Exploring the Interface of Homoeopathy and Gestalt Therapy
A Dialogue between Elisabeth Fink and Rudolf Jarosewitsch
This is a dialogue between Elisabeth and Rudolf in October, that followed their talk with the same title at Novalis House in August.
R: In our presentation we had three parts. The first is the question “What is dis-ease or problem? What is it that needs to be cured?” The second is the method or the “Mirror”, and the third is “Miracles”.
When we talked about problems, we acknowledged problems on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels. When people have mental/emotional problems, psychological problems, they come to see a Psychotherapist, whereas they are more likely to come and see you, a Homoeopath, when they have physical problems.
E: It is the same really. The focus of the illness, the expression of the illness, has gone to a different level.
R: The first question is, “What is the cause of the disease, the problem?”
E: The homoeopathic picture is the three basic directions. The basis from which dis-ease springs is separation, that we have a sense, feeling or an illusion of being separate from the source or God. Hahnemann, the founder of Homoeopathy, used to call this “Psora”. The illness that relates to this aspect is physically not very deep seated. It has to do with skin problems, itches and deficiencies. On a mental/emotional level it has to do with a fear of poverty, “there is not enough”. It has all to do with fear, the idea that I am lacking something, a lot of timitidy, lack of expression, lack of actually going out and doing, getting energy, being creative. There is always this idea I am lacking, I am not enough.
When that becomes too deep, our defence system goes into either of two directions. One direction is to go deeper into the despair of separation. Someday this is so bad, I have no choice but to become destructive, to destroy myself or the environment, to rob its resources. Physically this manifests in the destructive illnesses which are to do with the loss of tissue, ulcers, it effects the bones, which is our structure. One type of people go in this direction; the other type go in the second direction and compensate, by doing things in excess. When you have a feeling that you are insecure, then you do something over the top to compensate for it. People exaggerate and do things in an excessive way, eat too much, do too much of everything, drugs, sex, whatever. This is also how we attract venereal diseases like Gonorrhoea or warts and anything to do with excess tissue, overgrowth. It comes from the desire to fill this gap of emptiness inside.
R: I find this interesting that there also is a parallel with Tibetan Buddhism. They speak of the three poisons. The experience of separateness is called “ignorance”. Ignorance here means not knowing that we are already enlightened, that we already have the Buddha nature, something divine within ourselves. Then there is anger with hatred, the tendency of being destructive, wanting to destroy. The other poison, which corresponds to excess is greed, attachment, wanting more and more. The understanding is that these three poisons are the root of all suffering.
E: Sounds very similar.
R: What I am interested also in is that from a Gestalt Therapy perspective the aspect of connectedness is very important. An additional aspect is that connectedness is something which we experience with other people, with each other. I can be connected with another person or I can be cut off. Therefore the focus in therapy is to be available for contact. I connect to myself to the degree that I connect with another person. It is not to create dependencies, but the goal is to enhance the connectedness with oneself. The basic problem as it is seen in Gestalt Therapy is the lack of being with oneself, the alienation of who we are.
E: If you are connected with yourself, you can be truly connected with another person, in dialogue or in a relationship.
R: It is the experience of connectedness which actually heals, and it is the lack of connectedness, or alienation of myself, which is the problem.
E: This relates again to how we react by either isolating or compensating. The destructive side is total isolation or giving up. The opposite is to constantly look for contact, parties, lots of people. Because we are not connected to our source, we constantly look for connection, trying to get it through others.
R: In Gestalt we have a parallel to this where isolation is one pole, and the other pole is called confluence. At both poles we are afraid of the opposite. The person in isolation is afraid of losing themselves when they have contact, so they isolate themselves from contact. The person who is on the confluent pole is afraid of isolation. and cannot have a sense of him/herself as a separate being, out of fear for isolation. They cannot put boundaries up, they always look for affirmation through others, a sense of identity through others.
The task is to find the middle ground, where I can have a sense of myself who I am and I can be in contact. We call this the boundary. The boundary gives me a sense of myself. On a physical level it is the skin, but we also have an emotional, energetic boundary, a sense of my personal space. The boundary has two functions, it contains me, gives me a sense of who I am. And it also connects me with you. At our boundaries we meet, a healthy boundary is not a rigid wall, but it is semi-permeable, something can come through. My discriminating ability allows me to have a choice of what I let through and what I do not.
This is what we both need, we need to have a sense of ourselves and we need contact, exchange with the environment. For example, breathing, food are essential to our survival.
E: Yes, and when people’s boundaries on a physical level are gone, they get allergies, infections, and illnesses to do with the immune system, like aids. It also relates to abuse. It is very much a theme at this stage in history.
R: The challenge of our times is to establish boundaries in a way that does not isolates ourselves, but connects us with ourselves and others.
E: And connects us with our source.
R: The challenge is to find a way of being in your space and with others. Buber used to say, I can only get a sense of myself through a “you”. I need another person to know who I am.
E: This is our next theme, the mirror. First we talked about what is disease, now we talk about what we use to cure. In Homoeopathy we say that all of the human ailments or conflicts are reflected in nature, whether it is in the plant world, the mineral, metals or in the animal world. What I need at the certain time of sickness is out there and I use what best reflects my state. That is what Hahnemann called “treating like with like”. We use substances, say a plant, that can produce a symptom picture in a human being that cures the disease I want to cure with it.
R: Can you give an example?
E: We use Arnica for bruising and injuries. It is an Alpine plant, and it is said that animals instinctively eat this plant when they injure themselves. Apparently this is how it was originally discovered. Arnica is used when there is injury, accident, even operations, when people – this brings us back to boundaries – feel they don’t want anybody to come near them. It would mean another injury, any contact, any touch. They don’t want to go to the doctor, they feel threatened. All they want is to go home and be by themselves.
R: I don’t have a picture of arnica, what does the plant look like?
E: It is a yellow daisy and always looks a bit battered. Even the touch of the wind makes their leaves look damaged. It reflects the state of over sensitivity, which one experiences after an injury.
R: You look into the world and you use mirrors.
E: I can give an example of a metal, like mercury. The issue on the mental/emotional level is about power, being robbed of one’s power, being killed on a very extreme level. There is a lot of suspicion.
R: How does this relate to the metal?
E: Mercury diffuses, it is liquid, and yet it is a metal. It also splinters off. Part of the issue is this instability. The people are very sensitive to heat and cold, slightest changes of temperatures.
R: I see, mercury is sensitive to temperature changes, that’s why they use it for thermometers.
In Gestalt, the mirror is the therapist. The therapist uses her/himself as the mirror. The cure is through this contact, being available to share this space with another person.
If I am suffering from a problem, I make it worse by denying it. I need to face it and acknowledge it. The moment, I am faced with a mirror, in form of a person, I can actually become aware of it.
E: It’s awareness which leads to recognising yourself and this leads to healing.
R: This is the whole idea. If there is a valid goal in Gestalt Therapy, it is to increase awareness. This then leads to the destructuring of rigid gestalts, which are set of beliefs in a way that in the flow of the life process new gestalts can emerge, that are more appropriate. New constructions, new belief systems emerge.
E: It is restructuring, maybe this is the best way to translate Gestalt. I have never found a better way to explain Gestalt, maybe “reconstruction”.
R: Reconstruction of mind sets to allow the process of organismic self regulation to take place.
For example, I have a particular experience in the past, like being rejected. I might experience this repeatedly. Because it is so painful to be rejected, the next time before someone else can do this to me, I might reject myself, come in first. Eventually it becomes a rigid gestalt, where I believe to be someone who is to be rejected. That’s how I see the world, it is then like putting coloured glasses on, and I am looking at the world in terms of rejection. I am looking out for rejections.
R: I am not consciously aware of it. As I become aware of my process I recognise that this is actually my gestalt, this is my construct. It has been a survival skill. Even though it is painful to be rejected, it still seems to be the more comfortable option, because it is familiar. The careful and gradual deconstruction of this rigid gestalt would be to open up and experience the opposite which is acceptance.
In groups it is common for people to have concepts of “I am silly” when I speak up or show my feelings. I call it “reality check” when I invite them to check out with other group members if this is the way they are seen by them. This is how rigid gestalts can be changed. They are formed in a social context with people, and it seems that we need another social context that is different to deconstruct these. Then I come up not only with the rational insight, but also the emotional experience.
E: It is creating a different experience, and so from this experience you construct a new reality.
R: It is not a delliberate act, but rather a natural process. We do not focus on changing people, but rather to provide additional options, an expanded reality. If I believe when I say something in a group that I am silly, or when I am with people that I am rejected, this is a very limited view. This is what happened in my past, it is not just in my fantasy, it is based on real experience. Now we allow the idea that because it happened in the past, it does not necessarily have to keep happening in the future. As I experience an alternative, I no longer believe that my old construct is the only reality. This gives me another option.
What is very helpful is to have another person understand what it is like to be rejected, to be called silly. This makes me less isolated, less by myself. Just to know there is someone else with a similar experience helps me to feel more accepting of myself in this experience, which then leads to a natural change.
E: In Homoeopathy we call this delusion, what you just called mind set. We look at delusion, what is a person’s delusion.
R: So what do you do with these delusions?
E: We use them to find the appropriate remedy. Each remedy has a central delusion in its symptom picture. We can look at it from that angle or we look at the physical symptoms. We always look at both. To find the correct remedy, it has physical, emotional, mental symptoms. Very often a person is not aware of their delusion. When they tell their story, I might get an idea of it.
R: Would you tell them the delusion that you become aware of?
E: This depends very much on what they want to know, where they are at. To some a concept like this would mean nothing, it would not be appropriate. The remedy does the work. When people have come to a certain point, they become curious, and then it’s the time to tell them.
R: Homoeopathic remedies work, if you believe in them or not?
E: They work on an unconscious level. I have had the same good results in treating babies and animals.
R: So it’s not the belief in them that makes the remedy work.
Getting back to mirrors. There is the aspect that as a therapist I attract people to come to see me, who present me with my own issues. To the degree that I am triggered by them, they present me with a mirror. This awareness and dealing with it in professional supervision is crucial for the therapist. On the other hand, I know the presented issue intimately. I can really be a mirror, I can really meet the other person. Sometimes people come to me, whose experience I do not share closely enough. Then I know I cannot offer them as much. If for example, someone is an alcoholic, because I have never been an alcoholic, they gain much more if they go to AA or to people who specialise in this area.
E: It is the same in my field, I probably see a certain type of illnesses and a certain type of people. Sometimes I think, I really would like to treat people with cancer or aids, these “amazing” illnesses. But I came to realise, it is only my ego that has this ideal that I want to deal with these big bad illnesses. It is not appropriate. I believe people naturally come to me where there is a kind of similarity.
R: What is your expertise?
E: I see a lot of children with asthma, eczema, glue ear (hearing problems to do with congestions), also behaviour problems. With adults, I see a lot of women with pre-menstrual tensions, female issues, abuse issues, plus a broad range of common illnesses for men and women.
R: My specialisation is self care. This is very important to me, an area where I have learned and still learn a lot. Also relationship issues, empowerment, and the integration of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions.
Now, let’s talk about miracles. What I remember of our talk, there were two aspects: One is that there are lots of miracles around. And I remember, we had examples of miracles, like orchids.
E: It’s the miracle of beauty.
R: And stone, crystals, and some wheat germinating.
E: I like that because it has that impulse of life. You have a seed and nothing happens, it is like a dead thing almost. And then the right conditions, the right time and the right environment, such as dampness and warmth just makes it sprout. It is the energy of the source we talked about in the beginning.
R: I also remember, there was in the audience a mother with a young baby, who said, “this is my miracle”.
There are lots of miracles around us. We usually don’t see them any more.
E: We are so often focusing on what is lacking, what is not happening.
R: At the talk you said, it is the illness of our times that we focus on what lacks and not on what is there. Very often we take things for granted. The remedy to this is appreciation. I think of a small ritual, like a prayer at dinner tables, it opens up for miracles. Opening up to appreciation rather than focusing on lack. On the other hand, if I watch TV at the dinner table and the news are on, I am usually confronted with lack.
E: It is getting in the right mind set. What we eat physically and what goes in, on a mental level.
I think that prayer is a good point, as long as it doesn’t become an empty ritual, which is what I have experienced.
R: Last night, I was on Scarborough Hill and saw the moon rise on one side and the sun setting on the other. In the distance you could see the Kaikoura Ranges glowing. It was beautiful. It felt like a real miracle. I find this a lot in nature. We can have scientific explanations for the events, but at the end, there is always a miracle happening.
E: You can only experience it, you cannot speak it. Words will never describe it.
R: Taking it back to Homoeopathy and Gestalt Therapy, when a miracle happens, people often don’t realise it.
E: When somebody miraculously gets better.
R: They don’t even know of the problem any more.
E: It’s transformed.
R: I no longer know what it was like before, after a complete change has taken place. You, Elisabeth, also had this experience, that people had miraculous cures but didn’t even know that this was happening.
E: It was so amazing. Because their mind couldn’t understand it, it was almost negated that it actually happened. Like a real serious problem. And of course in Homoeopathy we use these minute quantities of whatever substance is appropriate, and this seems so unbelievable that it could transform something destructive and reconstruct life. Because the mind could not comprehend, it is almost negated that it even happened. Doctors sometimes say, ‘we must have mis-diagnosed it in the first place.’
R: Because they belief, somebody cannot be cured from a life threatening disease.
E: It is so sad, I feel like crying.
R: That we can’t acknowledge the miracles?
E: Why am I crying? There is so much richness, and we don’t see it.
R: Maybe that’s the cure. The moment I see the richness, I am cured.
E: I guess, you can cure yourself, when you bring yourself to that.
R: To see the richness?
E: Yes. You know, when you get away from this idea ‘there is lacking’, ‘there is always not enough’, there isn’t this and there isn’t that. But actually go and see what there is, how much there is.
R: In Gestalt we also deal with the concept of giving and receiving.
E: That’s what it is about.
R: There is nothing lacking, if I flow with giving and receiving.
Of course, I cannot tell this to a client who is struggling. I feel, we have to deal with this struggle, be it on a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual level.
E: Fully accept the state first, before you can move on.
R: What I believe is important is to trust in the process and to have this perspective, that this is possible. I need to believe in miracles. If I do not believe in miracles, I cannot do the work.
Thank you, Elisabeth, for this profound interview.
E: It comes much easier in a dialogue.
R: Because we use the mirror of another person.
Elisabeth Fink is a Homoeopath and trainer of Homoepathy.
Copyright © 11/1995 by Rumijabu | Originally published in Gestalt Dialogue #3, Nov1995