Mending a mother-daughter bond: a case of Cygnus cygnus
In my practice, I see many patients who suffer from depression. Many of their stories are dramatic, with episodes of severe abuse or neglect; trauma and tragedy leaving energetic scars that leave a trail of salient clues awaiting discernment without too much digging to find an appropriate remedy. Others, like the case below, are less dramatic and eventful, and follow a gentler and more gradual course of understanding and remediation. In this case, my patient found significant relief with many remedies that I gave her, but an underlying grief seemed to always return until I found a remedy that fundamentally changed her relationship with her daughter. The process of discovery of that remedy reminded me of both the similarities and differences among the remedies made from mammals vs. birds. For this reason, I share the case, and hope that this review may be useful to you as well.
In July 2009, a sixty-six-year-old woman (we’ll call her Tina) consulted with me for treatment for an abdominal rash and depression. Although she initially attributed it to a lack of sunshine, she went on to talk at length about sadness from a troubled relationship with her grown daughter.
Tina (T): “She didn’t want me to come and help out when she was expecting her baby. It reinforced old feelings of being a failure as a parent. You see, when she and her brother were seventeen and eighteen years old, her father and I divorced. I think she felt I wasn’t there for her, that I was distant. I feel a lot of guilt about my alcoholism and addictions at the time.”
Of her childhood, Tina recalled:
“I grew up in a small town on the high plains. My Dad was a car dealer, a workaholic and an alcoholic. I was one of the older kids in the family and I helped Mom with the younger kids and the home. There wasn’t a lot of love or support. It felt lonely and cold. I didn’t have anywhere to go to, anybody to talk to. I didn’t get along with my brothers. The older ones would tease me, comment on my appearance or give me a bad time about my practice of the piano and clarinet. My brothers were good in school, I was not.
“I became involved in cheerleading, as there were no girls’ sports available. I didn’t feel I was good at anything. They went on to good colleges and the Air Force. They were lawyers; I felt I couldn’t do anything.
“My mother was pretty silent. I always thought she was mad at me. Her Dad was alcoholic, too. She was having a hard time. I was her helper, would do chores for her. “I would have liked to be accepted, to feel like I was ok in her eyes. The opposite would be a bad person, someone not liked, not worthy or worthwhile.
“I have just one memory from my grade school years. I wrote that I hated my principal in a book. I don’t know why. They were going to get the FBI in on the case! I didn’t like to sit still; I wasn’t interested in history, geography, English. I was more active and wanted to play outside. I wanted to be outside, helping Dad in the field. I felt that was where the fun was.
“In my teens, I got a boyfriend. That relationship became my whole life but when we went to college, we drifted apart and broke up. I was devastated. It wrecked my whole idea of my life.
“Sex before marriage was against my religion. I felt I’d been a bad person for heavy petting. It was confusing. It was fun, but not supposed to be. After my break-up, I immediately found another boyfriend and got pregnant right away. The child was colicky and cried all the time. The father didn’t want children, but it was his excuse for not going to Vietnam. He was not a warm, loving person. He was angry and cold. I got pregnant again, and this time, my daughter was perfectly quiet. He worked and I stayed home with the kids. I had a hard time mothering. My son (let’s call him Eric) was a difficult child. I had no skills. I didn’t know what to do with a difficult child. We lived in the country, where there was no support. When I was introduced to drinking and to pot, I found relief, fun and excitement.
“We had an open marriage. There were affairs and lots of drinking. It was a mess. Not right. I didn’t see any solution but to get out of the marriage. I wasn’t as close to the kids as I wanted to be. The divorce was difficult. Breaking up the family. Everything was different and it was devastating for everyone. I remember Christmas, home alone, taking care of a dog that was sick. It was lonely and sad. I felt unloved, not wanted or cared about.
“My greatest joy has been my grandkids. They’re funny, loving, great kids.
“I have a recurring dream of missing a class for a whole semester and failing.
“I like living where I do, out in the country. It’s peaceful and quiet. I like getting away. I feel worse when the cold wind blows.
“I have fears of getting sick, of not being able to take care of myself. I’m not looking forward to dying. I have fear of losing my husband; we’ve been married for fourteen years. We have a business together, and he wants me to do more work than I’m willing to do. He wants me to help with cutting hay, raking, and planting trees. It’s too much. He’s accepted that. It bothered me for some time; I thought I should be doing more.”
Doug Brown (DB): How do you relate to animals?
T: “The dog is our child, our baby. I have no dislikes, but don’t care about horses that much. They know I have a fear of getting bucked off. They’re so big and unpredictable; I don’t trust them.”
DB: Your current work?
T: “I teach a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) class, and don’t like it. I fear I won’t remember; don’t know what to say next. I tense up, black out. I also work as an addictions counselor, but it makes it hard for me to get in my time swimming and walking.
“Besides the rash on my stomach, I am burping a lot, I have an acid feeling in my stomach.”
Prescription: Ambra grisea 200C
Commentary: the physical complaints were nonspecific. No specific sensations pointing to a Plant family came up. Although a lack of support came up suggesting a stage 2 element, this didn’t seem to run throughout the case. Rather, there were some soft pointers towards the Animal kingdom: the odd story of writing “I hate my principal” and the fear of the FBI, the recurring references to “warm, loving” vs. “cold, lonely, uncared for”, teased (victimized) by older siblings, and “good person” vs. “bad person”. Since “warmth” and being part of a community or family conjured up strong mammalian imagery, I looked for a Mammal remedy with issues of performing in public (her job difficulties) and many stomach symptoms, hence, Ambra.
August 14, 2009
T: “I’m good! The fungus is fading away. I’m not as emotional. I’m much more able to accept things, not as controlling or judgmental. I feel calm, and am getting along better with the world. The remedy made me a lot more peaceful, serene. I’m accepting the world situation, things in general.”
DB: What about your relationship and feelings with regards to your daughter?
T: “I don’t feel much grief. The relationship is better.
“I have a rash on my bra line. It comes and goes.
“The acid reflux is the same.
“My biggest stress right now is my son. He’s hysterical, wants me to give him money for his hernia surgery. He’s a heroin addict. It makes me feel helpless. I’m angry and pissed off. He’s so irresponsible.
“I like to be in charge of what I help my kids with. He’s got to learn. I’m frustrated.
“My husband still works very hard. I’m more accepting. I talked with him about wanting more freedom… meet a friend for lunch, another for coffee.
“I had a bad cough when I returned home from visiting my daughter… it kept me up at night.”
Prescription: Ambra grisea 200C
September 15 2004
T: “I’m really good. I have a ton of energy. I’m happy. With my daughter, we don’t talk very often, but when we do, it’s a long talk. I miss her and the kids; it’s hard to be away from her. I wish I could be there, helping with my grandkids.”
DB: Acid reflux?
T: “I discontinued Prilosec one week ago, and still have some problems there. I occasionally take Zantac.
“The rash has lightened up a lot; it’s less noticeable.
“I had a dream where I was at an old boyfriend’s house. His wife was showing all the quilts she made. I felt I was intruding. It was uncomfortable being there.
“I had another dream where a client wanted me to be with her when she delivered a baby. It was a joyous celebration. There was food. It was exciting; I felt really good about it. It reminded me of being asked to attend my granddaughter’s birth.
“I’ve had many positive dreams. This also felt like a healing dream: we were switching spouses. There was no love. I could feel how it affected everyone. It was horrible. It was healing in that I could see how my own divorce affected a lot of people.”
March 26, 2010
T: “I’m scared! I was trying to send a text and couldn’t find the letters on the phone. Then, I couldn’t remember my brother’s childrens’ names. It lasted fifteen minutes. I felt out of control. I couldn’t get my bearings, wouldn’t be able to come back. I feared a stroke, dying. It was like coming to the end. I asked my husband if he would get married again… whether he would carry on as if nothing happened.
“I feel important; like I’ve done important things. And then, it’s over. As I get older, my life is less important, less important to other people. Older people don’t participate as much. I fear being a burden, unable to care for myself.
“The rash has spread. It’s on my back.
“After my spell I felt agitated. I couldn’t settle down. Everything was getting on my nerves. My husband was taking up the living room with his T.V. There’s no room for me to settle down, no place to get away.
“I feel trapped. I have to sit and listen to him talk on the phone. I’m crawling the walls. No place to go. Like you’re going to go crazy. Like a caged animal – pacing back and forth.”
Prescription: Ambra grisea 1M
Commentary: one could justifiably argue that by this time I should have received the bird message quite clearly. In addition to the sensation of feeling trapped, she exhibits a heightened sensitivity to having one’s own space in which to settle. The nervous system of people who resonate with Bird remedies is more tightly wound, more sensitive, more on edge, than that of Mammals. Hence, territoriality becomes embedded with the experience of settling, of escaping from experiences of agitation. In addition, she touches upon an important Bird theme, that of participation in meaningful acts. We’ll talk more about this later.
May 4, 2010
T: “I had a lot of back pain. A CXR showed pneumonia. The pain was excruciating. Is it my heart? I felt helpless; it consumed me.
“Helplessness… it’s an inability to have any kind of control over feelings, emotions, what’s going on. Fear, confusion, what’s going on? Feelings of misery, sadness.
“I had a dream of stealing a sewing machine. Some guilt.”
DB: What’s an extreme example of no control?
T: “Dying. Dying without any acceptance of it. Or an accident, where a pedestrian gets run over.
“My greatest sense of well-being is with my grand-kids. Or doing something at work, with my clients getting it. Working in the garden, making good food.”
T: “I love to. I feel happy, excited, free.”
T: “Being able to do whatever I wanted. Freak out, even. Relief, to let out all the steam, let it all hang out. No longer having to be in control.”
Prescription: Carcinosinum 200C
Commentary: issues of control were salient to me; obviously, I did not yet recognize the underlying Bird picture. As you will see, this lovely patient was energetically open to many remedies helping her.
June 8, 2010
T: “I’m good, really good! The new remedy worked well. It hypes me up a bit; I get quite a bit of energy. I’m not so passive, more assertive. It verges on impatience. I’m not so afraid to hurt someone’s feelings. It’s good to a point. Just so I don’t overdo it. I’m more able to speak my mind.”
DB: Back pain?
T: “I still feel it now and then, but it’s not causing any problems. I think it’s a muscle. It comes and goes.”
T: “I don’t feel that anymore.”
November 23, 2010
T: “Multiple problems. My prosthetic hip got recalled; it slips out of its socket. I’ll need surgery.
“I was hit by a car; my shoulder and hip were hurt. This is how vulnerable a person is, how fast your life can change. It’s a wake-up call.
“I went on a trip, didn’t enjoy it at all. 50,000 people at an addictions convention. I freaked out. The bus took a wrong turn. I felt helpless.
“I feel disconnected from my family. My daughter’s going to France to visit her husband’s family. I’m happy for them but want to be with them. My husband always thinks he knows what’s happening. I’m disgusted by his confidence.”
T: “I’m sad at how quickly life can change. When I felt the car hit me, I felt shock. I felt the impact. It was scary. I was immobilized. Then, I found I couldn’t enjoy being in the present moment. I was reliving the past all the time.
“The most disconnected I’ve ever felt was during my divorce. I was so afraid, ashamed and hurt. How would I live on my own? Make decisions? Make ends meet?”
Prescription: Hydrogen 200C
Commentary: hindsight, they say is always 20:20. Yet, it’s difficult to understand how I missed the continuing filling in the quintessential picture of Bird energy.
For one thing, the problem with her prosthetic hip is that it doesn’t want to stay in one place. What’s supposed to be trapped keeps escaping! Then, there is the victimization of being hit by a car. Vulnerability is an important theme of Bird remedies; in fact, it is the experience of vulnerability that led to the evolution of winged flight.
Then there is disconnection, which is an important word in the vocabulary of Bird energy, which has a strong emphasis on bonds, particularly family bonds.
December 23 2010
T: “I haven’t noticed any big difference. I feel good, not getting anxious.
“I’m sad not being with friends for Christmas. Without the grandkids, something is missing.
“My left foot hurts; it’s hard to get around.
“My future looks bleak. Like I’m useless.”
Prescription: Hydrogen LM5
Commentary: interestingly, this is the first time she didn’t seem to notice any support from a remedy. It’s the first remedy she received that was not from the Animal kingdom. Why did I persist? I don’t know!
January 29, 2011
T: “The remedy helped. I’m not as preoccupied with getting older, not so morose but when I get anxious, I feel out of control. I wake at 2am, have trouble getting back to sleep. I still miss my daughter and granddaughters. My foot pain is better.”
April 18, 2011
T: “I’m really good. I’ve come through some tough challenges. It’s satisfying; I feel strong and confident. I’m a lot stronger than I was.
“My mother is not going to live much longer. She’s losing it. I worry about what will happen with her. I have melt-downs, where I just want to sit by myself, not see anyone or do anything. Just lie on the couch, maybe read.”
“My sister is getting inseminated with my husband’s sperm. I couldn’t tell her. It was a big secret. I was upset. Not only because of my husband but because she was older. I was scared the baby would have Downs’ syndrome, that the baby wouldn’t be normal.”
“My friend committed a man to treatment in Canada, was paying a lot of money to do this. I don’t like forcing people to do something against their will."
“A bunch of people at a lake; I’m trying to find a place to hide. People are coming to kill us.”
T: “My family – what’s left of it—has dissolved. My son (heroin addict) is shunned. You don’t have a connection anymore. Not having any family around. Lonely. Without meaning. A void.”
Prescription: Hydrogen LM6
Commentary: such important dreams! Themes of secrets, infidelity, betrayal, abnormality, of being forced against one’s will, of being hunted down at a lake.
Hydrogen has the following rubrics:
Delusions that she is betrayed
Delusions that others are conspiring to murder him
But again, hindsight tells us there is more happening here than Hydrogen can account for!
August 16, 2011
T: “All hell broke loose. I had to put my mother in an Alzheimer’s Unit. It was terrible. She was tearful, didn’t want me to leave. I’m not trying to come to her rescue. I can’t take care of her… It would be a full-time job.
“I feel depleted. Nothing left to give anymore. I’m sad, distracted, worn out. I just sit and stare out the window. It’s hard to keep balanced. A lot of people are just trying to keep their head above water. I’m running in circles.”
“I’m going somewhere, and I didn’t want Mom to be alone. I asked some lady I hardly knew how to take care of her. All my brothers and sisters are upset with me for doing that. I had everyone mad at me; all my siblings. I couldn’t take it back; it had already happened.”
“A friend I was dating before my husband was dying. I was with him. It was pleasant, not scary. It was peaceful.”
Prescription: Hydrogen LM7
Commentary: here, another important Bird theme emerges: the obligation to care.
October 24, 2011
T: “My daughter is trying to detach from the family; I took it as a rejection and woke up crying. My husband’s friend accused me of not liking him. Things get sucked right out of me. If one more demand is made, I might end up being nasty. One of the most important things in life is to be nice, to be friendly. I feel I’m too wrapped up in myself, too selfish.
“Depletions is like being dead, but you’re still alive. Your spirit is dead. You have no spirituality.”
Prescription: Sulphur hydrogenisatum LM5
Commentary: birds are creatures of the air, of pneuma, spirit. Death is the extinguishing of the spirit more than the expiration of the heartbeat.
The following are excerpts from multiple visits from 2012 through 2014.
T: “I’m frustrated with this one person who has got to be in charge of everything. She’s got to run the show, telling everyone what to do, when to do it. She talks incessantly about what’s going on with her. The self-centeredness.
“Empathy. You don’t know what anyone has gone through. Horrifying things… rape, murder, shootings.”
“A plane crash. I barely escaped.”
T: “Emotional grieving. Mother in nursing home. Moving through stuff. Moving stuff from unconscious to conscious. Standing up for myself: a new thing for me.”
“Mom in nursing home, unable to control her bladder. We sit around, stitch, dance."
“My friend kissing my husband, acting as if nothing was wrong with what she was doing."
T: “My husband’s daughter next door… one more person to take care of.
“No interaction; no family exchange. They’re wrapped in a bubble over there. Don’t even look out the window to see what’s going on.
“I feel anxious and agitated. A client who went on and on, it was hard to sit and listen. My body gets tense and shuts down. I can’t take anything else in. I feel trapped, need to get out of there. It’s like being trapped in a cave, a dark place. Stuck, with no way out. I pray for help from God. A white bird flew past me, landed and showed me I had someone to help me.
“I can’t imagine living with what people have to live with, with death and fear. A lot of compassion.
“Things are closing in on me; I can’t breathe.”
“I’m in the town where my Grandmother lives, and I don’t visit her. Horror. Why don’t I go to see her? Everything is closing in on me.”
“Granddaughter and I going to the lake where I grew up. There, the birds wake us up, saying it’s time to get going.”
“I try to tread water; just maintain.”
“My husband had a relationship with his friend’s wife. I felt devastated, betrayed."
T: “I have feelings of having let everyone down, of being a failure.
“I see my mother as being dead. She just sits in her chair. Her spirit is gone.
“A friend got me a pedicure; did all these nice things, yet I didn’t feel gratitude.
“My husband is domineering, controlling. Rejection by daughter is the ultimate hurt. A part of me has died. She’s there, but not there. Like my mother in the nursing home.”
“About my nephew. It was romantic, like when you fall in love for the first time. When everything in life is new, exciting and hopeful.”
October 2, 2014
Prescription: Cygnus cygnus 200C, SL
Commentary: I finally got the message, but it had to be delivered by white birds through the patient’s dreams! Cygnus, of course, is the remedy for Living Grief .  The swan treads water, the substance of the emotional body.
Follow-ups after Cygnus
November 3, 2014: “It’s been an ordeal. My mother died. I was with her and am glad for that. The remedy seemed to work even before I took it, before the ordeal started. I wasn’t so overwhelmed with grief and sadness. And I’m not so overwhelmed with sadness about her.
“Physically, I feel better than I have in a long time. My hip feels really good. There’s no pain.
“I feel more connected to my husband.
“At work, I’ve slowed down. I’ve accepted that some bad things happen; that some things are beyond my control. I’m enjoying having my daughter-in-law next door.”
February 5, 2015: “My daughter called and acted as if nothing had happened. Did I just imagine there was a break in our relationship? She’s back in my life! My granddaughter might come in the summer.
“I had a dream of mother at the ocean. She had adjusted to being there; I was happy.”
DB: How is your grief?
T: “It’s more acceptance now.”
Birds versus Mammals
Birds and mammals are both highly evolved animals whose survival depends largely on cooperative relationships with others members of the species. If we consider the classes of animal orders: insects, bony fish, spiders, amphibians, crustaceans, arachnids, reptiles, birds, and mammals, it is immediately obvious that the latter two are the only classes that nurture and protect their young.
Since nurturing and cooperation are both such formative characteristics of remedies made from these two orders, how do we discern the differences in expression of remedy-types?
Mammal and Lac cases struggle with their own identity. Belonging is more important than connected. In order to belong, Mammals may sacrifice aspects of their own individuality. Mammals compared to Birds is a bit like Malvaceae compared to Scrophulariaceae in the Plant kingdom: Mammals need others to know who they are, whereas Birds need others to participate or engage in the creation of meaning.
In Mammal remedies, hierarchy and comparison with others is hidden but very important. There is often a strong sycotic miasmatic trait. In Birds, there may also be these factors, but more important is the need to participate, engage in life, that leaves a meaningful footprint upon the earth. Rather than feeling stuck in a particular ranking in the herd, Birds struggle with putting enormous energy into moving forward in life. This may look like social climbing, striving to attain a higher social position. Towards these ends, tremendous self-control is needed, and aspects of the cancer miasm are usually found. The Bird mind functions on a more abstract, symbolic plane than does the Mammal mind. Its detachment from earthly affairs combined with a sense of vision (critical for flight) may be expressed variably as spaciness, refinement, preoccupation, workaholism, idealism or oddness.
Bird remedies thus place a high value on movement; movement from one place to another. In a case, this might involve the transition from one phase of life to another, or even the movement from life to death (the spirit taking flight). There is often pathology of the musculoskeletal system and spine. Mammal remedies tend to feel inferior or superior; Bird remedies tend towards feeling failure or success in reaching a goal, a new position, or more likely, a sense of meaning and connectedness in an otherwise desolate and meaningless cosmos.
For Mammals, belonging to the community is essential for protection, nurturance and love. For Birds the words inclusion and exclusion are more often heard. These go hand in hand with the experience of engagement and bonded. The polarity here is estranged, detached, distant, whereas for Mammals, it is more likely to be shunned, outcast, and alone. In practice, it is not always so clear-cut, as both remedy-types may use any of these words.
More helpful, perhaps, is the premium placed by Bird remedies on autonomy. “Forced to do something against one’s will” is highly characteristic of Bird energy (2). Related to this is the obligation to care for others, which paradoxically provides a sense of purpose and meaning, but conversely serves to trap the patient, limiting his or her freedom.
Other expressions of Bird energy are:
Looking out the window
Balance; one needs two wings and good balance to fly
Disorientation; “Can’t get my bearings.” This can look like Magnoliaflorae
Perfectionism – get it right – High expectations
> Outside/fresh air vs. trapped inside. Effects from the wind, good or bad
Alien/strange/odd; a continuum
Compassion/sympathy with outward movement, f/b inward withdrawal, overwhelm
Awareness of unconscious, shadow
Desire to leave a legacy, a “footprint” on the world: owl – wisdom; ibis – beauty and passion; dove – peace and innocence; condor – surrender, dying; macaw – individuality, etc.
Neck tension, back and spinal complaints with radiculopathy
 Jonathan Shore. Birds: Homeopathic Remedies from the Avian Realm. Homeopathy West/Berkeley, CA. 2004.
 For a discussion of the differentiation of Bird Remedies from Lanthanides see Doug Brown, “Golden Flight: Differentiating the Lanthanide from the Bird” in Hpathy Ezine, Jan. 2013.
Amber; Hannes Grobe; Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 2.5
Broken chain; lightspring; Shutterstock
Cygnus; Vlasta Kaspar; Shutterstock
Keywords: depression, alcoholism, addiction, grief, abdominal rash, digestive problems, feeling trapped, control issues, victimization, vulnerability, disconnection, obligation to care