A Certification Case Study by Julia Capistran de Early
Editor's note: Julia de Early has spent time in Fortin, a small, partially semi-rural community in Mexico, over the past two years. While there, she offers her services to low-income people in the community. When not there, she maintains phone contact with her clients and sends them dosage bottles as necessary.
Most of the people with whom she works have no access to social services but are open to flower essence therapy as it seems more natural to them given their cultural use of herbs. People find Julia via word of mouth. “It is very rewarding to work with people who wouldn’t have had access to that type of therapy otherwise.”
Julia most often works with children who are hyperactive and have behavioral problems. She feels in many cases this is due to the fact that their parents have gone to the States to work and they feel abandoned. She finds that children whose mothers have gone away are more difficult to treat and have more resentment. She also recognizes that the rapid change in children’s diets with more sugar and processed foods, along with the lack of supervision, contributes to their hyperactivity.
Many people consult with Julia because they have insomnia or experience stress. Because of the successful resolution of L.’s skin condition, others with skin problems have sought Julia’s help as well.
L. is a 46-year old woman from a poor social class in the village of Fortin de las Flores, Veracruz, Mexico. Fortin is located in the tropical hills of the Eastern Sierra Madre in South Eastern Mexico. It is a coffee and sugar cane growing area that maintains a traditional Mexican culture.
L.’s height is roughly 4 feet 8 inches. When she came for the first time, she looked completely broken-down and hopeless. Her face was swollen and her eyes were almost swollen shut. She complained about an itching that caused self-destructive conduct, forcing her to scratch until the point of bleeding. Her neck was almost black and her skin was rough, crusty and scaly. Simultaneously, she suffered from insomnia. The discomfort was so strong that just the thought of it returning paralyzed her; she became extremely tense to the point of being barely able to move. “I can’t even stand the thought of the itching coming back,” she would say. All of this prevented her from working, which made the situation more difficult. Her daughter had to move away with her aunt, while L. had to struggle day by day to get by. This caused strong feelings of anxiety and what she called desperation.
L. started with a very quick turnaround. The first morning after starting the therapy, she reported that she was able to sleep and rest, and that the itching had been reduced. As the treatment went on, she showed more gradual, progressive improvement in all her symptoms, both physical and emotional. Through forgiving, she was able to release negative emotions that were causing a lot of internal turmoil and physical condition. By the end of the treatment, her skin problems were solved completely, and her verbal aggression was diminished. Spiritually, she gained faith, which helped her to successfully face her problems and overcome them.
This combination was particularly helpful and I believe it works as one flower: Five-Flower Formula, Star of Bethlehem, Rock Rose, Crab Apple, Dill, Impatiens.
The following are other key flowers I used: Dogwood, Fairy Lantern, Calendula, Chaparral, Holly, Pansy, Chamomile.
L.’s mother died when she was about 15 years old. Her father abandoned them and she had to take care of her younger siblings from a very young age. She grew up with no direction or discipline. Her mother was the owner of a cantina, an improvised lowlife bar in a shack. She got married through a correspondence service. She says that she was married for a month, and got pregnant during that time. She left her husband because she didn’t like to be bossed around. Her son is now 15 years old. Afterward, she had her now 9 year old, daughter. Although she had children, she never had a stable, loving relationship.
She is now a single mother. L.’s daughter had to move away with her aunt because L.’s health problems impeded her from taking care of her daughter. They are now back together. Her son also lives with them, and sometimes her brother.
L. used to make a living selling herbal remedies and clothing (or whatever she could) in the small towns in the foothills of the Pico de Orizaba volcano. The area is rural, with few paved roads. She would hitchhike, and then walk from the road to surrounding villages. During the height of her illness, she was unable to work. Given that the Mexican government provides little or no help to the unemployed, this was a devastating situation for a single mom and brought about intense feelings of anguish. Now, she keeps selling things, but in the town of Fortin where she lives. She also works occasionally as a housekeeper.
L. doesn’t have access to the government health plan because she is self-employed. Due to this, her access to health care is extremely limited. The care she has received was thanks to a priest who recommended her to a doctor. The doctor was unable to resolve her skin problems, and recommended her to a dermatologist who was also unable to solve the problem, saying it was psoriasis. Her family then gave her money to visit two more dermatologists, again with little or no results. They did not provide her with any diagnosis. Due to this, she feared that her problems were due to witchcraft, as they seemed to have no rational explanation. She visited a spiritualist temple, and a traditional healer who helped her with herbs. The herbs were the only thing that helped a bit.
Since she was a girl, men have tried to rape her several times. She was neglected as child and grew up without direction. She was always moving around, never having a stable center. She always felt rejected and people in the town have always thought of her as strange because of her erratic behavior.
At the time of her seeking therapy, L. suffered from severe skin problems. Also, she had spent over two months suffering from insomnia. Her lack of employment and the rejection she was subject to (for example: when riding the bus, people would not sit next to her, or would move away) brought about feelings of anguish and anger. She reacted to all this with verbal aggression.
Most of the goals established were short-term goals, due to the cultural and socio-economic context. As a low-income, single mother, the only thing she wanted was to be able to live day to day and provide for her children. Immediate survival was her first priority.
The healing process did not happen in a linear fashion, with one goal being met after another. Rather, various goals and objectives were met or worked on gradually and simultaneously throughout the process, with a few exceptions that were immediate. Her main goals throughout the process were: being able to sleep again, getting rid of her itching, getting rid of her skin ailment, treating her aggressive behavior and healing the deep emotional wounds that gave way to these problems.
During the first sessions, being able to sleep and get rid of the itching were her main objectives. In conjunction with these factors, eliminating the sensations of anguish and self-described desperation were important. These goals were met quickly. “It was like magic when I started taking the drops,” she said, because she immediately felt something “very nice.” “They should be called the desperation drops,” she added. The very night she started taking them, she was able to sleep and the itching was reduced. Above all, during the first night she was able to have the patience to not scratch herself constantly.
As we continued with the healing process, we began to discuss other issues. Although in interviews it was very difficult for her to open up. We began to establish a more informal relationship. She often came to visit, and much of the insight I received happened through chats over coffee or breakfast. Since she couldn’t afford to pay for therapy, she always brought flowers or wild cooking herbs. She started talking about her mom’s illness, also skin-related, and how she would have to take her to Mexico City at such a young age. It was very hard for her, and she felt that she lacked support. This is a pattern that she constantly repeated: “nobody helps me, I’m alone.” She talked about how men tried to abuse her sexually and how she learned to be defensive throughout her life.
As we progressed, she began to speak of the need to forgive; she realizes that she needs to forgive those who have done her harm. Dealing with all these issues became an important part of the therapy. All of these were factors affecting her on physical and emotional levels.
Our main goal was to deal with her skin problem and insomnia, both physically and at its emotional root. As this was gradually being resolved, she was able to feel better about herself, both her physical appearance and attitudes changed. Since she was able to sleep, she was less irritable and therefore able to have better communication with others. She was also able to start working again, easing her feelings of anguish.
When she began working again, her daughter, who had been living with her aunt at the time, was able to return home. Slowly, we worked on the roots of her aggression. With the help of the flowers, she realized that forgiveness was an important issue in her life. She was able to forgive, and felt that she let go of a large burden. She began to attend healing masses and the catharsis would often happen there. She would break down and cry, giving her a feeling of relief.
In May, she returned and was very worried that her rash was coming back. She asked me if I could give her the “desperation drops” and the oil. I did, and in a matter of hours it was gone and hasn’t come back since.
Session one: October 4, 2005
When L. came to this session, she was very happy. She came smiling and cheerful because she had finally been able to rest, and had spent part of the night without bouts of violent scratching. Although she had fallen asleep late, she was able to sleep in and the itching had diminished, to the point that it no longer kept her from sleeping. She also felt that she had gained patience: although there was still itching at first, she no longer felt the compulsive need to scratch. Her posture changed entirely. During the last session (Intake) she arrived completely hunched over and ashamed of being seen, constantly hiding her face. This session, despite the fact that she was still swollen, she arrived looking visibly cheerful and smiling.
Essences used prior to this session
This synergistic combination worked as one to address the blockage and dispersion of energy caused by desperate or extreme situations. The combination of flowers helped in various aspects:
Five Flower Formula to reinitiate the process of emotional stabilization.
Star of Bethlehem to address shock and trauma.
Rock Rose to calm and strengthen her in face of the tension brought about by her fear of the itching coming back.
Crab Apple as a physical and emotional cleansing element.
Dill as an emotional decongestant to deal with the sense of being overwhelmed, as well as an aid in the relief of stress and insomnia.
Impatiens to increase patience, particularly in relation to her compulsive scratching and irritability.
I also gave her a topical oil mixture that contained the following flower essences:
Chamomile to tranquilize, soften skin, calm irritation, and reduce swelling.
Aloe Vera is an aid in the treatment of a variety of skin ailments.
Pansy to help in the elimination of toxins and soothe itchy, irritated skin. According to Claudia Stern, it also activates the immune system and helps destroy virus and bacteria.
Snapdragon to address skin ailments.
This topical blend was given mainly to aid in soothing her extremely irritated skin. In this case, the flowers were meant to work mainly on the physical level and in a manner that was very direct to her condition: through the skin.
Due to L.’s socio-economic condition, she hardly has access to health care, and much less to formal therapies of any kind. Since she is Catholic, I suggested that she light a candle and pray.
Among “poor” populations in Mexico, prayer acts not so much as an element to ensure salvation, but rather as an aid to achieve and maintain temporal well being. In this sense, prayer acts as a means of negotiation with spiritual forces to assure their favors in this life. “I asked the Virgin to help me with all my heart,” she said. She has a deep sense of faith and I’m sure this played an important role in her healing process.
In this session there was much visible progress in spite of the short time that had passed. At this point, our main concern was to continue this progress and improve upon it.
We chose to maintain the same formula from the previous session for emergencies when the itching may appear again or in case she woke up during the night. I suggested that she place the dropper on a night-table near her bed in order to take the drops during the night if she couldn’t sleep. “But I don’t have a night-table,” she said, “just a cardboard box.” I told her to leave them on the box or under her pillow. I told her to take them every few minutes until she fell asleep or relief was obtained. L. named this formula the “little desperation drops” (las gotitas de la desesperacion).
I created a new formula with the following essences:
Five-Flower Formula to continue the process of emotional stabilization.
Pansy for skin ailments and comfort. Her feelings of rejection, anger, and hurt were to be aided by this flower. Also, to help bring strength, courage, and the desire to overcome illness.
Crab Apple for cleansing and detoxification.
Chamomile to treat tension and emotional anxiety, as a calming and relaxing element. Also to address insomnia.
Snapdragon for verbal hostility and tension, as well as to address problems with communication and physical contact.
Along with this, we kept up the use of the topical oil mixture with no changes. First, because the use so far had been very brief and second, because in spite of this fact good results were already visible.
Session two: Oct. 24, 2005
L. had used the formula that was just for emergency situations. She said she used less than in the beginning, but she did not quantify because she does not think in those terms.
She said she felt better. The itching was almost gone and she could sleep now. She could also take showers and do housework. Once in a while she took the Five-Flower Formula when the itching would start but much less than before.
Pansy seemed to be working well because her itching was greatly reduced. Crab Apple also was helping to cleanse her skin and emotions. People commented positively on her physical change. Chamomile helped in relaxing her as evidenced by her ability now to sleep. Her communication improved with Snapdragon. She began to talk with people she didn’t talk to before.
For a few days she felt sad and bad memories returned “as if I were watching a movie.” For a couple of days she was more angry. Then she got over it.
She also kept attending healing masses. There “I could cry all I wanted. Before I could not cry.” Cathartic reactions took place in her, creating spiritual as well as physical healing.
She still needed to work on her aggressiveness. She needed to be more responsible with work and children, not expecting everybody to be taking care of her. Also she needed to work on her clumsiness. She would have little accidents like falling etc.
I chose Dogwood to help her to overcome the negative feelings because of her childhood sexual abuse and neglect, as well as for her resentment and bitterness. She had a strong defensive outer shell which she needed to break. I hoped it would also help her to forgive.
Fairy Lantern was chosen to help with her feelings of helplessness, childish dependency and her lack of ability to take responsibilities.
I used Calendula for her verbal aggression and to continue to improve her communication with others.
Chaparral was to help clean her psychic and physical toxicity and for purification of the results of her traumatic experiences.
Session three: Nov 14, 2005
We had kept the emergency formula but now she rarely used it.
The main event was that L. went to talk with the man she had lived with and who had abused her. She hated him but now chose to forgive him. She thought she would start fighting with him but to her surprise when she saw him she did not feel like saying anything. She simply told him that all was in the past and she walked away. She then experienced the power of forgiveness. She also realized that she does not pick fights as much.
She continued to attend the healing masses now as a regular. She even went to another town to attend other healing masses.
She showed progress on her aggressiveness however she still needs to work on taking more personal responsibility and not letting others solve her problems. She still needed to work on her clumsiness and be more graceful.
I repeated the same formula minus Holly, because she was able to forgive. When I talked to her informally, “hate” did not now seem to be an important issue.
Dogwood was continued to help her deal with her resentment, bitterness, clumsiness and being accident prone.
Fairy Lantern was maintained helped her to accept her adult responsibilities.
Calendula was continued to temper her verbal aggressiveness.
Chaparral was continued because she still needed to cleanse negative emotions and memories.
Session four: Dec. 28, 2005
Calendula helped her to temper her verbal aggressiveness. She ran separately into each of the two men who tried to abuse her. When she saw them her first impulse was to yell and humiliate them in front of everyone but in her words “I felt that something held me back. I think I am less offensive with my words.”
Chaparral seems to be working because her skin is now clear and she has been successfully dealing with her most significant negative emotions.
She continued to attend church, healing masses, prayer meetings and personal prayer. All of this helped in the sense that her faith is an important element in the healing process.
Although she did not formally express it in the interview, I realized that she still did not like to be touched or have people very close to her. She gets nervous even when people try to say “hi” with a hug or try to approach her physically. She reacted in a startled fashion. She always felt ugly and I noticed that her skin condition made her feel worse, and that anything related to that feeling affected her. She would always joke about how ugly she was. Sometimes she dressed in a manner that made her look disheveled, although she now takes showers and looks clean.
At this point, she had improved her problems with verbal aggression. However, her problems with physical contact remained. She also continued with problems related to taking on adult responsibilities and lack of motivation. We decided to work on her feelings of ugliness and fear of physical contact and her problems with adult responsibility.
This formula was chosen on the basis of observation more than on content given in interviews. At this point, we had a more informal relationship, which allowed me a glimpse into her life that was unavailable in the more “formal” interactions of the counseling session.
Poison Oak was used for the fear of intimate contact and the protection of personal boundaries. These were not comments given in interviews, but rather the result of observation. Although the itching was gone by now, it is likely that it was caused by this; according to Claudia Stern, people with these characteristics often develop rashes to keep others from approaching them.
Pretty Face was to address her feelings of ugliness and rejection because of her personal appearance.
Tansy was used for her procrastination and lack of motivation. She seems lazy, but she’s not. This is related to her fear of taking on responsibilities and Tansy was used to address this in a concrete manner.
Holly was reintroduced due to the observation that she still needed to close a cycle and feel that the forgiveness was in her heart, not just her mind.
Session five: January 23, 2006
Since the previous session L. went to confession because she needed to feel that as she had forgiven, God had forgiven her. She wanted to feel “that it was not just in my head but in my heart.” “When the priest gave me absolution I felt that I had discharged something heavy, a heavy burden that I had been carrying.”
“Before I took the flowers I felt like a wasp bit me and I flamed up.” “Sometimes I see the change.”
Before the flowers L. would take off hitch-hiking, not knowing if she would have something to eat or a place to sleep. She could not take care of her daughter because she could not work due to the skin problem, also because she would just take off. Now her daughter is back with her and L.’s skin problem has disappeared. Her skin looks clear. “People don’t see me like some sort of strange bug (sic.) or freak.”
Poison Oak treated the deep roots of her skin condition.
Pretty Face helped work with her feelings of ugliness and rejection. Work on this aspect needs to be continued.
Tansy was used to address her procrastination, indifference and lack of responsibility in a concrete manner. Now she doesn’t take off with o apparent purpose. She now works selling things in Fortin and has occasional jobs as a house-keeper. Thanks to her work (and the improvement of her physical condition), her daughter returned home as well.
Holly helped bring about true and sincere forgiveness. She was able to go to confession and let go of burdens.
Comments on the stages of L.’s healing process (the “4 R’s”)
Stage One: Release and Relaxation. She first came on Oct. 3rd, the next day Oct. 4th, and she looked obviously relaxed, and relieved after having been able to sleep and felt improvement in her rash.
Stage Two: Realization and Recognition. She became more aware of her anger and hate toward the men who abused her.
Stage Three: Reaction, Resistance and Reconciliation. For a few days she got more angry and sad sometimes. A lot of bad memories came back. She cried a lot. She acknowledged her hurts, anger, and resentment. When she faced one of his abusers and ran into the other two, to her surprise, she realized that the anger, hostility and resentment toward them was gone. She went to see a priest of confession, the sacrament of reconciliation. She now reconciled herself with God and those who hurt her.
Stage Four: Renewal and Reconstellation. Although she still needs to work on old patterns, she is now in the process of stage four. She is creating new possibilities that she could not see before.
L.’s archetypal remedy is Dogwood. “Quite often such a person unconsciously repeats earlier patterns of degradation by choosing abusive relationships or exhibiting self-destructive or accident prone tendencies” (Flower Essence Repertory–Kaminski and Katz)
This essence restores one’s original innocence and helps to forgive. For the resentment, distrustful, who have a protected shell due to past abuse and who always have a chip on their shoulder and will respond at the slightest provocation. This flower is useful for emotional childhood trauma and neglect. (Claudia Stern)
When I write the Dogwood description, I can picture L.. This beautiful flower really describes L.’s personality and behavior problems: abusive relationships, accident prone tendencies, patterns of degradation, emotional childhood and trauma, her need to forgive, and fighting with the slightest provocation. With flower therapy she has confronted these issues and is now moving in a very positive direction.
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.
P.O. Box 459, Nevada City, CA 95959
800-736-9222 (US & Canada)
tel: 530-265-9163 fax: 530-265-0584
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