A little fourth grade girl sat in her class and watched her teacher struggle with classroom management. She singled out the boys with poor handwriting, poor grasp of material, and the kids who couldn’t care less about school, hauled them to the front of the class to showcase as examples of what not to do. If humiliation could reform the hapless, this teacher was trying her darned best.
The girl sat and watched as the teacher became red in the face and screamed at the kids. She became indignant on behalf of her classmates. This woman, she decided, had no business teaching fourth graders! She was venting her frustration on kids who couldn’t help themselves. And she wasn’t helping them either. The kids will believe they are dumb, or bad at math, suck at handwriting, or are simply the most useless persons in the whole school, and give up. What’s the use of trying when your teacher confirms your worst suspicions about yourself?
When the class let their hair down in the hallway, the teacher assigned a “reflection essay” asking the kids to say why they are sorry. The girl resented it — this was a punishment essay, and in her essay she described the teacher’s anger, written plainly on her face and her actions in the classroom. The teacher demanded an apology, but she refused. “Let a thousand flowers bloom,” she responded. Ouch!! Thankfully, the teacher missed the reference. And the girl hated writing essays from then on.
Every English class since, with its strictly prescribed formats, re-opened an old wound. She felt imprisoned by “The Sandwich Format: Name, Explain and Name again.” She began to regret that she had read really good books. But we cannot forget what once gave us immense pleasure, the sensuality of words rolling freely off the tongue.
And when English class became stifling she dashed off her work and spent the rest of the period day dreaming. Her fantasy worlds — video gaming, anime, mythology, fantasy fiction — collided and she started compiling ways of avenging the wrongs. Off with their heads! Another fantasy.
One day, her teacher caught her nursing her List. She was sent to the School Authorities, who referred her for emergency psychiatric evaluation at the local hospital.
The girl snapped into action. She remembered her brother mentioning a law governing mental health care for minors. She decided she had to look up the law in her state. NYS Law 33.21 became her “best friend.” She refused consent. She regretted that more kids did not know about it. She decided to think it through for herself, and concluded that teachers could not upset her as much if she cared less about English and freedom of expression.
But she continued to be angry that the System forces kids into the same mold. She suffered often from a sore throat.
Until she took Causticum. Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, had concocted it using alchemical methods to bridge the gap between feeling empathy for those who are suffering and being moved to a strong sense of justice — a need to redress the balance between the victims and their oppressors.
But the disempowered and the young are not in a position to do much about injustice. Those who dare to ask, “But why?” and stifle the urge to cry out “Not fair!” literally swallow their anger till their throats become inflamed from the fire of their convictions. People who need Causticum have a peculiar symptom: they are constantly clearing their throats. In chronic cases, it can become a vicious cycle – they try to hawk up mucous that is stuck, and that irritates their throats even more . They may even see a trace of blood when they gargle. The pent-up frustration can even block up ears, transforming ear wax into a brown mass that blocks their hearing. These folks need to let off steam!
That single dose of Causticum was transformative. She relaxed. The anger left. She realized that dwelling on the injustice done to others was “only going to hurt my brain” and let it go. She started to feel bad for the teacher who had entered the wrong profession. Sad, but it wasn’t her problem. Maybe the English teachers truly believe in the curriculum they taught; maybe it was just their job. The indignation softened. She started to channel her energy into her art practice.
This case shook me to my core. The girl is my daughter.
It is easy to pathologize the powerful emotions we can’t control. Easy to zen out. Easy to medicate and “fix” those who are still sensitive into oblivion. It is far harder to acknowledge the outlier who calls out the Emperor who has no clothes. These individuals may be carrying our best hopes for the freedom that Martin Luther had dreamed of. We need fine tools that do not clobber them into cartoon figures. Homeopathy is one such tool — it works with the potential of the child, not against it. And we need teachers who honor compassion. Heck, we need teachers who are compassionate with themselves and can put themselves into the shoes of the fourth grader they once wore.