I had a woman come to me last winter for a consultation because of all consuming fear and panic in every area of her life. She was even afraid to take the flower remedies I made up for her. Without her cooperation, we didn't have much success getting rid of her fear, but we did have some very illuminating conversations. What started out as "I'm afraid of this..." and "I panic about that..." eventually turned into "I'm always afraid!" It seems her initial reaction to any novel or challenging situation was to become fearful, regardless of the outer "cause" for her worry. It was simply her instinctive way of responding to the world and had nothing to do with outer causes.
These instinctive responses are ruled in astrology by the Moon. A local astrologer, Bill Herbst, once defined the Moon's activity as "the way you respond in the first half-second," before the thinking mind kicks in and starts making up stories and excuses. These deep emotional instincts are usually life-long patterns, laid down in early childhood or even carried over from previous lives. This makes them very difficult to modify. However, most of the time, they serve a normal, protective function for the person, helping them adjust to everyday living. It's only when these reactions become exaggerated or out of balance that they become a problem. That's when flower essences can help restore the balance that puts everything back into perspective.
This woman was gripped by unhealthy fear as her basic response to the world. Just plain living was a source of terror. On the other hand, healthy balanced fear can be quite an asset -- it keeps us from jumping into unknown situations before we know we'll be safe and able to cope or urges us to action when a legitimate threat exists. It's only when caution becomes chronic panic that we have a problem. Such free-floating fear and anxiety sometimes comes from early family situations, especially abuse that teaches the child the world is not a safe place. The lesson can even be learned in utero. An unhealthy mother can subtly poison her fetus with her own bodily toxins or bad habits for months on end, creating a sense of ill-defined "dangers" all about that follows the child throughout life. Unbalanced fear can be helped by a wide variety of essences, including Aspen, Fringed Violet, Grey Spider Orchid and Lilac.
My own "half-second response" is a form of doubt and mistrust. I need to check and double-check everything, from whether I really put my keys in my coat pocket to what a person really meant when they talked to me. This need to test my experiences constantly is simply an expression of my need for clarity and certainty, but the exaggerated form (Absolute Certainty) can be a crippling imbalance. It can make you withdraw from forming close friendships out of mistrust, it gets you to doubt and second-guess everything. On bad days, I don't even trust myself. There's nothing wrong with healthy doubting and testing (it's the heart of scientific investigation, for instance), a doubt that accepts that uncertainty and limited understanding are a normal part of life. Unbridled doubt rages against this natural mystery of living. Possible remedies for this imbalance include Cerato, Oregon Grape and Bauhinia.
Obviously, there are many more of these "half-second" patterns than these two. And they aren't all so-called "negative emotions" like fear and doubt, either. Even positive traits can take on exaggerated form. Courage can turn to recklessness and foolish risk taking, self-confidence can fade into arrogance and self-righteousness. I'm sure even love can be overdone. Remember, it's not the emotion or behavior itself that's good or bad, only whether it's in balance with the entire personality or not.
Having a healthy response to living is a delicate balancing act that is difficult to master. But the beauty, joy and richness it brings to life are well worth the effort. It's difficult to track down your own half-second patterns, since they fly by so quickly you barely notice them. I rarely touch this level with most flower essence clients, but when I do, I know we can do amazing work together. It's what Dr. Bach meant when he said treat the person, not the symptoms.
We weave the pattern of our lives out of these half-second responses, both the healthy and the imbalanced ones. If the weaver is in a state of balance, the result is a rich and complex tapestry. Using these essences can help make every moment count.