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Latin Name: Ilex aquifolium
Group: Second Nineteen
Emotional Group: Over-sensitive to influences and ideas
Emotional response: Hatred and anger
For those who are sometimes attacked by thoughts of such kind as jealousy, envy, revenge, suspicion. For the different forms of vexation. Within themselves they may suffer much, often when there is no real cause for their unhappiness. [Bach: Twelve Healers and Other Remedies 1936]
The ultimate conquest of all will be through love and gentleness, and when we have sufficiently developed these two qualities nothing will be able to assail us, since we shall ever have compassion and not offer resistance. [Bach: Collected Writings]
For any kind of strongly negative state: anger, jealousy, bitterness, rage, envy, suspicion, revenge, hatred, violence, bad temper, contempt, vexation, selfishness, frustration – all states antipathetic to love.
[Barnard: Guide to the Bach Flower Remedies]
Holly grows in thickets and woodland, being seeded by birds. It is found in woods, scrub, hedges and rocky ravines.
Holly grows throughout Britain but is rather less common in the eastern counties.
The Holly state is really very serious for it describes all kinds of strongly negative emotions that not only burn within a person but express themselves in destructive, even violent behaviour. It is for ‘jealousy, envy, revenge, suspicion, the different forms of vexation’. Now vexation is a nicely old-fashioned word but here it does not mean a trifling ill humour but a kind of agitation, intensely malicious and more particularly the experience of being shaken by violent feelings (Latin vexare, to shake). Of course, we all know what it feels like, both to be shaken by our own anger and to be shaken by the anger of others. It has been suggested that this is the most important of the 38 Bach remedies since it is for hatred and rage. But Bach put it another way, saying that it was a protection ‘from everything that is not Universal Love’. In this he was attempting to avoid the usual negative characterisation of emotions which only grow larger the more we concentrate upon them. Anger is not wrong of itself, but the lack of love can cause us problems. We only feel hatred when we cannot feel love; the two are mutually exclusive. Holly is for any strongly negative emotion that violates the sanctity of life.
To understand why Dr Bach chose holly we must understand what it is that happens when a person gets jealous or in a rage. Contemporary neuroscience takes the view that ‘emotions are complicated collections of chemical and neural responses’ leading to ‘circumstances advantageous to the organism’. Yet while there may be occasions when anger is useful and appropriate it is essentially a negative reaction to life circumstances not a ‘part of homeostatic regulation’, or ‘survival-oriented behaviour’, at least as far as Bach remedies are concerned. Anger is a reaction to the invasion of an individual’s sense of self; this may mean a breach of integrity, of standards of behaviour, an awareness of something far stronger, a loss of what makes me feel what I am. Having been invaded (by physical or non-physical interference) I may react with outrage. To that extent it is a natural and appropriate response. But the problem arises when this becomes habitual. If I am habitually angry then there must be an habitual stimulus.
That is to say that the invasion or attack that breached my sense of self has so broken down the natural integrity and defences that a part of me is taken over, occupied territory. Anger then is the reaction to a foreign pattern of activity within the boundaries of my being. So far from being an indication that homeostasis is at work it indicates that homeostasis has failed. This is an important concept since invasive diseases like cancer may be related to anger and the Holly condition.