Learning to be on one’s own DR BARBARA LEWIS (BSC, DHOM, DHERB, MNIMH)
‘I’m learning to be on my own’.
These are usually painful, difficult words spoken at times of transition. Times that suggest loss and loneliness, bereavement, divorce, empty nest, a move from the family home to university in a different town, or going to live overseas.
Traditionally humans have been tribal creatures, living in multigenerational homes in close-knit family groups in interactive villages, but with the advent of modernity and nuclear families, ‘learning to be on my own’ has become a common occurrence when this family unit breaks up. Of course there are people who enjoy being alone.
Sulphurtype people enjoy company, but don’t need it, and Nat mur constitutional types can be very solitary and don’t need people around with whom to interact. Other constitutional types like Anacardium, Chamomilla, Nux vomica and Sepia often feel better when on their own. Lycopodium people want to be left alone but also like to know that there is someone else in the house so that they can have conversation if they so wish.
But the bulk of people are social beings who gain meaning from their relationships with others and feel the loss of loved ones when they are gone. In psychological growth terms individuals have to develop a strong positive inner sense of self so that their relationships are interdependent, healthy ones.
Bereavement after a long successful marriage throws many widows and widowers into the turmoil of making new habits after a lifetime of being together, precisely at a time when they are getting older and more frail. Life can be hard and seem unfair. Bereavement and divorce bring up many emotions like sadness, grief, loneliness, depression, anger and resentment. Anxiety and fears feel worse when one is on one’s own without a partner to talk to. Common anxieties centre around money issues, pension and taxes, safety and security, loneliness, health, and frequently anxiety about the future.
So the simple words ‘I’m learning to be on my own’ may be fraught with many meanings. Aconite is well known as a remedy for the effects of shock and exposure to cold air, but it is also useful for states of acute anxiety and even panic attacks with an overwhelming fear of imminent death. This remedy will release the shock that may have been held in the mind or body after a traumatic event. With the anxiety there is great restlessness.
The person needing Aconite may have a dislike of crowds, but a strong desire for company, and they project their sense of anxiety onto others and worry about their loved ones’ safety. The anxiety is worse in the evening or just after falling asleep, when they might wake with fright. Arsen alb is a homeopathic polycrest, which means it can be used in many disorders. Its keynote is that of ‘insecurity’. The person needing this remedy has an overwhelming sense of vulnerability in the world and fear for his wellbeing and material security. Arsen alb can help many individuals who are learning to be on their own, as their anxiety may be masked by irritability, discontent and criticism of others. As the anxiety grows, the person feels more dependent and needs lots of reassurance. This need for reassurance regarding their health, and feeling that they have a serious ailment from which they may die, leads them to consult many doctors. They are convinced that no one is paying sufficient attention to their complaints. The anxiety may develop into panic attacks, with restlessness and trembling. The other major worry that becomes a source of anxiety for Arsen alb people is money; a huge fear of poverty results in avarice and collecting things like paper bags or plastic containers ‘in case they are needed’. Sulphur’s collection of things will be haphazard and seemingly messy, but Arsen alb is perfectionistically, fastidiously tidy! He plans and works compulsively, is proper and over-responsible, and needs tidy control over everything in his environment. By relieving the sense of anxiety specific to Arsen alb, one can help these individuals become stronger in themselves and relieve much unnecessary suffering.
Ignatia is one of the grief remedies, often used in cases of disappointed love, and may help people in the transitional space of learning to live alone. People needing Ignatia tend to be idealistic, sensitive people who are then disappointed, easily offended and hurt by the actions of others. They bottle up these feelings, appearing to be defensive or touchy and rude or suspicious. The suppressed emotions then lead to physical cramps and spasms. Sighing is often a symptom. Their desire to avoid crying may lead to hysterical sobbing. Kali carb is a remedy for conservative, moral, loyal, proper, law-abiding people who are unable to break even trivial rules. They dislike change as it makes them feel insecure, and they do not like to live on their own. Being alone exacerbates their underlying anxiety (which they feel in their solar plexus) about impending disease, ghosts, the future, the dark, etc. They often wake up at 3 a.m. and worry. Their emotional states mostly show up in physical symptoms, making them irritable.
As mentioned previously, Lycopodium types hate to be totally alone, but do not want too much intimacy either. Someone in another room to bring them tea and fuss over them is often their ideal. There are two distinct types of Lycopodium person; one who is shy, quiet, introverted and lacks confidence, and the other type who appears confident, egotistical and even bombastic. They tend to order their hen-pecked spouses about, but fall apart and do not do well without their partner if bereaved. When Phosphorus-type people are positive, they are like fizzy drinks, bubbly out-going and extroverted, sparkling with intelligence, creativity and enthusiasm. In their negative phases their light goes out and they are like flat Coca-Cola – fatigued and collapsed inwards. In this state they uncharacteristically want to be alone and not talk. Usually they love company and reassurance. They do not have strong boundaries between themselves and others, and this sensitivity leads to anxiety and fear of being alone, fear of illness and death, or a fear that something bad will happen.
Phosphorus types adapt to being alone at home provided that they have strong communal ties and friendships and many creative outlets. They may sleep with the TV on for light and the feeling of company. A few doses of Phosphorus in homeopathic potency can significantly help these individuals deal with their extreme sensitivity and cope better with being alone, which is inimical to their basic being.
Pulsatilla is a frequently used remedy for soft, deeply emotional, gentle people who need support and reassurance. They often feel great anxiety and resentment at their fate if bereaved. Because of their need for strong support, their partner was often dominant, and learning to be alone is a painful process of courage as Pulsatilla people learn to negotiate the vicissitudes of life alone. Their moods are changeable and can alternate from soft and weepy at one moment to great irritability the next if they feel deprived of attention. Physical symptoms are frequently changeable, seemingly without a pattern. Their process of being alone can be aided by counselling or by strong religious belief systems or leaders. Bach flower remedies, especially Rescue Remedy, can be very useful for acute states of fear and anxiety. Take five drops on the tongue when needed. It can help relax one before sleep too. Star of Bethlehem helps very well in acute grief states.
There are many other remedies to help people who are overwhelmed by emotion in times of transition. Often one needs to talk to a professional homeopath to sort out what it is one is feeling within the jumble of thoughts and emotions that occur with one’s change of circumstance. Counselling can be a valuable investment in oneself, and talking things through with a sympathetic listener is highly recommended.
Pets can give unconditional love as one learns how to live alone. Dogs also help to get one out of the house for walks. Exercise classes, dance and yoga are healthful and build up social connections. Work relationships and volunteer work are important in setting up a new sense of self, as are hobbies like pottery, art classes or sculpture. Being alone is often a spur, driving us to listen to our inner selves and to develop and grow spiritually.
Religious communities can be of great help, and healing and study
groups open up vistas of new knowledge from which to grow further. Spiritual
growth often requires ‘alone time’ in which to reflect, delve and
contemplate. The process of learning to live alone is often a scary one, fraught
with the difficulty of moving into new territory without the support of familiar
loved ones. However as with all growth one can become stronger and more
resilient, with a deeper sense of self and the development of consciousness that
implies spiritual and psychological growth. Homeopathy can fill an important and
helpful role in this process.