New England School of Homeopathy

New Year’s Resolutions: Increasing Energy and Resolve

A version of this article first appeared in Homeopathy Today (January/February ’05), the monthly magazine of the National Center of Homeopathy. For more information on joining the NCH and subscribing to Homeopathy Today, click here.


by Amy Rothenberg, ND, DHANP

Our health is a product of our genetic inheritance, our lifestyle choices and the environment in which we live, work, and play. Because we cannot alter our genetic inheritance (at least at this time!), our best bets are to choose wisely in the way we live and to minimize our exposure to environmental toxins in our food, water, and air. Other, less measurable “toxins” that are also best limited include negative thinking and unconstructive responses to stress.

We frequently see patients who stay in unsupportive relationships or unsatisfying jobs that may add to the maintaining causes of the pathology that brings them into the practitioner’s office. Sometimes when I see a patient, I think, “This person doesn’t just need a natural medicine doctor, they need a whole new living environment!!”

What can constitutional homeopathy offer when the thing that’s really needed is a big change in health habits, relationships, or livelihood? In my experience, the best thing homeopathy can offer is a twofold combination: clear resolve and enhanced energy level.

At this season when New Year’s resolutions abound, I am often audience to my patients’ declarations about what they intend to do or not do, to begin or end, or to otherwise shift in the coming year. When patients return and report on the changes they were able to make as they felt better, had more energy, and gained needed confidence, I am overjoyed. When they tell me about the healthy choices they made or a newfound ability to quell the torrents of negative thinking, I am the cheerleader on the sidelines.

I am reminded of a patient, who came to see me about twenty years ago. Claire was thirty years old and single, an administrative assistant who struggled with seasonal allergies, premenstrual syndrome, excess weight, and a nagging long-term depression that kept her from enjoying her work, family, and friends. She was treated successfully over several years with the homeopathic remedy Natrum muriaticum which matched both the way she experienced her allergies (lots of clear nasal discharge, much sneezing, terribly chapped lips) and her premenstrual syndrome (acne before the menses, sadness before the flow, worse from consolation.) Natrum muriaticum also nicely addressed her overall character, her sensitive nature, and her conscientiousness at work and at home.

Claire was doing well overall and I did not see her for a number of years. She returned in crisis, however, with severe, chronic, debilitating sinusitis and recurrent styes. Her life had changed dramatically in the interceding years; she had married a man who had fallen gravely ill soon after their wedding. In his illness, he had become viciously fault-finding as well as verbally and emotionally abusive. (I would have loved to prescribe for him!) Claire had strong religious convictions and felt that divorce was not an option.

We worked together over several months to address the problems that seemed most limiting: her styes and sinusitis. We used homeopathic remedies as well as strong and effective naturopathic approaches such as hydrotherapy, botanical medicine, and therapeutic nutrition. I was disappointed in our results; they were neither long-lasting nor did they work preventively as they had with countless previous patients. I sent Claire for further diagnostic tests to be sure I was not missing other issues. The Eye-Ear-Nose-Throat specialist confirmed our diagnoses and suggested that an allergic component was also likely a factor.

Alas, I came to realize that being and staying sick was Claire’s way of manifesting her deep-seated frustration and disappointment with her life situation. The immense anger, resentment, sadness, and distress at the core of her marriage provided an endless source of negative thoughts and bad feelings. I believe that Claire felt trapped and unable to make the needed changes- all part of why she was getting and staying sick. When I spoke to her directly about this idea, she at first resisted, then slowly recognized, and ultimately embraced this notion as a central truth to her unhappiness and to her mounting ill health.

Claire would have to leave this man, and it would not be easy. The emotional, economic, and domestic intertwining of their ten years together was complicated and profound; such a move went against her every moral fiber. This would be a slow and deliberate separation with much planning and forethought. She needed a supportive team of family and friends in addition to a well-prescribed homeopathic remedy to guide and support such a monumental shift in her self-definition, relationship status, and living situation. As she began to draw plans for her new year as a single woman supporting herself, I looked for a remedy that could reduce her tendency for infections, lift her depressed spirits, and offer her the determination she would need to make the difficult changes ahead.

Claire needed tremendous attention and support over many months. We cannot provide this for all of our patients all of the time, yet most every homeopath has some patients for whom the healing relationship itself is another key to the mending of a life. Would Claire have improved without a homeopathic remedy? Would she have moved along as needed with only talk therapy? Perhaps. It seems to me, however, that by using her physical pathologies as a guide and seeing them in the context of her overall mental and emotional health, a specific and exact remedy was found that helped Claire in a more timely and profound fashion. After all, she had been in this difficult living situation for years and had been working with a therapist, yet she’d still been unable to take those critical steps. How lucky we are to have a truly holistic medicine to offer our patients, and then to stand back and watch the results!

I gave Claire the remedy Staphysagria in ascending potencies to shore up her resolve and to help her build a stronger, healthier sense of self. This is a remedy well known for curing chronic and recurrent styes anywhere around the eyes. It is also known for helping the kind of headaches she got—a sense of fullness in the back of the head (occiput) that accompanied her sinusitis. Those headaches were always worse from anger or after an altercation with her husband; so even though the pathology was clearly physical, Claire’s emotions were a part of it all—and a part of the Staphysagria symptom profile as well. She also had the keynote Staphysagria symptom of being worse after a nap.

After taking a dose of Staphysagria, Claire often commented that she felt it boosted her resolve, quieted what she called her “negative-mind-talk,” and gave her the confidence to do the difficult things she had to do. Once Claire had made up her mind, she did not waver or look back. As she went through the process of making changes in her living situation and relationship, we both noticed that her sinusitis and styes became less and less of an issue. She had fewer infections, which were less severe and of shorter duration. As we often see with a well-prescribed homeopathic remedy, Claire’s mental and emotional health improved; at the same time, she regained her energy, vision, and resolve to make the necessary changes in her life.

At this time of year when I am privy to the New Year’s aspirations of many a patient— sometimes around food or smoking, sometimes about the need to communicate better with a friend or partner, sometimes about beginning a realistic exercise program—I try to be encouraging and supportive. I express my preference for small incremental changes that can become permanent, and stress the fact our health (especially with regard to food, alcohol, and exercise) reflects the habitual, not the occasional.

When huge life-altering changes are what is needed, as in Claire’s case, I try to help troubleshoot and break the big “projects” into smaller more manageable pieces. I speak to the chance of new beginnings that the first of the year offers—and to the never-ending possibility for change, made possible by the resiliency of the human spirit. I always look for a broad reaching constitutional remedy that might help address the complaints at hand while simultaneously offering that dynamic combination: a bit more energy and a lot more resolve!