Integrating Counselling with Bach’s Remedies – Part II

Within the Bach’s system, counselling is absolutely necessary as a prescribing method, in order to accurately “diagnose” the emotions that are being experienced by the client at the time when he asks for the practitioner’s help. As a matter of fact, there is no mechanic or intuitive process within the Bach’s system.

At the end of the 1960’s Philip M. Chancellor, before publishing his book on the Bach Flower Remedies, asked Nora Weeks – Dr Edward Bach’s closest collaborator – to briefly tell about the method and the procedure that she, together with Victor Bullen and many other Bach practitioners were using when interviewing their clients before prescribing the most suitable remedies for them. She then wrote a letter stating that actually there was no standard list of questions for prescribing the remedies, because each client must be treated individually and differently from any other. She continued by stating that therefore, each individual person had to be addressed to “in a way commesurate with his understanding, his background and his general attitude towards life”. The most important thing was to “put the patient at his ease; to make him feel that you are his friend and that you sincerely want to help him. Make him feel secure in the fact that he can talk with you about himself in absolute confidence. It is only by talking about himself, without reserve, that you will be able to help him by prescribing the correct Remedy for his condition.”

Moreover, Nora Weeks used to remind that a good practitioner – or physician – is also a good listener. “Cultivate this habit and let the patient talk, but be sure to listen attentively!” she used to say. One may start interviewing him by saying for instance: “Since you may not know very much about the Bach Flower Remedies, please tell me first about your physical difficulties, and then I will ask you a few questions about yourself”. In this way, that is by talking about his physical symptoms, the client will reveal a lot about himself, and these are the information that practitioners want to know. The client might say, “all unwittingly, that he is afraid the complaint will worsen (MIMULUS), or that he has lost hope of ever becoming cured (GORSE). He might say ‘I get so impatient or so tense that my work is affected (IMPATIENS)’. Indirectly, a patient might remark that he is really resentful about this or that person or condition (WILLOW).” All these sentences might seem casual, but instead they are of great importance to the practitioners, especially because they are spontaneous. Nora Weeks continues by stressing how important it is the way the client speaks. “How does he talk? Does he talk hurriedly or nervously, or slowly and hesitatingly? Does he speak with great determination, or with the voice of authority; does he whisper with the insecurity of uncertainty and fear?”

Also the client’s facial expression must be studied well, because “it reflects his emotions. Is it an expression of worry, or does he frown or blush? Is his smile genuine, or is it forced to cover some deep sorrow or distress?” The client’s movements need to be observed. “Does he sit calmly, or does he fidget with his hands or feet; does he shift his position restlessly in the chair?”

The rule is therefore to listen quietly and observe attentively the client while he speaks. It is possible to ask questions, but without ever interrupting him while he is talking. One may ask: “How long have you had this trouble? Was there some physical or emotional shock connected with it (STAR OF BETHLEHEM)? Was there a disappointment? Is there still a worry connected with the trouble which weighs upon your mind (WHITE CHESTNUT)?” The age and the general situation of the client must be taken into consideration, “whether he is married, widowed or single, etc.; does he dwell in the past (HONEYSUCKLE)?”

Nora Weeks also reminds that Dr Edward Bach himself used to give advice on how to carry out interviews with clients. He thought one should tell the client to think and concentrate on his positive qualities. According to Nora Weeks, one should always let the client know that he is not alone in this world to have a problem similar to his, and one should sincerely assure him “that his difficulties are only temporary, and that his fears are manifesting because he is developing the great courage which is already within him, for fear, after all, is simply a test of courage.” Moreover, one should tell him that “he does have an understanding and a tolerance of others, that his genuine feeling is only overlaid temporarily by impatience and irritability.” Again, he must be assured that he is not the only one to feel the emotions he is feeling, “and that the very emotions which are the most troublesome to him can be wholly eliminated.”

After having told how an interview of a Bach Flower practitioner should be carried out, Nora Weeks stresses the fact that the client’s interview alone is extremely important in order to help him overcome his problem. Moreover, it also creates a “foundation of confidence” in the practitioner as well as in the Bach Flower Remedies as a healing method. Lastly, Nora Weeks wishes that the client would leave the practitioner’s studio feeling better than when he entered: this is the main rule in the practice.


Emotions and Bach Flower Remedies

Dr Bach’s keyword was “simplicity”. He believed that all in Nature is simple and is capable of satisfying our needs – food, water, air, heat. Therefore, Nature itself is capable of providing us the means for our well being.

Bach thus wanted to create a “simple” system, which would use Nature’s own products, and could be at everybody’s disposal. In fact, according to him, Remedies should be taken in the same way as one takes a lettuce leaf in order to satisfy his hunger.

As a matter of fact, Dr Bach chose the Remedies with the intention of reducing the undesirable effects of stress, as they are capable of acting directly on one’s mind – and therefore on one’s emotions – by boosting the immunity system. One could thus state that Bach Flower Remedies are capable of changing distress into eustress. This means that singling out those true emotions that produce stress in an individual is of extreme importance in order to choose the right Remedies, and therefore to heal or prevent disease.

Within Bach’s System, emotional problems can be either “transitory” or “long term”. The former are emotional states that last for a relatively short period of time, whereas the latter are emotional states that are there since a long time – even since years – and no solution has ever been really found (perhaps because one has adapted to circumstances). These negative emotions have, with time, modified one’s personality by accumulating in what is called ” the snowball effect”.

We can ourselves choose the remedies for transitory emotional states by passing into a state that psychologists call metaemotion, that is by trying to face our emotional states, in order to singling them out clearly. But, as said before, when these emotional states have been ignored for a long time, then “layers” of negative emotions are formed which have to be recognised and “discovered” one by one. This process has been associated to the opening up – layer by layer – of an onion: each layer of the onion corresponds to a negative emotion we have to free ourselves of before reaching its core. What can we expect to find in the core of the onion? Sometime, we might discover our “type Remedy”, showing us the main quality of our personality we should work on. Some other time, it could be a traumatic event which was not rightly resolved at the time when it happened. Or else, it could be a small emotion that has overgrown. The only way to know it is to start lifting up the layers of our onion one by one. The way to do it is the following:

  1. choose the remedies needed at the time, for how we feel “now”
  2. take them regularly until we feel they are not working any more
  3. choose the remedies again
  4. stop when the need is felt

This way, the remedies give us the opportunity to learn something about ourselves. It is an enriching process, which teaches us how we are predisposed to respond to stress. If used in the proper way, remedies can give us insights about who we really are. Anyway, it should be pointed out that should we take remedies we don’t need, they would not interfere with the appropriate ones, becoming passive.

Sometimes it is difficult to “understand oneself”, especially if one is not used to listen to the body’s – and therefore the mind’s – messages, therefore the help of a practitioner is needed, someone who may understand our true emotional states in order to choose the right remedies.