. We read a story about a porcupine called “grumpy Paco” who was always grouchy: he would constantly poke other animals with his quills. One day an ant came out of a flower and started to crawl all over his belly and tickle him. That ant, named Holly, called her ant friends and the all came to crawl all over Paco and tickle him. He laughed and laughed and had the time of his life. The next day the ants came back, hugged him and laughed, and learned to play together. With time, almost without him noticing, Paco’s quills began to break off and got as short as a hair brush. It didn’t matter, because he no longer needed to poke anyone. This was Edwin’s favorite story, “I’m like Paco, I’m always super angry,” he said. I read him this story the first time he came, and he asked me to read it to him again.
The first time he sat and was constantly kicking his feet back and forth nervously. This time, he seemed very much at ease and made himself at home. He would even go in the house, run around the kitchen and talk to anyone he bumped into. He tried to be helpful, bringing things for the session and putting them away at the end. At this point, Edwin already had a very different attitude.
Essences used prior to this session
Holly - for feeling unloved and rejected by others, using hostility toward others to mask feelings of emotional abandonment. For his anger, frustration and his tendency to blame others.
Violet - for his shyness and to help him to open up and to learn how to share and connect with others
Buttercup - to develop his sense of self worth and self esteem, to help him feel accepted, and to feel loved at home. Also to stimulate his memory and mental clarity.
Gorse - for perseverance and confidence. For discouragement due to rejection or failure.
I also gave him a combination to take after 6:00 p.m. 4 drops every thirty minutes
Angelica - to help him to feel that one is taken care by higher spiritual forces, regardless of rejection by others
Aspen - for his bad dreams and fear of darkness
St. John’s Wort - for fear of the dark and sleep-related traumas, disturbed and fearful dreams
Edwin also received Chi Kung therapy—a type of massage using the acupuncture meridians—applied by my husband for about one half hour after each flower therapy session. It served to relax the child and remove energy blockages. I think the Chi Kung worked well in conjunction with the flowers. It was a chance for the boy to have physical contact; learning to accept physical contact also helped ease issues related to the lack of physical contact from his mother. He came to look forward to the Chi Kung session.
I chose to maintain the same night-time formula as before.
I also created a new day-time formula with the following essences:
Holly - for feeling loved and extending love to others. This flower’s effect is reflected through his new ability to make friends and sometimes play with them.
Chestnut Bud - to learn from experience and not repeat past mistakes. This flower’s effect can be seen through his changes in behavior at school and the fact that he no longer received as many complaints at school.
Beech - to address feelings of pressure and his tendency towards intolerance and self-criticism (“I have bad memory, I hit other kids because they make me mad”). To help contact his own inner joy and playfulness.
Stinging Nettle – to address problems related to dysfunctional and agitated family situations
Pear - to ease fear and help him adapt to group situations. Also, to address his unconscious tendency to resolve problems through illness.
Cherry Plum - for lack of control that manifests itself in aggression
Intuition, observation, and consulting literature were the primary factors in the selection of these formulas. My intuition played an important role in the process as well as the observation of his body movement. For example, this time he was not kicking his legs back and forth constantly and he was not holding his body rigidly. I was directed to flowers intuitively during the counseling session. As we discussed the symptoms, I made mental references of the flowers that treat each one. I also consulted the Flower Essence Repertory and other literature to ensure precision.
Session two: Sept 8, 2005
“I feel happy now. I’m in second grade, but now I have friends and sometimes we play,” Edwin said. His mother said “there has been a big change, but he still fights a lot with his sister. He hit a girl in school the other day, but it hasn’t happened again since. Last school year he had complaints from teachers every day. This year, it’s only happened once.” Also, he had been sleeping better and had not had any bad dreams. Those were the major changes observed in this session.
School was still a priority. We set new goals to improve his learning skills, self-confidence and concentration.
Buttercup - to address his shyness and lack of confidence. Also, to help him feel loved and accepted in his home. This essence stimulates memory and help him feel at ease at school. This essence is intended to improve his learning by boosting his self-confidence and helping him feel that school is a place where he belongs and can contribute to his own growth and that of the group.
Cotton - to address feelings of rejection, blockage and lack of love. To help him feel loved and love himself.
Clematis - to improve attention, concentration and focus. To help him to realize that his abilities can be manifested. Also, to help him pay more attention in class.
Iris - to bring out his creativity that has been repressed by parents and school (“My mother always yells at me when I’m doing my homework and her boyfriend wants me to do everything perfectly.”)
Indian Pink - to help him remain centered and focused despite the stress and pressure around him.
Although he has improved in regards to his sleep problems and nightmares, I chose to continue using this formula to maintain and avoid relapses.
Although Edwin made a few drawings, his greatest bliss was listening to stories. Through stories and conversation I gained important insight as far as which flowers to give him. In this session, I read him a story about a Lioness named Silvina who can’t grow a mane and gets angry at the other lions who make fun of her. One day, she attacks one of her friends and later feels like a monster. A group of fairies appear, but she asks them to leave for fear that she might hurt them. They ask her to draw her anger, which she accepts to do and draws and draws, until much later her anger disappears and a mane of tiny white flowers appears around her face. Edwin said he could identify with Silvina, because he often felt like a monster that could lash out and hurt others. This story was about Cherry Plum, which I chose as one of the principle flowers in his new formula.
Session three: Oct 3, 2005
During this session, the most visible and important change was that he was beginning to learn how to read, which made him very proud and much more confident. There is an improvement in his grades and his mom says he is now much more calm, obedient and focused. “Now he does his homework and he does things a bit better,” said his mother, “and he hasn’t gotten any more complaints at school.”
Essences used prior to this session
Buttercup helped to boost his confidence and helped him to feel more at ease at school and at home. Thanks to this essence, he is beginning to see that he can be part of a group or family and contribute.
Cotton helped him begin to find the love that he feels he has lacked. Also, it has helped him learn to love himself.
Clematis helped him improve his concentration and focus. This is reflected by his mother’s comments and his better output at school.
Iris addressed his repressed creativity, which is slowly starting to come up to the surface.
Indian Pink helped him to remain centered despite the stress and pressure around him.
During this session, Edwin told me that he doesn’t have bad dreams anymore, but is still a tiny bit afraid of the dark. We have kept using this formula since this is a chronic and needs to be addressed constantly and thoroughly.
Edwin still gets angry when his mom gives him orders. He says she gets angry and yells, which makes him angry as well. We are going to keep working to help him overcome his anger. Also, we are continuing to work on improving his learning abilities.
I chose to continue the day-time and night-time formulas as before.
Willow : during this session, we read a story about a Willow who is the most important tree around, until other plants and flowers move in. The Willow gets jealous and hates the other plants, and his hate grows more and more until one night he sees a tremendous monster trying to attack him. He ripped each part of the monster out of the ground by the roots. Suddenly, when the sun came out, he saw that there was no monster. He had ripped out all of the other plants with his hate. The willow cried and cried because of the destruction his hate had caused, and has been crying ever since. Edwin said the he felt like the willow in the story. “I’m kind of like him,” he said. Because of this, I decided to include willow in his formula.
Madia was included to help promote precise thinking. Also, as an aid to concentration and disciplined focus.
Elm to help him deal with the pressure put on him by his mother and her boyfriend. To help his mind focus on problems within the right perspective.
Cherry Plum to keep feeling guided and protected by a higher power. Also, for balance in times of stress due to his family situation.
We continued use of the same formula. See previous session for details.
Storytelling was the main method for choosing the essences in this formula. Given that Edwin is very sensitive to stories and loves to share them, they have been an invaluable aid in this process. Intuition and observation were also important. Conversation with him and his mother about their current, stressful family situation was also an important factor in choosing the essences in this formula. The Flower Essence Repertory and other literature were consulted to ensure precision.
Session four: Nov 4, 2005
Edwin came to this session looking very happy because he had finally learned how to read, and he asked me if he could read me a story. He stumbled a bit, but he understood what he read. Perhaps for him, this was the most important achievement. The fact the he now has friends was also very important. For his mom, a difference in his behavior made her less stressed. He also said the he no longer felt afraid of the dark or had bad dreams. According to his mother, he would almost always be asleep by the time she got home.
An important, though not positive, change in this session was that his mom announced that Edwin would no longer be able to work with the flowers anymore. His grandmother, a fundamentalist Christian, had determined that his improvement was the result of witchcraft and ordered that he no longer attend. Given that she is one of the few people they count on for support, Edwin’s mother was forced to oblige even though she had seen the positive effects of the flowers.
Essences used prior to this session
Willow : although he knows how to express his anger, he tends to blame others for his feelings. Although at this point he had made dramatic improvements, Willow was included to help him work through them and close them.
Madia helped his concentration and focus to achieve his goal of learning to read without being sidetracked.
Elm helped him deal with pressure and stress put on him by his family members.
Cherry Plum helped him remain centered in spite of the stressful family situation. Also, it helped maintain and increase feelings of protection and guidance by a Higher Power.
We had used the same formula as before. See previous sessions for details.
A year after the last session, in July, I stopped by his mom’s work-place to see if she had some documentation and asked her how he was doing. In general, there has been a complete turn-around. Although I had felt reluctant to go, this time his mother was very friendly and smiling. Right away, she offered to show me his report cards which she just happened to have there. They showed dramatic improvements and I have attached them to the document. She said he was doing better in school and there were no more complaints. He didn’t miss a single school-day either. She also said that he has no longer had headaches.
Julia Capistran de Early was born in Cordoba, Veracruz in 1947. She attended the National University of Mexico in Mexico City and received a degree in history. She taught social sciences in Mexico City and worked in the mountains of Nayarit, Mexico with Cora Indians and did research with Nahuatl (Aztec) speakers in the mountains of Veracuz.
Julia married and moved to Bend, Oregon where she taught Spanish at Central Oregon Community College for twenty-five years. She also ran a summer program for college students in Spanish language and Mexican culture in Cordoba Veracruz. Julia was also involved organizing groups in Bend promoting Human Rights in Latin America, and in organizing the Latino Community in Central Oregon during the last twenty-five years. In addition, for the last twelve years she has worked in the Western United States as a cultural consultant in death penalty and murder cases involving Mexican defendants.
Julia was introduced to flower essences by Kathleen Gault, a practitioner in Bend, Oregon. She has been practicing in Fortin, Veracruz and in Mexico City for the last five years.
Write to Julia.
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