New York Isn’t All That It’s Cracked Up To Be: A Closer Look At The Ignatian Mentality

Riley Coules
February 2017

(This is an older piece, recently edited.)

(I feel hesitant to put personal pieces up on the website, but the information presented here is helpful for anyone interested in homeopathy, I do believe.)

Note that I speak mainly of my experiences in this article, drawing on homeopathic literature to make sense of it all, but this page is far more conducive to grasping the picture of the remedy type Ignatia Amara. 

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For a long time following my departure from college in the city, I looked back with a “what if” mentality. What if I hadn’t gotten sick? Surely then I would have loved Fordham. What if I had given New York another chance? Sophomore year probably would have fulfilled me like I had always dreamed the city would. What if I had just tried harder to assimilate into the plethora of individuals desperately attempting to unearth an avenue toward self-expression? I probably would have found myself unwilling to leave them.

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The ultimate remark of the Ignatia individual, whose past has become so muddled by suppression and time ne no longer remembers the real source of nir loss*, highlights the remedy type’s extreme idealism: what if [some loss hadn’t occurred]… I would have been happier. I would be happier. Yet these delusions often have less to do with the truth of former scenarios than they do the constitution’s own fragile psyche shattered by fragile circumstances.

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Throughout the last year and a half (holy shit it has been a year and a half), I envisioned a more complacent Riley at Fordham, one that did not, in effect, self-destruct after multiple traumas. I would think:

  1. I miss going out around the Bronx (the Bronx is a little bubble of shitty bars that play shitty pop music that only Fordham students aged 18-22 attend. I desperately missed real music the whole time I was there and the people associated with it).
  2. I miss dorming (I detested the lack of privacy and the 5 ft. by 7 ft. part of the bedroom I called mine. My bed was pretty comfy though).
  3. I miss class (I was never really “in it” when I started having severe digestive issues; I would think to myself, like I did in most situations throughout my decline: I wish I could experience things like I used to. The classroom atmosphere has always been very exciting to me. My indifference extended to trips to the city, friendly gatherings, going out, etc., due to which I’d wonder: where’d the magic go?).
  4. I miss my friends (I only truly connected with a few people at Fordham. All others were phantom friends).
  5. I miss Fordham students (Oh, how I struggled with the school’s image-driven, young-person culture (a culture nearly every college in America seems to oblige to, by default). New York City may be progressive, and thus inherently divergent from the norm, but it’s also full of superficiality, as everyone tries to make it–that is, contrive the means to their own value which already exists).
  6. I miss New York (I rarely left campus except to “pick up”, and while I’m sure  endearing parts of the Bronx prevail, I never experienced them. I also never went into Manhattan except for work, which veiled the magic of the city to my already-veiled perspective… I began my isolation trend by the second semester of the school year, never going out, yet deeply yearning to connect). 
  7. I miss smoking on campus (I just thought I’d throw that in there. This one is actually real. When I wasn’t violating dorm “law” and smoking in my room (sorry to my old roommate), I was on campus meeting up with friends to relax after a long day. I  really miss doing so, partly because I enjoyed the experience itself and the whole dynamic of it–smoking “illegally”, being goofy, escaping my homesickness and general empty feeling, etc.–but also because things were simple then. Well, a lot simpler than they are now. I’m still healing as I write this, and while I’m thankful to be where I’m at, I still can’t believe what has happened to me and how profoundly it has affected my concept of existence. I continually wonder how I ended up here and I continually try to envision the innocent mentalities that drove my everyday goals in years prior. I never used to consider suicide, or how to get by day by day; I just lived. I miss that).
  8. I miss excitement.

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Yes, number eight is true in the sense that the city did offer more opportunities to engage in life than the confines of my suburban home, in which I found myself alone while ill far too much, battling negativity, battling anxiety, battling the subjugation of my identity I couldn’t wait to just exist without forethought–but one thing number eight does not take into account is the fact that Fordham itself is not to blame for what happened to me, for the progression of my illness, for my pessimism, nor my altered outlook on life; rather, (unintentional, albeit sustained) emotional detachment and consequent lack of awareness veiled my honest reflection on past events, in which I idealized the former in order to avoid coping with the sorrow of now. In a deep pathological state, Ignatia will no longer comprehend the accurate origin of their mourning, unless so recent that it is at the forefront of nir mind; I removed myself from the truth of the past (suffering: circumstantial), and the truth of the present (more suffering: mental and physical degradation), so that I could escape the utter bleakness of loss–loss that occurred over, and over, and over again in various forms throughout the two years prior, until they culminated into the loss of myself. Even though I knew I was suffering, that my body and mind ceased to function as they should, I chose control over recognition (Arsenicum), and la-la land over growth (Phosphorus). My detachment from reality, and inadvertent detachment from my emotional being, furthered all expressions of my lower qualities, sustaining their amplification, as only the undoing of the self can. Failing to face present circumstances meant they remained as such: defunct and devoid of love.

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The Ignatia “empty hole” depression is more of a steady melancholia, a numbness, wherein a lack of vitality, that feeling of being alive, becomes the norm. Heavy disorder desensitized me to what it was like to really live, how it felt to be me; I literally could not remember who I had been the entirety of my life anyway, having only vague memories to go off of, but no emotion to give them meaning**. I often contemplated the source of my despondency in social settings (restlessly fulfilling tasks in isolation allowed me to stifle any troublesome thoughts I held regarding the matter), wondering what was off, why I felt so different, and why I no longer possessed the capacity to connect, to engage, to revil, to love… it wasn’t until I began treatment that I realized I started feeling really down the couple months before I left for Fordham. I remembered the sentiment of absolute heartbreak, before it became so confounded with other forms of grief I could no longer fathom when or how things had changed. I would feel that sentiment again, deeply, earth-shattering-ly, when my dad dropped me off in New York, only the second instance I had ever been there, this time alone, permanently, without an end it sight. In actuality, an end in sight existed, presumably in the following year if I decided to transfer; but that’s another err in thought with the Ignatia mentality: blue not only colors the now, but the future inevitably (homeopathic literature will often note that “time passes too slowly” for this constitution). Even if circumstances present an out, Ignatia will dwell on nir torment, nir agony, nir heartache, nir regret–until it turns into hopeless despair, a bleak reality with no cessation. A cessation may come in the form of suicide for some Ignatia individuals, as the type’s emotion, or lack thereof, is intenser than most constitutions are capable of experiencing.

Note that Ignatia is comprised mainly of water (Bailey 408).

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Suppressed emotions often manifest themselves in dreams, wherein the subconscious cannot be avoided. Perhaps it–we’re–trying to tell ourselves something, for which we must learn to listen. I woke up nearly every day with a marked feeling of loss while away at Fordham, an impression I would typically attribute to my yearn to return home (Kent 75: “Sadness upon waking”); when I finally did return home, I woke up with the same woeful sentiment, except this time I correlated my grief to the “loss” of Fordham, especially if I had dreamt of the school. If I hadn’t, I would rack my brain for any former instance that would incite mourning, and the year prior’s events–when I wasn’t so lifeless–would usually come to mind (given that I couldn’t remember the identity I held before leaving for school). Yet I struggled a great deal while away, and I certainly struggled more once I returned to Illinois, but not because one scenario exceeded the other in its ability to gratify my deafened capacity to delight; rather, returning to the place I ached for (in light of the people, not the vibe; I am a Michigander at heart) could not heal me, for I–really, my vital force–had been too depressed to initiate a curative response even without the trigger to its degeneration present.

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What people often fail to realize is that depression is not merely circumstantial, although it most certainly arises out of occurrence: even when genealogy predisposes one to some form of disorder, something must throw the body and mind off, exposing deficiencies in the intrinsic mechanism by which we maintain homeostasis until the individual at hand learns to rectify such weaknesses through growth. So while trauma may inhibit us temporarily, it often does so permanently, even in the lack of trying circumstance, because we do not teach our people to deal. Our sufferings, if not properly managed, extend beyond the events that caused them in the form of an inhibited capacity to feel, a necessarily-exacerbated lower self, which explains why our abused, our neglected, our broken up with, and cheated on; our loved conditionally, our bullied, our Standard American Dieters and former drug addicts; our former pharmaceutical-dependents, our antibiotic victims, our acutely (yet heavily) ill and more do not simply return to their previous identities once the initial blow to their equilibrium has ceased. No, our struggles are often too great, our bodies and minds too weakened by suppression (emotional and allopathic) for us to heal fully without stimulation if we cannot stimulate ourselves. When our vital forces are in a constant state of disorder, they are in a constant state of healing; i.e. they have never fully healed. Our mental, emotional, and physical symptoms reflect this premise as they continuously aim to detoxify. Given the extreme rationalization of Western society, which borders on dogmatic (we’ve gone from religious domination to scientific domination, with no in between, and certainly no originality, nor spirituality–i.e. insight into the self–in sight), few of us are aware of the power we hold to maintain homeostasis–to, in effect, prevent our own disease. Homeopathy recognizes that disease is not done onto us; it originates from within us first and foremost (we must even be susceptible to “catch” anything), and in the case of mood disorders, it is the method by which we unconsciously attempt to mend our broken psyches.

(If only we learned to listen!)

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Ignatia didn’t just lift the veil that clouded my understanding of events passed; it helped me feel the value of the present tense. After leaving Fordham, I spent so long in a zombie-like state, numbed by a joyless outlook, that which thwarted all of my hope for the future, my ability to merely be… I constantly looked to the next, utterly devoid of spirit, utterly devoid of the capacity to live in the now, a reality I attempted to escape as much as possible (Phosphorus). This state of being I could never accurately convey, for there are no words to express the darkness, my darkness, that began to overtake me, and continued to do so until I embodied none of my former light (an interesting parallel can be made between emotion and the ability to relish in the moment, both of which may be dubbed “what life is all about”–rather, what invites us to grow). Both Ignatia and Arsenicum desire isolation; Ignatia’s black-hole depression prevents nir from engaging, while Arsenicum craves the control and security of the home. I spent every day in 2015 effectuating meaningless objectives: wake up, clean, contemplate going out, stay home, rest, repeat. Wake up, clean, contemplate going out, stay home, use food for happiness, rest, repeat. Avoid acknowledging the black hole of unfulfilled emotions, like the control, rest, repeat until pathological manifestations of trauma could no longer be averted–at which point I still did not comprehend how my mental state instigated my in-shambles physicality (and vice versa) until my treatment with homeopathy. Unfortunately, I suffered far more prior to unearthing this truly awe-inspiring form of medicine; by August of 2016, debility intermingled with an unfathomable degree of anxiety enveloped me, trapping me in a world of incessant suffering. At that point I not only couldn’t remember myself, I didn’t know if I would make it (I won’t get into how I reached this point in my health here, but the My Journey tab does). Hysteria overshadowed my empty depression, for which I began to consider suicide. I never really thought I would go through it, but the fact that the thought of wanting to end my life constantly permeated my reflections, that I desired so greatly to escape the difficulties of the present tense instead of fighting them, exemplifies just how far gone I was–how detached I became from the value of my own life.

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I kept saying, even in the beginnings of my healing journey, that “I don’t feel like trying anymore”, which was true; I felt defeated. But my self-destructive cerebrations weren’t ridden with desire like one might expect. In fact, there wasn’t really anything to be felt on the surface except for anguish, which reflected my anxiety more than anything else. Even my spirituality could not save me from this err in thought; it actually somewhat instigated it because I figured I’d rather die and go somewhere peaceful than cope with how hard things had gotten in this realm. The restoration journey too involved such hysteria, such instability, but because homeopathic remedies work backward toward the source of illness, wherein an individual progresses through every sentiment and physical facet of the disease process until its origin can be cured, I experienced my escapism in a new light. I was technically moving forward–mending, as opposed to declining–which fueled me, in a sense. Still, I had to endure some of my more troublesome mentalities (and of course, physicalities, especially my heart afflictions) until enough time had passed for enough layers of strife to become undone. For three or four months into healing, I could not seem to shake the feeling that I was very out of place, that I couldn’t just be, that I no longer knew how to live. I writhed amidst this constant inner tension (the five metal balls perpetually clanging against each other in Newton’s Cradle come to mind); I felt as if I just could not take it any longer, the rejection of former traumas bubbling against the surface, threatening to burst, as exemplified by fitful sleep, a rapid, oppressive heart rate, ball-like sensations in the throat, and itch (characteristic of the remedy)–itches I simply could not scratch until I dealt with them below the facade I had manifested. When mildly expressed in Ignatia types, this frenzy, subdued, manifests itself as a desire to be alone, to distract, to engross oneself in other worlds. When at my worst, however, I literally felt out of my mind, as if I would break to pieces at any second, corrupted. I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what I was feeling, and certainly couldn’t communicate it (silent brooding is typical with Ignatia), but I knew I was being suffocated by something, something I couldn’t figure the origin of.

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I remember one night, right before I truly, truly uprooted my desire to live again, that I felt so overwhelmed by this fervor, this mania; I just didn’t know what to do with myself. I was so afraid–afraid of my negativity, afraid of never getting better, afraid of getting better and not knowing how to live again–that I thought I’d burst so many confounded feelings crowded my mind. How I got through the earliest segments of my healing journey I do not know, I can’t even remember… I do believe my indefatigability had something to do with my innate drive to plow my way through not only my desires (recall that I didn’t really have desires at the time), but anything that feels like a barrier. Even when I was on the decline I kept pushing myself to just reach that point at which I would feel like myself again… To say I felt comforted by the fact that I could “only go up from” there–my lowest–would be too simplistic; rather, I think when one hits rock bottom, truly rock bottom, after running and running for as long as ne possibly could without getting caught, life compels nem to change nir ways. Essentially, there’s nowhere to go. Even if death is around the corner, those deeply-suppressed self-preservational skills (perhaps especially in the young, who haven’t had a full life to live) seem to kick in. I would have hurt myself already if they didn’t exist. And for as far gone I was, how deafened I was to the joys of experience, how much I yearned to escape, the will to continue perpetually dominated, at least enough to keep me carrying on, fighting for what I did not know.

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Roughly six months into treatment, I began to feel like, for the first time in years, that I knew who I was. That I had an identity. That I have motives, desires, and passions that extend beyond the hope for a life that does not consist of perpetual warfare. I have a capacity to relish, a capacity to delight, a capacity to love, a capacity to feel. Indeed: I have a capacity to feel whole. Oh, gosh–how could it be? I didn’t know I could get here. I didn’t know “here” existed. My emotion for sheer existence is almost tangible. It’s almost impossible. It’s so right.

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I had a dream (kinda like Martin Luther King Jr.) near the end of my treatment with Ignatia. When I woke up, I honestly just had to smile at how far I’d come. I had envisioned myself at Fordham, presumably when I first arrived; I remember thinking to myself, “this is lame” and asking a few the people around me if they wanted to come back to Chicago with me to go to school there. I called my dad and asked him to come pick me up… and that’s about all I remember. I’m sure the plot was a little more intricate than that (I have an ingenious subconscious), but those few sentiments speak to what an individual truly aware of nir emotions feels about a time in nir life that brought nem so much strife. For so long this yearn for what I did not know consumed me, so much so that I projected it onto scenarios that impacted me negatively; I no longer possessed the capacity to recognize my emotions for what they were. This dream was more than just some silly reflection of the past–it was a sign of progression, that I was healing and remembering the truth of my trauma, the truth of my past, the truth behind my hardship.

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I want to live and I want to learn merely because I recognize it natural, necessary, and above all else, extraordinary–an inclination that means so, so much to someone that spent a hell of a lot of time being lost.

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*The remedy Ignatia Amara will treat a wide range of people suffering from an acute affliction that incites much grievance, such as the loss of a loved one or a breakup, especially when feelings of betrayal are harbored in the latter scenario. People who suffer from unrequited love may also require the remedy, even if they are not vengeful but merely melancholic. The connection between the two dispositions lies in a strong tendency to ruminate (Hahnemann: fixed ideas), to dwell upon the event in disbelief, and to feel an overwhelming sense of anguish even if the person in the Ignatia state bottles up nir emotions and avoids company (Kent 16: “Consolation aggravates”).

As an acute remedy, Ignatia treats those physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that have arisen out of a recent trauma; thus, many people can benefit from Ignatia at some point in their lives. Of course there are other remedies for loss, and other constitutional types that will merely fall deeper into their constitutional states when they lose something, someone, or a lifestyle they love; however, for those who are “stuck” on a recent event (i.e. they are not moving forward, failing to make their way through the normal stages of healing), with heavy sighing, uncontrollable sobbing, or otherwise numbness characterizing their outlook, Ignatia is most certainly a remedy to consider.

According to most homeopathic literature, Ignatia functions in the acute for some time until the people who need the remedy–but never take it and thus never heal–enter into a chronic Natrum Muriatricum state (the essence running through Natrum Muriaticum is denial). This general viewpoint I want to clarify. First off, there are constitutional Ignatias out there, however uncommon; the difference between someone’s constitutional remedy and nir acute remedy is that the constitutional remedy defines nir as a whole person, perpetually. We are all comprised of multiple constitutions, and as we are thrown off by life’s hardships and are never actually restored, we often continue to fall deeper and deeper into our constitutional states. Certain traumas may add different, extraneous layers, which don’t really speak to us as on the whole but we possess some predisposition to acquire nonetheless.

Anyone can take on the lower qualities associated with Ignatia after experiencing a hefty shock, but only an Ignatia person will remain an Ignatia once ne is healed, embodying mostly the higher qualities associated with the remedy and giving off that Ignatia essence, that aura, that vibe only ne intrinsically holds, the same way a Phosphorus once restored will still be friendly, sympathetic, intuitive, and free-spirited. Natrum Muriaticum people are far more common than Ignatias (Bailey says they comprise 1/5 of the Westernized population), but it is not guaranteed that someone in an Ignatia state, constitutional or otherwise, will ever transition into a Natrum Muriaticum state (or simply just add that layer onto nir Ignatia layer; we may transition, doing away with an acute condition altogether, or add more layers to what still needs to be rectified). I read in Catherine R Coulter’s Psychophysical Analyses of Selected Constitutional Types that the author treated a woman who had remained in an Ignatia condition for five years after losing a loved one. I personally believe that I could have benefitted from Ignatia in high school; when I took the remedy, the later phases of the healing process reminded me of how I felt as a teenager. Perhaps, then, I am somewhat Ignatia constitutionally, but definitely more Phosphorus, Arsenicum, and Sulphur.

Getting back to what I originally asterisked the above for: the recency of events, and furthermore one’s ability to remember why ne feels the way that ne does, may muddle Ignatia’s, or someone in an Ignatia state’s, judgment. Because Ignatia is so romantic (usually quite capable of devoting nemself to another) and idealistic, it is wholly possible that Ignatia glorifies past events in order to escape how inglorious present circumstances are! Ne may dwell upon a former lover, seeing in that partner what Ignatia wants or wanted to be real, so that Ignatia may avoid dealing with how ne truly feels. The same concept can be applied to events and circumstances.

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**If only more people knew how much emotion can save us from ourselves!! Wait, no– how much our higher selves can save us from our lower selves!! Emotion is the single most effective solution, the fundamental solution, the divine solution to self-destruction, permanent melancholia, and cold, soul-numbing depression… All of the lower mentalities you hold, the way you don’t love others, the way you don’t love you, can be healed with homeopathy. Please, go heal; please, go love; and please learn. This world is a better place because we learn how to be better all the time via the widespread attainment of morality. Suffering will cease to exist when we have all reached the higher, in effect by growing, which can only occur when we grow our awareness…

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Resources:

  1. Bailey, Philip M. Homeopathic Psychology: Personality Profiles of the Major Constitutional Remedies. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 1995. Print.
  2. McCabe, Vinton. Let Like Cure Like. St Martins Press, 1997. Print.
  3. McCabe, Vinton. Practical Homeopathy. St Martins Press, 2000. Print.
  4. Kent, J. T. Repertory of the Homoeopathic Materia Medica. Uttar Pradesh, India: B. Jain Publishers, 2016. Print.