thinking of white chestnut

One of the most common symptoms experienced by persons dealing with survival on a systematic basis – as are people incarcerated in the so called asylum seeker reception centres or people who (often from one generation to another) live their lives in conditions of extended poverty and marginalisation – are sleep disturbances.

“I can’t sleep”, they will say. If you asked them why, they might reply that they think too much: issues they have to resolve, loved ones they have left behind, how they will manage to go through the day (every day), the future that seems to be so vague, the past weighing on their shoulders, others around them that may affect directly or indirectly their life.

The first impulse always is to solve the problem. What can be done, so that this particular person will be able to sleep?

Still, therapeutic interactions are much more complex than perhaps anticipated and are often characterised by unexpected reversals:

About 20 years ago a refugee came to ask for help saying he couldn’t sleep. He was suggested – among others – the white chestnut Bach flower remedy or if he preferred a herbal tea or tincture, perhaps valerian. He chose the latter. A week later, when asked how he was doing he said “oh fine, I slept well during the first night, but after that I stopped having the tea”. When asked how come, he mentioned that he had realised, he needed to stay awake during the night, so that he had time to reminisce his family. He was working hard during the day and nights were the only time he had available to really think of them. In a way, sleeplessness offered him access to a sense of shared time – because and despite geographical distances.

Lacking experience in the therapeutic arts, no further words on the matter were uttered. Today’s experience though, would have served as an invitation to explore further, how we might be able to create more “windows” in time, so that he can think of his loved ones, without having to say awake at night. And then perhaps discuss flower remedies too.

(Painting from Emma Archer.)