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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kubler-Ross Stages & Bach Flowers

April is a month of transitions. There is a saying that "change is never easy". I don't quite agree with that. I  think change comes naturally and very easily. It's the acceptance of such change that gives us some angst. Moving towards something new, even if it's welcomed, natural and inevitable,  means we leave a piece of something else behind. We grieve that passing.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is a pioneer in the grieving and change process.  Although she was born as one of triplet sisters, she seemed to have proven her uniqueness throughout her life.  Perhaps because of a difficult childhood, she understood her destiny to be a focus on the humanistic perspective of death and dying. In 1969, she published her landmark book, "On Death & Dying", in which she introduced the Five Stages of Grief.  Her stages, or cycle (they don't always happen in order) of grieving is still accepted as a model to explain what can be expected and how we need to process many types of change, not just death.

We go through this process whether we recognize it or not when we grieve. It can be quick or slow.  It's easy to get "stuck" in a stage and it can be difficult to make the transition.

I studied the 5 Stages in very clinical applications a number of years ago. I taught the stages to others in a number of different forums. I believe her work makes theoretical, scientific, sense. Now I look at her work from a new perspective. I see a unique knowing and universal truths in her message.

I also see Kubler-Ross's stages as similar to peeling the layers of an onion away to get the core. This is what  Bach Flower healing is based on and I see opportunities to combine the two theories.

Kubler-Ross's First Stage is referred to as Denial.  This phase is a temporary defense mechanism.  We can't believe this is happening to us. "I feel fine, how can I be dieing"? We don't want to accept the facts, information or reality. We don't want to believe change is in front of us so we pretend it's not. This is a coping mechanism that allows you the adjustment phase. Some people get locked in this stage though.  To help "unlock" the phase, in my opinion, the Bach Flower essence Agrimony might come in handy. We set change up as conflict and when in an Agrimony state you avoid conflict at all costs. You try with all your might to ignore the "darker side of life" and make light of situations rather than confront them. If you mind can't do it alone, you might turn to drugs, comfort eating, or alcohol to help suppress the underlying discomfort. Agrimony can help you accept the less pleasant side of change and move through to the next stage.

Kubler-Ross's Second Stage is called Anger. People dealing with change can be angry at themselves or others and often this anger gets directed at those most close to them. This can be a difficult phase for everyone! The anger of this stage is quite focused in blame. We try to find a spot to place or direct our discomfort. We believe ourselves to be a victim of something and we struggle to find the source. We resent the fact that we have to go through this while others don't. Life isn't fair.  The Bach Flower essence Willow might help you move through this anger, resentment and bitterness. Willow can help you look within instead of focusing on external factors.

In Kubler-Ross's model, Anger turns to the Third Stage of Bargaining. "I'd give up all my possessions if only..."It's usually a negotiation we try to do with whatever we consider to be the higher power. We promise a reformed lifestyle if only we were given more time, or this change to pass us by. It's the classic wish to turn back the clock for just one second so that the future might have taken a different form. The Bach Flower Honeysuckle might help you move through this phase smoother. In the Honeysuckle state you find it difficult to accept the present circumstances because you feel over attached to the past.  Honeysuckle can help you let go of this attachment and clinging nostalgia so you can move forward in the reality of the present moment. It's about accepting the change that's already occurred.

Moving through that acceptance can be tough.  Kubler-Ross's model identifies the Fourth Stage as Depression. When you can no longer deny, find a reason for, or negotiate your way out of the change you face, it can be down right sad. That's grieving. It's a process of detaching and disconnecting. Kubler-Ross doesn't recommend you try to "cheer someone up" at this change. I think we make that mistake a lot in order to make it easier for us personally.  This is a stage we all need to process. The Bach Flower Gorse won't prevent that processing, but it might help you find your inner sense of faith. Gorse can help you use change as a positive experience.

Kubler-Ross's fifth and final Stage is Acceptance. Ahh... that's the peace we're all looking for when we experience change, we just don't know that until we can get there. It is a place of emotional detachment and objectivity. We no longer judge events as "good" or "bad", we just them as as part of the journey. When multiple people are involved in transition or change, it's uncommon to go through the stages at the same time. People that are dieing usually get to the stage of Acceptance long before their loved ones do. When some people in your circle find acceptance before others, the rest of the group often tries to talk them out of it. We misinterpret acceptance for "giving up". When you've found Acceptance, the Bach Flower Cerato can be very helpful to to keep you there. Cerato allows you to trust that inner wisdom and follow it no matter what others' are trying to tell you. Cerato allow you to accept the change as being your path and in that moment you can follow it blissfully guided by your own higher power. Today's picture the Cerato flower. All focus of this flower is towards the center. The petals have a herring-bone path towards the center. The flower only lasts for a day upon which the petals close and the flower collapses. It twists into a spiral and forms a focus of indrawn energy. It is all about finding our individual center, our true path, our inner soul.

When Dr. Bach was making his healing discoveries, Kubler-Ross hadn't even been born.  She didn't make any connection between the stages and Bach Flowers.  But in my opinion, the connection is obvious and feels right. But that's just me. The flowers are personal in nature. You need to find what's right for you as an individual. So too, the stages of grieving and acceptance of change is personal and we all need to find what is right and peaceful.

May you find your path and travel your journey.

1 comment:

  1. Bach Flower Remedies work most beneficially as part of a holistic program of health care.