A Certification Case Study by Zöe McCaffrey (Prescott, AZ)
S is in her mid-thirties. She is tall and very thin. She has pale skin—cool to the touch, dark hair and several visible tattoos. Her shoulders are rounded forward, creating a concave shape around her heart. She is clearly reticent to exchange physical contact such as a hug, and will offer a shoulder and one arm in embrace. S’s manner is warm and friendly, while remaining removed with a “cool” exterior.
Presenting symptoms include: dampened emotional expression, cynical outlook on life, is a harsh self-critic, energetic congestion in lungs, heart and pelvic region, systemic physical tension.
S has several layers of unresolved trauma from her past including parental divorce during childhood, sexual trauma and rape during adolescence, stifled grief about a brother who committed suicide, communication challenges in her marriage partnership, and deep fatigue from maintaining a role of “Pleaser” in her family of origin. At the onset of our work together, S identified as “The Ice Woman,” one who cannot feel the pulse and warmth of her own heartbeat.
As a result of flower essence therapy work, S has become physically softer and more feminine. Her upper body, chest and shoulders have relaxed and opened. She has re-committed to her yoga and meditation practices and has rediscovered her artistic muse. She is experiencing a greater sense of joy in general and is allowing herself to dream into her deepest desires and future aspirations. Her heart space has become more vibrant, with fresh blood and insight flushing out the old and shriveled cavities. She has evolved into “The Ice Woman Melting.”
The most important flower essences for S were Pink Monkeyflower, Borage, Yerba Santa, Star of Bethlehem, Olive, Mariposa Lily, Pomegranate and Centaury.
S’s soul gesture is typified by Pink Monkeyflower essence. One of S’s greatest obstacles has been to slow down and feel the full breadth of her emotional life. Maintaining an open heart and cultivating self-love have also been difficult for her. She has effectively masked deep feelings of shame and guilt for her entire adult life, constructing barriers of protection—a cool exterior, a cynical shell—and becoming an “Ice Woman” disconnected from the warmth and radiating love in her heart. Pink Monkeyflower is a key remedy for unlocking the heart. Click here to learn more about how it was used in this case.
S is the youngest of four children; she has three older brothers. Her parents divorced when she was nine years old. One brother, J committed suicide four years ago. He said goodbye to everyone in the family before engaging in an intentionally fatal car accident. At the time of his death, S agreed to be the administrator of his estate. She is closest to the second oldest sibling, her brother M, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia ten years ago. He currently lives in Mexico under the care of a female friend. S feels anxious about his use of medications and yet acknowledges how difficult it is for him and the family when he is “in psychosis.” Her third brother, T, has a stable family life with two children, whom S is close to.
S’s mom currently lives in California and S describes her as a steady source of support, tending towards martyrdom. S shares that her mom is “so dedicated to her children that her love can blind her to the ways she is neglecting her own needs.” Her father lives in Michigan and is prone to controlling behavior and angry outbursts that frightened S as a child. She describes him as having a limited tolerance of external stimulation and strong social barriers.
S describes her childhood as being full of happy memories, as would her oldest brother, T. The two middle brothers, J and M, had negative childhood memories.
S’s teenage years were very difficult. At 14 years old she was molested twice and then raped by the same individual. During this time period, S was very depressed and did not seek or receive support professionally, or from family. The incidents remained a secret until S was 24 years old when a family friend told S’s parents, betraying her trust. “My femininity was taken away at a young age,” S shared.
S describes her role in the family at this time as the “Fixer” and “Caregiver.” She still actively plays this roll, for instance, when her father broke his hip six years ago she moved him from Mexico to Portland, Oregon, to live with her for an extended period of time. S describes her family of origin in the following way: “I feel totally devoted to my family, and yet they have presented the greatest challenges for me.”
S is currently enrolled in a college Art Therapy Program. She is quite busy and feels overwhelmed by her studies. Her involvement in the broader community is limited. She attends yoga and dance classes whenever possible.
S lives with her husband of four years. She describes these four years of marriage as being “heavy,” and that they have been in perpetual “go mode.” The timing of their intended nuptial celebration closely coincided with her brother’s suicide and it did not feel appropriate to hold a celebration, so their union began with unsatisfying ceremony. “It is something missing from our experience… something needing to be acknowledged,” she told me. Certain aspects of their relationship have been neglected, namely their authentic heart connection and the naming and cultivating of their collective dreams, as well as an extended opportunity to relax together. She feels focused on all that is wrong, rather than the larger picture of their life together. She would like to keep “the conscious respect for each other alive.”
At the onset of our work together, S and her husband lived on four rural acres in Arizona. Upon completion of her responsibilities at the college in May, they moved to California where she began a practicum experience at a non-profit offering counseling to cancer patients.
S feels that her biological family dynamic has been “extremely challenging” in the past few years. S often takes the roll of caretaker, to the detriment of her wellbeing. When her father had a heart attack this winter, she went to Michigan to support him, and seriously considered having him move in with her and her husband. Upon deeper reflection, S became aware of her tendency to want to rescue her family from tragedy and decided to help her father by seeking other sources of support.
S leads a healthy lifestyle, filled with exercise and a conscious diet of minimally processed foods and humanely raised animal products. She describes herself as experiencing low energy and as getting sick frequently. She has chronic stomach ailments, for which she uses natural remedies. She has asthma. She takes no medications. When S was 21 years old she became pregnant and had an abortion.
S describes her heart as a “wrinkled prune,” “encased” in sadness, and that it can only open so far. She is also experiencing deep sorrow in her lungs, which feel constricted and stagnant. She is just beginning to address the deep grief within her heart related to J’s suicide, as well as the constant worry she feels about her brother M, a schizophrenic living in Mexico under questionable care.
S describes herself as “stuck in the minutia” of her life, lacking a broader perspective. She often suffers from a fatalistic outlook and she considers herself a cynic. She is having communication challenges in her marriage and hopes to find a way of authentically reconnecting with her husband.
S is interested in unblocking her creativity both personally and professionally. She is aware of recurring patterns of negative thinking and emotional roadblocks. “I would like to work on removing habits of negative self-talk about my life and my potential. I feel like cleansing and opening.”
The central theme of my work with S was to support an opening, cleansing and reconnecting with her heart space.
A short-term goal related to this theme was to re-engage with a daily yoga and meditation practice centered around opening the heart, with the intention of inviting fresh energy, awareness and love to the atrophied organ.
Also related to this theme were the following intentions; identify and remove emotional roadblocks; reform her habit of cynical self-talk about her life and personal potential; and cultivate a fresh sense of self-love.
A second goal involved addressing the sexual trauma that occurred in her teenage years and cleansing her sexual organs of this trauma in preparation for conceiving a child of her own.
S also hoped to improve her communication with her husband and develop a more authentic presence with him. About six months into our work together, S and her husband took strides toward a related goal of returning to couples counseling to talk about marriage, individual life goals, and the possibility of parenthood.
Another goal was to unblock her personal and professional creativity. She hoped to begin bringing creative ideas and inspiration into her therapy work, as well as return to doing art for herself.
An additional goal was to define clear personal boundaries with her family members, thus re-evaluating how much time and energy she can spend supporting them.
About Zöe McCaffrey, M.A. Educational Psychology
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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