The word ‘depression’ can refer to many different states of mind, ranging from understandable sadness to life-threatening mental illness. Sometimes depression arises in reaction to adverse life events, especially those which involve some kind of loss. Sometimes it is due to a physical disorder – for example underactive thyroid, Parkinson’s disease, the unwanted effects of prescribed medication – impacting on the function of the brain. Sometimes depression develops for no apparent reason, and this form often has some genetic basis.
For mild depressive states, Bach flower remedies can work well on their own. In more severe cases it is always advisable to seek professional diagnosis and care, but the remedies can still be helpful as an adjunct to other forms of treatment and support. There is no one single flower for depression, but several different ones which could help to relieve various forms of the condition, for example:
Gentian for those who feel disappointed or disheartened in response to a setback, or who tend to have a pessimistic outlook on life in general. This remedy helps to restore faith, hope and certainty.
Gorse for those who, perhaps after a prolonged experience of illness or difficult circumstances, have abandoned all hope of improvement.
Mustard for the type of depression which comes and goes for no apparent reason and is often described as like a ‘black cloud’.
Sweet chestnut is the remedy for heartache, anguish and despair.
Other remedies might also be helpful for associated problems, for example Elm if there is a sense of being overburdened with responsibilities, Pine if there are exaggerated feelings of guilt and self-blame, or Willow for those who cast themselves as victims and harbour resentment and self-pity.
Up to six remedies can be combined in the same course of treatment. Please visit the Bach Centre website for details of the system and how it is used.
Few states of mind are more toxic to body and soul than unforgiveness – which includes both resentments towards other people, and reproachfulness towards the self. All the major world religions advocate forgiveness. This does not mean condoning wrong actions, but involves moving on from the hurt they have caused, by cultivating love and compassion instead of holding on to anger and blame.
Chronic unforgiveness has been described as ‘a deadly spiritual poison’ and many alternative healers regard it as a major risk factor for physical disease, some going so far as to say that it lies at the root of most cases of cancer. I don’t know whether this is true and it would be a challenging topic for research, but there are certainly many personal stories of remarkable recovery both from cancer and other conditions after sincere forgiveness has taken place – see this link for one man’s story. Forgiveness always benefits the one who forgives, and also the one who is forgiven, if it is possible and appropriate to tell them about it.
When I think about the occasions in my own life when forgiveness has been called for, I find that they seldom involved deliberate wrong-doing. More often there was a lack of consideration for others, a projection of personal problems onto the nearest target, even a misguided attempt to be helpful – a reminder that different people can perceive the same situation in very different ways, and always a potential ‘learning experience’.
Though we may acknowledge that forgiveness is highly desirable, many of us find it difficult. For some, the intention to forgive can best be supported through spiritual or religious counselling and practice; for others, through psychological techniques. Bach flower remedies such as Willow, Holly and Pine could be chosen to assist the process, depending on the details of each case.
Holly promotes forgiveness and love when there are negative feelings towards others. Dr Edward Bach made this comment about people who need Holly: ‘Within themselves they may suffer much, often when there is no real cause for their unhappiness’.
Pine promotes forgiveness when there is criticism and guilt towards the self. Bach wrote in his booklet The Twelve Healers: ‘For those who blame themselves. Even when successful they think they could have done better, and are never content with their efforts or the results. They are hard-working and suffer much from the faults they attach to themselves. Sometimes if there is any mistake it is due to another, but they will claim responsibility even for that.’