Building Resilience in Critical Times
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Franklin D. Roosevelt is famous for his inauguration speech in 1933 during the time of the Great Depression in the USA. (1). It starts with the words:- “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
He went on to say:- “These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but minister to ourselves and our fellow men.
If I read the temper of our people correctly, we now realise as we have never realised before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of common discipline, because without such discipline, no progress is made, no leadership becomes effective”.
This resonates quite uncannily with the crisis the world is now facing - this time with the spread of a very deadly coronavirus. There has been much speculation among homeopaths throughout the world regarding possible remedies for the physical symptoms of this disease. However, little has been mentioned about the legacy of trauma (post traumatic stress disorder) which will in many cases inevitably remain for the survivors after the release from their mandated self-isolation. Much confidence will have been lost both within themselves and for the integrity of the outside world - a true moral dilemma.
At a time when hugging had become the new norm, now social distancing is the mantra. Even elbow bumps which were first advocated have been banished and the recommendation of a two metre distance between individuals has been instigated.
Beyond the isolation factor, the elements which stand out for me are the prospects of destitution the disease itself will inevitably bring about, complications of the individual patient’s pre-existing disease, shortages of food and medicine, and most importantly mistrust (panic, suspicion, paranoia - call it what you will), leading to possible hysteria. With the repeated media messages, not only are the sycotic and syphilitic miasms being evoked, but a new possible collective one based on the above-listed symptoms - the pandemic miasm. People who normally would not be classed or consider themselves to be paranoid or hysterical are already becoming so - this can only get worse as the disease takes its toll due to the increasing intensity of the threat.
I decided to take ten remedies and use repertorisation as my base for determining the uppermost remedies for the longer-term outcome in people's mental health (2). After all, the Organon emphasises the adaptability to change as the number one definition of health. At this point in our history, this concept is being highly challenged and a collective picture is already emerging of the consequences of such an Orwellian event (the lockdown) we are currently experiencing as a result of coronavirus. At the same time, i have referred to my book - ‘Touching Base with Trauma - Reaching Across the Generations: a Three-Dimensional Homeopathic Perspective’ which, I believe, iis highly applicable to the current extraneous circumstances exposing the true ‘uncompensated state’ of the individual (3).
It is well known that this remedy can exaggerate their symptoms quite markedly and, where this remedy is indicated, the individual is suggestible to any rumours of a disease at the best of times. The mere idea of a pandemic would send the Arsenicum patient into a tailspin already in the early stages even before the disease had started to reach its peak. Combined with this patient’s neurotic outlook concerning disease, there is a clinging side to their nature which can come across as quite adherent. The concept of such a patient accepting self-isolation would be anathema to them and could send them along the path towards paranoia very speedily.
Contamination is a real issue for this patient as they can fall into an obsessive approach to the mandated washing of hands. Suicidal ideation can easily slip in due to the patient's deep insecurity and perfectionism which is so marked in this remedy picture.
Loss of business would represent a true challenge to their sense of security and they may never be able to recover from this possible scenario. They would have a considerable amount of investment to lose both in terms of financial ruin and their reputation.
The degree of competitiveness seen in this remedy is extreme and anything that hinders this strongly developed ambition can lead to the deepest depression. Loss of business would be the worst case scenario to the Aurum patient - even more so than Arsenicum Album. Their sense of duty and responsibility is highly developed so a critical sense of failure could creep in if their work were to be suddenly brought to a grinding halt. This is a phenomenon which will be increasingly seen as a result of the measures taken to counter the spread of the pandemic. As in Arsenicum Album, a type of paranoia or even psychosis can creep in. They may easily turn to religion as an outlet for their desperation and look for some solace there. Recreational drugs or alcohol could also provide a diversion to them.
Disappointed love combined with dejection matches the Aurum state, as the emotional state can often be rooted in some form of primal abandonment in the history. Disillusionment is a factor in this remedy picture as these patients feel they are looking down the barrel of the very reversal of their planned future. There is a feeling of abandonment by friends - irrational as it may be, even though rationally the patient realises this is not the case.
In fact, with the current unprecedented level of the pressures this virus has caused, it is quite likely that the main elements of Arsenicum Album and Aurum Metallicum could easily combine together in one patient. Aurum Arsenicum can combine together as a remedy and would cover some of the overlapping symptoms. Other suitable derivatives include Aurum Bromatum (marked sense of
paranoia - see rubric ‘delusion, thinks people are looking over his shoulder’) and Aurum Iodatum (marked sense of escape and restless impulsiveness - see rubric ‘impulses, run to’).
This remedy is derived from Poison Oak which, as a plant species, is more poisonous during the night than the day. It seems to thrive where there is absence of sunlight combined with marked dampness. This gives the main modalities - worse in the night and worse for dampness. The appetite can be absent at the same time as headaches can be prominent. The patient can feel abandoned, (see Aurum Metallicum and Stramonium) especially in the evening.
Helplessness and profound despondency can settle in very early on. The anxiety builds up in the evening and much of their concern is directed to their children. Restlessness is the major modality of this remedy. The thought of a calamity can drive them into paranoia. Their concern about being poisoned can contribute to this state. Fresh air helps the patient and restriction on access to the outdoors during the pandemic could have plunged the patient into even darker despair than they would otherwise carry. This is the patient who could easily turn to alcohol to drown their sorrows, like Aurum Metallicum in particular. Financial loss and preoccupation can take over in the case of both remedy pictures with the level of pressure they feel bearing down on them at this time. This could push them into suicidal ideation, like many of the other remedies mentioned in this blog. Of course, Aurum does not have the marked restlessness although the suicidal drive is equally strong in both remedies. Bryonia has a more stable base and its pathology does not progress to such breakdown, because it does not belong to the syphilitic miasm. Bryonia is closely aligned to Rhus Toxicodendron.
Like Aurum Metallicum, the triggers can be any of the following:- business failure, death of a friend, loss of property, or reputation. The psyche can easily be plunged into a state of breakdown where the individual feels condemned to suffer in this way - see the most important rubric in the remedy picture - ‘delusion, vengeance, thinks he is singled out for divine’, which indicates the degree of paranoia seen in this remedy as well as the strong religious element. The latter resembles Aurum Metallicum, Rhus Toxicodendron, Stramonium, and Veratrum Album (among the remedies discussed in this blog).
The rubric suggests an illusion of religious revenge being wrought upon them. A sense of foreboding runs through this remedy - see rubric ‘delusion, doomed, being’. The patient can become suicidal like in Aurum Metallicum. Kali Bromatum shares with Calcarea Carbonica a fear of breaking down under stress, which is very possible with the reported intensity of the corona disease manifestations. Calcarea Carbonica would show a more passive reaction in this type of scenario whereas Kali Bromatum would be quite demonstrative in their presentation of their response.
There is an almost clairvoyant element to this remedy with their ‘delusion/impression of danger’, ‘delusion, doomed, being’, ‘delusion, threatened he is,’ ‘delusion, violence, about’ - Kali Bromatum is the single remedy in the latter rubric. The latter resembles Aurum Metallicum, Rhus Toxicodendron, and Stramonium. Like Cannabis Indica, Stramonium and Veratrum Album, the patient becomes increasingly paranoid. See rubric - ‘suspicious, looks on all sides’.
I had heard many years ago that this remedy helped many U.S. war veterans returning home from the Vietnam war. Without the necessary psychological help at the time to deal with the intense trauma of what they had witnessed, many turned to 'substances' to mitigate their pain and could not return to normal life. As is very well known, this remedy has more delusions in the repertory than any other remedy. Most are very bizarre but a considerable number relate to the type of threat such eventualities as wars and pandemics can induce. Cannabis Indica is a well-known remedy for clairvoyance so these delusions can be perceived as pre-sentiments in the current situation. For example
'delusion, about to sink into annihilation',
'delusion, thought he was about to die',
'delusion, thinks he is about to be choked at night on waking',
'delusion, would die and soon be dissected',
'delusion, transferred to another world'.
Other confirmatory rubrics for an embattled state include:-
'Anguish', 'death, presentiment of death','death, fears', and ‘despair of recovery’.
Sleep is very much impacted in this remedy (along with the other remedies mentioned in this blog) - chronic insomnia develops due to over-activity of the mind, such as worrying about their fate.
The ultimate concern in this remedy is the closeness to insanity which exists in its picture although it is likely that the patient is unaware of this. This remedy can possibly draw the patient back from the brink of this eventuality even during times of crisis. Of course, it is well known that susceptible individuals who smoke cannabis can succumb to schizophrenia.
This particular patient has a distinctive fear of losing their position in society and the current restrictions due to the coronavirus have in many cases plunged many people into this potential scenario. The level of despair engendered by such a threat could easily predispose the Veratrum patient to religious despair (like Aurum Metallicum and Kali Bromatum).
Anorexia is another eventuality which the patient could succumb to. Other remedies to compare here are Kali Bromatum and Rhus Toxicodendron. In the case of both Rhus Toxicodendron and Veratrum Album, this could be a manifestation of hysteria which has been evoked by the sudden circumstances affecting them. The patient could easily have a background of fright or grief (or both these triggers) behind the current reactions described here. A state of physical collapse can ensue - as seen in Camphor and Cuprum.
The patient may exaggerate their symptoms which triggers a susceptibility to insanity. Hahnemann said that this remedy has the power “to promote a cure of almost one-third of the insane in lunatic asylums (at all events as a homeopathic intermediate remedy)” (4). Other remedies which can be pushed to the brink under this degree of duress include Cannabis Indica, Kali Bromatum, and Stramonium. Although Opium is the better known remedy for this symptom, the Veratrum patient is also very impressionable and can retain the image of the triggering fright in their psyche. Paranoia can set in and a feeling of rejection, as they start to lose touch with reality (see Cannabis Indica, Kali Bromatum, and Stramonium).
A sense of brooding can take over (see Helleborus Niger) and the patient may need to be restrained from escaping from their home - Veratrum Album is the only remedy in the rubric ‘escape, attempts to, house, wants to get out of’.
This is the main remedy to resolve deep and buried trauma which can be unconsciously re-evoked years later with exposure to a resonant trigger, as this pandemic potentially presents. The patient can become dull and vacant after showing a lack of reaction to other indicated remedies. Often, this remedy is used to open up the case to erase the image which still remains after the original fright - even if that fright occurred many years before. The patient can feel they are doomed - ‘delusion, being doomed’ (alongside Aurum Metallicum in bold type) in addition to Kali Bromatum.
Paranoia can creep in - manifested in the rubric - ‘delusion, execute him, people want to’ (Opium is the only remedy in the latter rubric). A known symptom of this remedy is painlessness - this occurs even in situations where pain would be expected - this is a sign that the organism has been so severely challenged in the past that it compensates in this way to defer the pain. Other remedies which show ‘painlessness’ are Helleborus, Saccharum Album and Saccharum - remedies which all have an equal background of adversity. It should be noted that all remedies derived from recreational drugs, I have observed, have a marked degree of trauma in their provings. These include Anhalonium (Peyote), Ayahuasca, Cannabis Indica, Cannabis Sativa, Coca, and Morphinum. It is highly likely that a history of trauma precedes addiction, and the trauma must have been so profound that the only way to cope in this remedy picture is to literally ‘numb out’ the pain in this way. The Opium patient can develop physical symptoms such as miscarriage, retained urine, or suppressed menstruation, as a direct result of sudden fear.
Sleep-walking may reveal the level of trauma experienced by the patient, particularly in children. Opium shares with Apis and Lachesis the symptom of sleeping into an aggravation. The patient is generally sleepy but can be sleepless from excitement, like Coffea. Opium then could be the first remedy indicated in a case with such a history of marked trauma.
This remedy is derived from jimson weed and is often found growing around graveyards. This is no coincidence and could go some way to explain the patient’s impression of danger and delusion of being doomed. The type of patient needing this remedy would find isolation intolerable at the best of times, like Arsenicum Album. This is because this feeling would date right back to early life when the bond with the mother (or primal caregiver) has often been severed during the very significant formative years. Any enforced type of isolation, as necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic, would be taken personally by the patient needing Stramonium and trigger basic feelings of betrayal and desertion in this patient. This could easily engender the type of splitting off within a short space of time, which is so typically seen in this remedy picture. This is because this potential lies very much under the surface of this remedy and is ready to erupt at any time.
The very iconic painting by Edouard Munch called ‘The Scream’ evokes the raw feeling of bleak terror induced by the alienation of modern life. This has come to epitomise the very Orwellian era we are now experiencing and could easily be encompassed in the picture of this particular remedy. If the essential initial contact between mother and child is missing, a gaping hole leaves the patient exposed and vulnerable to repeated re-traumatisation of a similar nature to the original wound they experienced.
The strong feeling of paranoia and suspicion seen in Stramonium could be triggered by abuse in the history of the patient. With the possible link between abuse and schizophrenia, this remedy could act as an early intervention to prevent this possible outcome (5). It is as if they are waiting on the bridge to fall into the abyss as their expectant nervous system goes through the motions in anticipation. Other triggers (apart from abuse) include head injury or narcotics. In order for such a deep disease to be triggered, it would indicate that the level of early trauma must have been severe, whether emotional or physical. This is commensurate with the disease trajectory of this remedy and, if the susceptibility is triggered to this degree, the patient may hear voices - the extreme state within the symptom picture seen in schizophrenia.
Another sign of deep-seated trauma in this remedy is in the form of stammering - which could indicate some form of hiatus occurring during the pre-verbal stage of development - a time when the child is particularly vulnerable. Painlessness is a symptom shared between Stramonium, Opium and Saccharum Album - all remedies with a history of deep trauma in the background. It is as if the degree of psychic pain experienced in the past has acted as an anaesthetic to any physical pain inflicted on them.
This remedy is reputed to be mostly indicated for jet lag and sleep disturbances. The sleep disturbances often occur due to over-caring for others and staying awake worrying about them (see Carcinosin also). This could be interpreted as homesickness - a symptom shared by Aurum Metallicum and Capsicum The patient may suffer reduced appetite as a result. The adrenals are often in a state of high alert so there is a fear of sudden events such as the current news about the coronavirus. After all, these patients are very affected by horrible stories - again like Aurum Metallicum.
They may even enter a state of mania or hysteria as the anxiety builds up. They also verge on insanity at this point - but to a lesser degree than Cannabis Indica, where this symptom is so marked. The memory can be affected by the high levels of strain which are exerted on them. Apathy may take over - like Helleborus Niger and Opium - where the patient can just sit in a chair in a completely listless state. Suspicion of others can creep in so they remove themselves from others in this state.
This remedy was proved by Jeremy Sherr (6). Being a relatively ‘new’ remedy, it is not well featured in the repertory. However, it could be a suitable choice in dire situations resulting from measures to combat the spread of this coronavirus. This remedy covers serious pathologies with periodical fatigue as a concomitant. The patient can be so weak that they have to walk on all fours. They may already be affected by cancer, leukemia, or radiation poisoning. This is what the media describe as ‘an underlying health problem’. This means that in these cases the immune system is very low in the first place.
The restlessness at night could resemble that of Arsenicum Album. The anxiety about health and catastrophising are also symptoms which form an overlap here. The mood is very detached and vacant in Plutonium Nitricum. It is as if they carry the world’s burdens on their shoulders (see Aurum Metallicum) along with a continued feeling of existential threat contributing to their state of mind. This could actually make them susceptible to contracting the illness further down the line. They may even be sent over the edge by the anxiety which builds up in them - this is not helped by the constant newsfeed at this time.
Shattering headaches could be an early concomitant to the corona virus if they have succumbed to any of the symptoms as the epidemic takes hold. Also, a legacy of entrenched trauma can persist long after the subsiding of the pandemic with the level of pre-existing angst which can be triggered with the degree of duress existing at this time. These are the patients who feel the pressure of the unknown and struggle for control.
According to Marjorie Wallace, the Chief Executive of Sane, a well-known mental health charity - “There seems little doubt that we will be facing a mental health crisis as the pandemic affects people’s lives and minds. Saneline, our telephone helpline, is under severe pressure from people with depression, anxiety and other conditions.... Already 80% of our callers talk about self-harm and suicide, and we fear that if they are unable to reach us to find other help then they may be tipped over the edge. For some people, four months at home may seem like a challenge, but for those with no real home, or living in a substandard flat, as many of our callers are, isolation can be hell. The funds released for coronavirus must be spent on mental as well as physical health and prevention” (7).
As homeopaths, when reading the above statement, this is a clarion call for us to join with those who step up to meet these challenges and protect our patients as they emerge from lockdown. They can then go forward into an unknown future which no longer bears any resemblance to where they were just weeks before. I believe this approach looks beyond the constraints of lockdown and will support individuals to go back into the community with their confidence restored and hopefully, with new zeal.
I would like to pay tribute to my friend and colleague, Dr. Nigel Hargreaves, who has supported me in the copy editing of this blog.
F. D. Roosevelt, (1933), “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5057
Murphy, Robin, (2005), ‘Homeopathic Clinical Repertory’, Lotus Health Institute, Third Edition.
Adalian, Elizabeth, (2017), ‘Touching Base with Trauma: Reaching Across the Generations - a Three-Dimensional Homeopathic Perspective’, Writersworld.
Sherr, Jeremy, (1999), ‘The Homeopathic Proving of Plutonium Nitricum’, The Dynamis School.
Sideli, Lucia et al, (2012), ‘Do Child Abuse and Maltreatment Increase the Risk of Schizophrenia?, Psychiatry Investigations, 9 (2), 87-99.
Murphy, Robin, (2006), ‘Nature’s Materia Medica’, Lotus Health Institute, Third Edition.
The Guardian, (March 2020), “Community spirit when it matters most”; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/community-spirit-when-it-matters-most