Planet Waves | For the Faithful | April 12, 2001


For the Faithful | by Eric Francis

April 12, 2001

Readers, cousins, friends,

I was speaking with a friend last night about her recent successes with antidepressant medication. I was happy she was feeling better, of course; in this life, that's always good news. She was a little hesitant to tell me she had taken this option, knowing that psychiatric meds are not my cup of tea, but she told me anyway. We were discussing the possibilities for eventual homeopathic treatment of her situation and I was running through some of the ideas behind that school of thought.

"Well, how can homeopathy treat this if I have a chemical imbalance?" she asked.

"I hear about doctors saying this all the time, and I never hear which chemical is imbalanced, or how they determined that." This had not occurred to her. A chemical "imbalance" would need to be established chemically. A doctor might make observations of a person's moods, fears and so on, but that is not exactly a scientific process. It's anecdotal, as scientists are fond of saying derisively; at best, it's intuitive; yet of course doctors are among the original Men of Science, and so what they do has to be cloaked in a lab coat, which is the clerical garb of our age. Priests now wear white.

Most psychiatrists who prescribe drugs (from Ritalin to Prozac) take a one-size-fits-all approach. Some do take the more subtle approach, watching dosages, reactions, effects and side-effects carefully, and testing different combinations, but most just take a guess and write a prescription. Many times, a psychiatrist is not even involved, and an internist, general practitioner or even physician's assistant writes the prescripion; if the patient seems depressed, prescribe an anti-depressant; never mind why. And in most, as in the majority of, cases there is no scientific justification for the pronouncement of chemical imbalance, unless of course we mean that our lives are dominated by chemicals, and are quite imbalanced. (And I have not researched this but I am sure that the notion of "chemical imbalance," applied generically to patient after patient, is the work of a pharmaceutical marketing department. It's a brilliant selling point.)

Now, we could write an encyclopedia on the side effects of these drugs, but I'll save that for another article.

I am not saying that there are not people with actual neurological chemical imbalances, and I am not saying that psychiatric meds are all bad all the time. One of my colleagues is a psychiatrist who works in this field, and I am learning how important these drugs are for some people, and I hear other accounts of them being essential where psychosis is a problem, particularly with one member of a family. Some of these are miracle stories. But speaking of miracles, the other thing I am learning is that, it seems, you need to be a first-rate medical intuitive to do the job of drug psychiatrist well. You need to be able to feel inside the minds of people (and, without the help of an astrological chart to boot).

I've been studying homeopathy lately, in recent years, and especially in recent months. I've eased back on the throttle of my life somewhat, helped in doing so by a situation that keyed me into a need to slow down, pay attention and take better care of myself. It's all working pretty good. One of my dividends has been an opportunity, when work ends -- a kind of new concept for me -- to go exploring in Dr. J.T. Kent's Repertory of the Materia Medica. The Repertory (there are many of them now, but his was the first comprehensive one, published around 1900) is an index of symptoms that a person can experience, everything from warts on the left hand to one's shoes feeling tight; from asthma to stomach pains; from anxiety getting into the shower, to fear that is ameliorated by movement. Then the corresponding remedies are listed. It's then up to the homeopath to ask the right questions, do the research and put all the pieces of the puzzle together.

In the branch of homeopathy I am studying (classical homeopathy), the mental symptoms are the most important ones in terms of pointing to the right remedy for any illness. In essence, what many classical homeopaths are doing (as taught by Kent, who was a big fan of a mystic named Swedenborg) is working to reach the mind or spirit on the deepest level to identify and correct the disease process where disease is created, rather than on the symptomatic level, where it manifests years later. I discuss this in more detail in an article that will appear on Planet Waves next month, but which you can preview here.

Now, depression is not listed as a category in the Repertory; it is a category of "sadness." The Repertory gives you a bunch of other sub-categories and sub-sub-categories for sadness, such as "daytime," "morning," "mirthful in the evening," "when alone," or "in the open air." There are dozens more specifics, and all have different indications for remedies. These days it's both fashionable and popular to be depressed, and to treat depression; but what if we were sad? That would not sound as cool. And, the question would be, "Why are you sad? Maybe you'd like to talk about it." But no, we are depressed and have a chemical imbalance that we'll have for life and we'll need to be on these chemicals for life ("like wearing glasses," said my father, once trying to sell me on the concept of chemical imbalance, of course never having drawn blood or taken out the test tubes and Bunsen burners to do the analysis).

There are more homeopathic categories that might embrace a symptom that today gets lumped in under "depression," such as "despondency," "discontent," "despair," "dullness," "ennui" (boredom) and "sorrow."

Depression is pretty much a perfect problem to apply homeopathy to. It is very much about dis-ease of the spirit. And we live in times when the spirit is very much dis-eased. But while the conditions we face are all generally the same (busy, pressured, seemingly meaningless lives), they are very different in specific ways. In order to apply homeopathy, both the homeopath and the patient need to do something known as pay attention, which is neither popular nor fashionable -- and is in itself one cure for many forms of depression.

Oh, and if you do homeopathic treatment, you need to... stop taking caffein! Imagine that! Running on your own energy! A skeptic could say, well, that solves about half the problem there. (Have I ever mentioned that Diet Coke is a neurotoxin? That is, Aspartame a/k/a Nutrasweet, once a subsidiary of Monsanto; it's a serious neurotoxin and should be labelled with a skull and crossbones.)

There are many obvious causes for the plague of depression.

Personally, I feel that the first part of the problem is guilt. Guilt takes many, many forms and wears many disguises. I've written a lot about guilt in my articles on sex and masturbation, but there are more non-sexual attributes of guilt than there are sexual (though my sense is that sexual guilt holds all the rest of them into place). I was speaking with a client today who is working on just this, and she said something that really floored me. "I am becoming aware of when I feel guilty. At first, a very unpleasant emotion would take me; a sense of not being creative in anything you do; of not being okay with yourself." But when she tuned in, she recognized that this very unpleasant emotion was guilt.

In sum, guilt is the emotional result of being forced not to be free so that others can have an illusion of safety. We stay inside a box, but usually it is a box imposed on us by other people when we were younger (parents, ministers of assorted kinds, teachers, scout leaders, cops, etc.) and in adult life as well (parents, more ministers, spouses, significant others, bosses, lawyers, some therapists, etc.) Guilt is the means by which other people control us, but it is not always as obvious as the "guilt trip," which is as subtle as snorting ether -- you know, the mother-in-law whacks you with guilt for wanting to go on vacation during the holidays rather than visit her delightful self. Usually, guilt is more of an insidious control game. It is invisible, secretive and operates under an assumed name, most often "love."

We do not usually see the control other people exert on us because we are so accustomed to it; we have, after all, been trained to be good boys and girls since the dawn of time.

I have in the past compared guilt to a barbed wire fence. Really it's more like one of those invisible fences that are connected to dog collars that shock the poor little pooch when he gets near the edge of the yard. After this happens enough times, the dog will not go anywhere near the "invisible fence" and you can pretty much turn it off. And then your dog is officially another nut case, contained inside a non-existent barrier (sound familiar?).

People who are good boys and girls can get very depressed, which means repressing anger and resentment in ways that result in sadness, inner rage, despondency, discontentment, despair, dullness, ennui (boredom) and sorrow. Once we are caught inside the fence and don't exhibit too many non-depressive behaviors (curiosity, creativity, erotic desire, etc.) those people who originally feel depressive (parents, spouses, scout leaders, etc.) are safe from having to face their own feelings, and woo hoo! Down the generations it goes.

Part two of the depression problem is that we do too much. We do too much, in part, because we feel like we are supposed to, which is to say that we are goaded to do so by guilt. (Here is the difference between Protestant guilt and Catholic guilt, by the way -- Protestant guilt says, "You are alive, so you must work." Catholic guilt says, "You are alive, so you must be wrong for being alive." [Jewish guilt is simpler: "You are simply wrong."] But I digress...) We may have "a lot of responsibilities," but why is that? To whom are we responsible? Well, to society, of course! Hi Mom! Hi Dad! If we tune into the subtle level, we will see that this is almost entirely about guilt. So, one likely cure for depression is being responsible to yourself, which would show you how guilty you might be feeling for just such a thought, which just might set you free -- because you would be coming out of denial and into a place where you might make a real decision, the Devil be damned.

We do indeed have a lot to be upset about in this world, where global devastation, poverty, loneliness, poison food and a struggle for emotional release -- yes, depression -- dominate our lives. Most of this, we deal with through denial. We just "forget" that there is a problem.

But it's clear that we won't solve it unless we remember.

Peace & passion,

Eric Francis
on Puget Sound

For more information about homeopathy, visit the web page of Homeopathic Education Services. They carry an excellent and inexpensive book giving an overview and history of homeopathy told as many short, fascinating and illustrated biographies, called The Faces of Homeopathy.

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