Reports of new treatment advances, whether in orthodox or alternative medicine, come out almost every day. Some will soon be forgotten or discredited, and others will prove to have real benefits, but none will work for all conditions or all cases – as I well know from my long experience of trying ‘cures’ for migraine.
The basic principles of healing are simple and timeless. There is an old saying all healing is self-healing and though external treatments often do achieve excellent results, none can completely replace the body’s own powers of recovery. We are not consciously aware of the wonderfully complex programs of maintenance and repair continually taking place inside us, but we can help them run better with natural therapies and mind-body techniques.
In a recent interview I was asked to sum up my own approach under three headings, and the ones I chose were Balance, Positive Outlook, and Self-Determination.
Balance: balance is important in all sorts of ways, including a balanced lifestyle and diet, achieving a balanced state of mind, finding the best compromise when faced with a conflict. The Bach flower remedy Scleranthus is indicated for a sense of imbalance, indecision or fluctuating mood. Many of the other Bach remedies relate to achieving balance in one way or another, whether balancing your own needs with those of others, or balancing your focus between past, present and future.
Positive outlook: a genuinely positive outlook helps both in coping with illness and in strengthening the body’s resistance to illness. But negative feelings also have their place at times and demand expression – forcing yourself to ‘be positive’ all the time is unhelpful. Many of the flower remedies are designed to transform negative states of mind into their positive equivalents. Examples are Mimulus to replace fear with courage, and Gorse to restore lost hope.
Self-determination: this involves taking responsibility for those aspects of your life and health which lie within your power to control, for example making informed choices about treatment. One of the flowers which can be helpful here is Cerato, which promotes self-belief and faith in your own judgement. Another is Walnut, to protect from the outside influences which may distract from your chosen path.
I have written more about this in my book Focus on Healing: Holistic Self-Help for Medical Illness (published 2009 by Papawai Press, Auckland).
Dr Edward Bach was a strong advocate of self-healing. He believed that most bodily illnesses originated with some kind of imbalance of emotion or personality and that his flower remedies, by ‘flooding our bodies with the beautiful qualities of our higher nature’, would improve both mental and physical well-being. When Bach put forward such ideas in the 1920s and 1930s they were largely rejected by his colleagues, but mainstream research in mind-body medicine is validating many of his intuitive insights today.
A final comment – according to several published trials, the Bach flower remedies work no better than placebo. This contrasts with the excellent results obtained by trained practitioners. Over 80% of the clients treated in my own practice respond well. I have some ideas about the reasons for the discrepancy between research findings and the clinical observations, and will perhaps discuss these in a future post.