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Is it advisable to let clients know about the possibility of an "awareness crisis" or emotional catharsis with flower essences, or would such a discussion unduly frighten people? Is emotional catharsis important or even necessary?

November 1, 2001

This is an important question about a frequently misunderstood topic. I am reminded of an experience I had in 1976 shortly after I began using the Bach remedies. After taking the Willow essence I was surprised to find myself expressing resentment to my colleagues in a rather vocal manner. This was totally contrary to my self-image as a very meditative, agreeable guy. I then spent some time contemplating what happened, and realized that I had been inwardly carrying this resentment for quite some time, but hiding it from myself and others. The flower essence had apparently brought this emotion to the surface of my awareness.

From my work with humanistic psychology I recognized the value of this experience, but I was surprised it was nowhere mentioned in the Bach literature. I wrote John Ramsell of the Bach Centre about this. His reply was that they had also observed this phenomenon, but they had refrained from writing about it because of fear that it would create crises by "autosuggestion." However, it seemed to me that without some context of understanding, this experience, which I came to call the "awareness crisis," could be quite upsetting. ("I thought this was supposed to make me feel better!")

Therefore, I have disagreed with the idea that discussing the possibility of a catharsis or awareness crisis should be avoided because it might instill fear in the client. It all depends upon the context in which the therapist gives this information. The therapist can have a comforting rather than alarming tone, letting the client know that this is part of the healing process, that the therapist is there to support the client, that this is only one possibility and does not always happen. Certainly it is more reassuring to be armed with this knowledge when feelings come up which are uncomfortable.

In many cases the fear of catharsis may actually be with the practitioner, rather than the client. If the practitioner has difficulty meeting the more intense emotions of the client, he or she may have a need to soothe and placate. The practitioner's fear of stirring up intense emotion in the client can be communicated to the client, and that in itself can create a problem.

Having said this, it is also true that there are many successful flower essence cases that do not involve an awareness crisis or emotional catharsis. So, it certainly is not necessary or required to create or experience a crisis. For that reason, there is a legitimate criticism that can be made for some of the cathartic therapies of the sixties and seventies— primal scream, gestalt therapy with beating pillows, etc., which were touted as methods for "getting rid of" emotions, but often served to deepen one's attachment to negative emotions.

It should be clear that this kind of catharsis is not what we are promoting with flower essence therapy. Rather we teach that this therapy is a process of consciousness raising, not simply a matter of changing one's emotion state. The cultivation of self-awareness can involve the natural surfacing of painful emotions which have been buried in the psyche. The resolution of these emotions is not necessarily acting them out, by "beating pillows" or screaming, and it is generally not necessary to "force" emotions. They will surface as the inner work is done. We can work with a "meditative" approach to emotional catharsis by developing an inner "witness" through such activities as journaling, art, dream recall and counseling.

These thoughts are offered based on personal and professional experience, and the many flower essence practitioners with whom we are in contact. We recognize that there are many points of view on such topics, and we welcome the comments and observations of others on this subject.


Richard Katz rkatz@flowersociety.org


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