Dr. Angeli Shares Her Personal Case of Spiritually Based Anxiety
My first experience with Purple Monkeyflower was a personal one. I had been teaching a class on flower essence therapy at Medicum College, a newly-established institution in Athens, Greece. In preparing for the course, I wrote short descriptions of the flower essences for the participants to study.
When I came across Purple Monkeyflower, I noticed a difficulty to proceed with writing the description. At first, it was an unconscious paralysis and anxiety which soon became more intense. Finally, I was aware of it and understood what was happening.
I had read phrases of the Flower Essence Repertory such
those whose great need for security and safety causes them to cling to
social-religious structures...Fear of going ‘astray’ and
following one’s own authentic path can further be accentuated by
harsh or judgmental religious dogma, which includes threats of retribution
or condemnation.” I suddenly thought of dogmatic religious groups.
I wondered how I could write about this when my notes might be read by
people who belong to traditional religious circles. Many such persons
do in fact think in a dogmatic manner that runs counter to inner freedom.
I was becoming increasingly flooded by anxiety, and I wished I could eliminate this essence from the list. However, the intensity and the quality of this anxiety finally “woke me up.” I understood that I was exaggerating the problem. I realized that I was afraid of a possible conflict with the “conventional social-religious structure” and that perhaps, I myself, was in need of Purple Monkeyflower at that moment.
I took the essence immediately and in the next few minutes I was able to watch how my whole perception of the problem changed as my worry eased. Soon, I felt my courage returning and I could write about Purple Monkeyflower in a polite, concerned manner, in no way harshly confronting or opposing fanatical attitudes, but also not compromising the truth. I felt a great relief and gratitude for preserving my inner freedom, and I felt strong and optimistic about going on, despite possible difficulties of this kind.A Client Frees Herself from the Harmful Effects of Religious Dogma
L.M., age 49, is an inspector in the Ministry of Education. She had always been a traditional Orthodox Christian, under the guidance of a “Spiritual Father.” For many years she had been intending to become a nun, although she never did. Originating from a highly authoritarian family, L.M. had formed a very unhealthy adjustment in her relation with the Church. She was unable to make the slightest life decision without the approval of her guiding priest. When she came for the first session, several years ago, she was on the edge of having an open psychotic crisis.
L.M. responded well to flower essences and was able to stay away from anti-psychotic drugs. Soon she bought the whole set of the English essences of Dr. Bach, and started choosing for herself, according to her needs. She also started participating in psychotherapy groups, slowly altering her life style and attitudes. However, this was not a smooth process. Her religious friends and guides urged her to quit these “satanic things” immediately. They attributed her problems to lack of total “obedience” to the priests, who really knew what was good for her.
L.M. became extremely anxious and confused. She wanted to follow what she felt was good for her, but at the same time she was terrified. It appeared that she was becoming possessed by another person’s spirit and beliefs. I was not contacting the person that I knew and there was no way to communicate with her. She became mistrusting towards the essences that were helping her so much and also became suspicious and paranoid towards everybody. She was actually paranoid about everybody, subconsciously including the church, of course. One day, after her confession to a particular priest, she threw the entire set of the flower remedies in the garbage!
However, one to two years later, she again started to fluctuate on the matter. Sometimes she was so desperate that she would ask for flower essences, but would soon stop taking them, making up her mind to be “spiritually correct.” The type of religious environment she was clinging to, was neither able to help her nor was allowing her to seek help elsewhere.
During those very turbulent times, L.M. would temporarily make use of remedies such as Holly, Aspen, Walnut, or Cerato. These flower essences helped somewhat, but were not given the chance to do deeper work because L.M. would soon discontinue taking them. She was not making any real progress and struggled repeatedly with the same unresolved character issues, inner conflicts and neurotic personality traits.
I added Purple Monkeyflower to her formula, and since that time, her belief about flower essence therapy has changed dramatically. Although L.M. will always be a religious person who values traditional ways, dogmatic beliefs no longer seem to interfere with her logic and sense of reality. Her difficulties are steadily dissipating because there is no inner resistance. L.M. is more predictable, logical and communicative. Purple Monkeyflower proved to be a key essence in this case, removing the problem that was at the base of the situation.
R.S., age 20, consulted with me regarding despair about his future. He was studying computer technology, and believed that he had to finish school, though he had discovered that he hated computers. R.S. is a handsome, friendly and sociable young man, very popular among girls. What impressed me right from the first session was this young man’s anxiety and concern about his relationships with girls. Although he seemed urgently in need of help regarding his studies and professional orientation, the only thing that really mattered was his love life. He could visualize no dreams about his future other than “having a nice family.”
However, R.S. was anxious because he could not stay with the same girl for longer than a few days or weeks. He said that he always became “bored” and had to end the relationship. He reported that this happened not only with girls who did not matter, but also with those he really liked. His father is an alcoholic and his parents are divorced. The main reason for this, besides alcoholism, was the fact that the father was “too much of a womanizer.” R.S. also shared that he was strongly influenced by his mother, and described himself as “rather thoughtless, quite spontaneous and impulsive.”
I was concerned about his urgent problems with his school and life orientation, and suggested we work with his career issue, telling him that he was still young and his relationships with women would mature with time. R.S. returned after four months, very happy and full of enthusiasm because he had been able to leave his school despite his family’s pressure. He had found the “ideal job” working in the tourist business. Although happy and relieved, he soon talked again about difficulties in his relationships with girls: “I have a problem with girls, I become disillusioned very easily. If I am with a girl whom I like and suddenly I see another whom I also like, I want that other one, too. I must have inherited this problem from my father…I cannot tolerate any expression of jealousy or possessiveness …”
During this second visit, I gave R.S. Sticky Monkeyflower without mentioning the essence’s properties, as he was not particularly interested in learning about them. He returned after only 14 days! His first words were: “I have great, surprising news! I met a girl, and it was the first time in my life that I felt the need to be with her. I felt ‘bonding’ with her. For two and half days I was with her all the time and did not feel bored, not for a single minute! This never happened to me before…” Sure that he was saying something very unusual and extraordinary, he noted, “I prefer to stay with my girlfriend instead of going out with my friends! ”
R.S. has not returned since that time, but from his mother I learned that he continued dating the same girl for some time and then separated. My opinion is that his newfound experience of closeness and connectedness was granted to him by the Sticky Monkeyflower flower essence, though he took the remedy for only two weeks. Perhaps the memory of this experience, which proved beneficial for him, may lead him to recreate himself in a future stage in his life biography.A Forty-Year Old Man Discovers Less Sexual Desire and More Love
P.W., now age 40, used to have many sexual affairs of short duration, sometimes simultaneously. He was always finding faults and limitations in his partners and felt “bored” after some time. P.W. complained that he could not find “the woman of his dreams.” Although he enjoyed his sexual freedom and diversity, he longed to have a “real partner,” with whom he could feel inspired and create a family.
He was again in a relationship and felt it was
time to separate. He commented, “I think I am getting depressed. I am almost 40, I am
getting old, soon I will no longer be good looking… I will never
have a wife and family. The thought that I may no longer be with B. hurts
me, although I know that it will be my responsibility, my fault. She
is a great woman and I feel that I am growing through my relationship
with her. But I know that sooner or later, it is bound to come to an
end. I believe that I am cursed to always experience separations, because
my heart can’t be filled.”
P.W. was worried about having “less sexual desire.” However, he added strongly, though in a surprised manner: “But, I am having a better time now than before when there was that very strong sexual ‘thing’. We’ll see…I wish there could be the previous sexual excitement as well. There is sexual excitement, but decreased. I want B. to be my wife. But I think I won’t succeed in being faithful to her…okay, these are just words, I know that I am not the type of person who would seek extramarital affairs.”
During all the years P.W. had been visiting me working on a number of personal problems, this was the first time I heard him say that he wanted someone to be his wife. He said it in a very natural way, as if it were not something new for him, as if he did not notice any difference from the past. It was at that point that I mentioned the Sticky Monkeyflower essence and its properties. “I want this essence again” he shouted. “Please, don’t forget to put it in my bottle!”
I did not continue working with P.W. for a significant time after this episode. His feelings about sexuality and relationships were complex and would certainly have required sustained inner work.
I believe that Sticky Monkeyflower definitely provides an experience of closeness and bonding, enabling the individual to recognize the value of this shift in consciousness. However, this single remedy, does not necessarily facilitate a complete change of the entire emotional background regarding one’s beliefs and feelings about sexuality.An Extended Understanding of Scarlet Monkeyflower: Integrating an "Unacceptable" Aspect of the Self
My case work with Scarlet Monkeyflower suggests a broader range of possible applications, not only for “fear and repression of intense emotions” but also for general conflicts between a person’s belief system (what in psychoanalysis is called the ‘superego’*) and the more instinctual side of the self.
The Scarlet Monkeyflower was one of the few essences I had not used during my many years of clinical work. The Repertory description refers to an “explosive, demonic force, lurking inside the self,” indicating a terrifying, rather difficult psychological state. Also, flower remedies such as Cherry Plum and Crab Apple address similar issues.
My clinical observations show Scarlet Monkeyflower essence can be related to disapproval of particular aspects of oneself, not just angry, explosive feelings and attitudes. This essence can balance the tendency to reject oneself because of the difficulty to conform to the dictates of one’s superego.
Examples include conflicting needs or complicated life circumstances that bring one into opposition with internal moral beliefs, or weaknesses or mistakes that result in feelings of self-rejection. These parts of the self do not necessarily have to be angry or overly-emotional, though this may often be the case.
Extending the indications for Scarlet Monkeyflower to whatever might be unacceptable for the Self (another term might be ‘ego-dystonic’), could broaden the spectrum of the essence’s use and help with problems that psychotherapy has difficulty treating.
Below are four cases that share a common ground of self-rejection and feelings of guilt. They also involve fear (either realistic or imaginary) of rejection by other people. In all of these cases, the Scarlet Monkeyflower essence helped the client achieve self-acceptance and deal with their real problems. Only after the painful attitudes of avoidance, frustration and self-rejection were replaced by acceptance of the situation, could progress be made.
Resolving a Case of Intense Anxiety and Depression
My first case with Scarlet Monkeyflower involved G.H., a 44-year old man suffering intense anxiety due to an impending court trial. After a rather long period of unemployment, he had obtained a job in a company that provided very good work conditions. Several months later, he suddenly became aware of illegal financial transactions taking place in the company. “I was in utter panic and wanted to quit that job and run away immediately” he said. “But when I tried to do it, I discovered that the thought of becoming unemployed once again, was equally, if not more, terrifying to me! ....These thoughts seemed to support a ‘reasonable’ attitude of not quitting the job immediately. So, despite my panic, finally I chose to stay in that job... while looking for another job.”
During that period however, the case was discovered and taken to court. G.H. was worried about the consequences and also ashamed about the possibility of his involvement being publicized. He shared, “What makes the situation unbearable is that I cannot accept my own attitude. If I were accused of something that my conscience could take responsibility for, or even if I was condemned for something I did not do, I would not suffer this way. But, I accuse myself, because I knew something about the problem but acquiesced and did not quit the job. .. My initial reaction was suicidal thoughts, then slowly, after a few weeks, I realized I would have to go through it…”
His lawyer revealed that, objectively, G.H. was not in a very bad situation; nevertheless the psychological context produced a high level of anxiety in him. He believed that his feelings were related to fear. We concluded that what prevented him from being courageous was the lack of approval for his own behavior.
G.H. was endlessly questioning his attitudes. He was depressed and trying to discover some deeper meaning. As one essence after another was tried and put aside, I started losing hope that I could understand his soul problem. “You know”, he finally said, “deep inside my soul I do not feel real guilt, as I know the exact circumstances of the situation. However, I cannot stop judging myself severely... What I find myself doing is self-sabotage.” Like Jean Valjean, the hero in Victor Hugo’s Le Miserables, this man was going through torturing “internal trials,” trying to decide if he should “reveal his crime” or do his best to save himself from the consequences he faced.
Finally, my intuitive assessment of the situation
pointed to Scarlet Monkeyflower. I began to consider that his psychological
a way of resisting a ‘dark aspect’ of himself, and not allowing
this aspect to become integrated within him.
“Suddenly I felt that what I was doing to myself was inhuman. That I should stop being so cruel to myself! I saw that, after all, this was not a terribly severe case! ... I don’t mean that I approve of what happened...but I can accept and forgive myself, for the limited human being that I am, just like any other person,” G.H. related.
G.H. could perceive the almost immediate effect of Scarlet Monkeyflower. He was able to go through the process and handle a difficult situation in his life. He was sane and reasonable, and did his best to defend himself. Being such a sensitive person, he still required support for general anxiety, but proceeded smoothly, once the inner conflict was resolved.A Client’s Family Identity is Threatened
Mrs. B.N., age 53, is a high-ranking civil servant, hard-working, capable and highly respected in society. “Righteousness” had always been a very pronounced trait of her personality. She had already been working with me for approximately a year regarding personal and family issues. One day, she came to her appointment extremely anxious and upset: a distant relative of hers was involved in illegal acts in the management of his department at work.
B.N. was flooded by anxiety, almost in panic, while no logical explanation could be found for such feelings. Mrs. B.N.’s identification with “righteousness” was threatened, even though she was not directly involved in the incident. She also feared that she might become publicly exposed in some way because of her relative. She could not tolerate the possibility of having to be ashamed for something he did.
I administered Scarlet Monkeyflower and when I saw her two weeks later, she talked about anything but the legal proceedings that were currently underway. As often happens with people who take flower essences, they are not aware of the internal psychological processes taking place. At the end of the session, I carefully questioned her: “By the way, how are things with your relative?” It took her a moment to remember, then she seemed to become rather philosophical and said with an indifferent tone: “Ah, about that case…well, what can we do…you see how people are? We never know what to expect in this society where we are living.”Helping a Young Boy Deal with His Shame about School Performance
A further case involves the son of the woman mentioned above, who was doing poorly in school. He was hyperactive and resisted study. He wanted to spend all his time playing with his friends. His father was always angry, “calling him names.” I sensed that this boy was feeling ashamed of himself for not studying and being a good student at school. He had a very strong sense of dignity. Even though he knew that to some extent, his father was right to be angry with him, he was deeply embarrassed. He could not tell his father: “you are wrong! I am not what you say.”
His anger towards his parents, his father in particular, pushed him further away from home to find relief in playing. I suspected that the boy’s unconscious disapproval of himself might be one of the reasons why he was so angry, reactive and quarrelsome with his father.
Scarlet Monkeyflower helped the young boy come to terms with this unacceptable side of himself. The next time his mother came to see me, she said: “He is much calmer these days. Actually, he does not study more than before, but his concentration has improved and also, he is more co-operative with his father.”A Young Woman Moves from Self-Rejection to Self Responsibility
K.B, age 25, now finishing her studies as a beautician, is very interested in flower therapy and would like to use flower essences in her work in the future. During a discussion about the Monkeyflowers and other essences for fear, I shared with her my expanded understanding of Scarlet Monkeyflower. She immediately said that she certainly needed that essence and asked for it. As she said later, she had been rejecting herself because of her sexual life, which she described as “excessive and imbalanced.”
After several days of using the essence, K.B. wrote: “Deep within I had been considering myself as ‘Maria Magdalene’ (a common name referring to ‘the sinned woman’). I ached due to that illogical part of me that led me to such a way of living. I was condemning my own self; I felt like a ‘cheap’ person. Sometimes I thought that I deserved severe punishment, in order to purify myself.”
“When the Scarlet Monkeyflower came to me” she wrote, “I started to really be able to ‘breathe.’ The heaviness I was feeling in my soul gradually started to lift.... and the deep shame within me started to dissolve. This did not mean that I wanted to repeat those things…. Before, I used to ‘fight against’ that heavy, overly judgmental part of myself, despite my feelings of guilt and self-punishment... I think now that only by achieving real inner freedom can we move towards true self-responsibility. Scarlet Monkeyflower, along with Hibiscus and White Trumpet (Easter) Lily, really provided me with self-acceptance, helping me become free of the feelings of self-rejection and un-cleanliness which I had been experiencing.”
Read “The Monkeyflower Essences: A Unique Genus of Plants Addressing a Wide Spectrum of Soul Fears”
*Superego: “One of the three systems of the tripartite (structural) model, the superego sets up and maintains an intricate system of ideals and values, prohibitions and commands (the conscience). It observes and evaluates the self, compares it with the ideal, and either criticizes, reproaches, and punishes, leading to a variety of painful effects, or praises and rewards, thereby raising self-esteem”
Dr. Marina Angeli is a psychiatrist in private practice in Athens, Greece. Her psychotherapeutic background is in Family Systems Therapy. She is a graduate of the Flower Essence Society Practitioner Training and Certification Program. She is currently teaching a course on flower essence therapy for Medicum College in Athens, Greece. Dr. Angeli recently completed a two-year course in Homeopathy by G. Vythoulkas in Athens and Alonissos, and has also trained in the methods of E.M.D.R. and E.F.T. Dr. Angeli's detailed reports have been summarized with her approval. Readers who wish to correspond further about her wealth of insights on these flower essences may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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