bach flower remedies cover

Bach Flower Remedies: A User-friendly Guide

Sample Chapter:
Guilt: Inside and Out

The Bach Flower Remedies Pine and Crab Apple relate to issues of guilt and shame, two major energy blockers. If you have something to feel guilty about, you don’t deserve to feel good. In that decision to deny yourself, you cut off your awareness of the flow of positive life energy.

To feel guilt or shame is to deny one’s humanity as an imperfect, always evolving being. It is to deny the comfort and reassurance of unconditional love, which is always available.

Of the two conditions, that calling for Pine is more general. People who need Pine can feel guilt about anything. For that reason, it’s a widely recommended remedy.

Crab Apple addresses a more specific imbalance. It often focuses on uncleanliness, with negative feelings about dirt, germs, and often the human body and its functions. The person who needs Crab Apple doesn’t, like the Pine person, think, “I am bad.” She thinks, “This dirt is bad.” She externalizes the feeling of shame and guilt into an enemy that can be attacked and perhaps defeated.

Pine: Guilty Before Charged

Pamela ran to the bus stop, just missing the Number Six. “Oh, no,” she fretted, “Now I might be late for my appointment. It’s my fault; I thought I left the house with plenty of time, but I must have miscalculated.”

It seemed forever before the next bus came, and when she hurried into it, the fare collection machine didn’t want to accept her token. “Is something wrong with it?” she asked the driver.

“Sometimes this thing gets temperamental,” the driver said, giving it a rap with his fist. The token clinked down to the bottom.

“Are you sure it wasn’t the token?”

“Take a seat, lady. There’s a line behind you.”

She turned around. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting.”

Pamela looked for a seat. A few were available, but probably someone who was old or had leg problems would need them, so she stood in the aisle, holding onto the bar.

A teenager got on, taking one of the seats near her. His Walkman seemed to be at top volume, blasts of sound escaping from his headphones. It was terribly annoying, but she didn’t think it would be right to ask him to turn it down.

Finally, the bus reached the place where she had to get off. She made her way to the front of the bus, being careful not to push people.

“Would you mind stopping here?” she asked the bus driver.

He gave her a strange look. “It’s my job, lady.”

“Thank you very much,” she said as she got off. “I hope I haven’t inconvenienced anyone.”


Unlike anger, which can be a call to action, guilt is more often a call to inaction, to sitting and brooding and blaming oneself and becoming more and more convinced that one is a) a terrible person and/or b) incapable of doing anything right.

Not only can you feel guilty about anything, but also the emotion knows no time. It can get activated over something which happened fifty years ago or when one anticipates a future act.

Sometimes guilt is temporary. Your parent died, and you think of all the kind and loving things you should have said, the wounds you should have healed. An unaccustomed spending spree may induce guilt. You yell at the kids and can’t bear the sight of their heartbroken faces.

Guilt, however, is one of the stickiest emotions. Once experienced, it’s hard to release, because it’s one of the most dominant emotions humans have learned to feel.

Civilization and Guilt

Whether formally religious or not, humans have learned to be guilty about sex, jealousy, eating too much, and having overdue library books. We have developed innovative rituals for blaming and punishing ourselves.

Guilt can be never-ending. Someone who overeats, for example, will usually feel guilty about overeating. Even as he finishes the last of the leftovers, sends out for pizza with everything, or finds himself hopelessly seduced by the aroma of hot pretzels as he innocently passes the stand, he is already punishing himself for his contemptible weakness. His self-hatred and self-disgust are so unbearable that he has to do something to alleviate it. That something is often more food.

Guilt versus Guidance

Guilt is the voices of all those who drowned out your guidance system in the early phase of your visit to Planet Earth. These voices said, “Don’t listen to the voice within. Listen to me, because I’m the source of love, and if you don’t do what I say, you won’t get any love.”

Guilt says that if a thought makes you feel bad, then you are bad, and you should feel bad about being bad, because if you feel awful enough, you’ll mend your ways and try to be good, so people will love you, and you can feel good.

If that doesn’t seem to make sense, it’s because it doesn’t. It’s easier to turn lead into gold than to turn bad into good. The more you tell yourself how bad you are, the more guilty you feel, the less you believe you’re worthy of feeling good.

Guilty As Good

Sometimes we try to get out of this vicious cycle by thinking if we feel guilty, we must be good. The foundation for this belief often originates in childhood, when a child, who has committed what she knows is a punishable offense, wails, in an attempt to avoid parental wrath, “I’m sorry, I’ll never do it again.”

What begins as a strategy becomes an automatic response.

People who use preemptive guilt are constantly apologizing for inconveniencing others. Joe walks into a pharmacy and says, “I’m sorry to bother you, but I need a prescription filled.” Sarah apologizes to the people in a movie theater for making them stand up so that she can go to her seat.

Ultimately, guilt makes one doubtful about the right to exist at all. It ensures the impossibility of ever being satisfied with oneself.

Fault and Responsibility

There are better ways of getting out of the guilt cycle than by blaming oneself before others can.

The most important thought a person who tends to feel guilty every day might want to think is this: “You will never be good enough, you will never be worthy enough, as long as you judge yourself by the standards of others. If you seek, instead, to be true to yourself, your chances of feeling good increase dramatically.” Guilt, though often a call to inaction, can be a call to understand that the only perfect people are those who have exited physical existence. As long as we’re alive, we will be learning, growing, and making mistakes and learning from those mistakes.

We can best ease out of the guilt cycle by not focusing on the mistakes and by learning to appreciate our innate perfection.

The Bach Flower Remedy Pine is invaluable in helping one to do this. Its energy is as bracing and purifying as the brisk scent of the tree from which it comes.

Those who take it begin to discover that all the energy they’ve used to torment themselves can now be turned to better purposes. They learn a new compassion for all those who suffer and learn to accept and appreciate their own humanity.


The most important thought a person who tends to feel guilty every day might want to think is this: “You will never be good enough, you will never be worthy enough, as long as you judge yourself by the standards of others. If you seek, instead, to be true to yourself, your chances of feeling good increase dramatically.” Guilt, though often a call to inaction, can be a call to understand that the only perfect people are those who have exited physical existence. As long as we’re alive, we will be learning, growing, and making mistakes and learning from those mistakes.

I have noticed that sometimes, once Pine has done its work, blame replaces guilt. “If it’s not my fault, it must be yours.” Willow is indicated if the new dominant emotion is resentment, Holly, if it’s anger. See the descriptions of both to decide which is better for you.

It’s also important to replace guilt with responsibility. Responsibility says, “I have the power and the desire to live my life consciously.”

The first step in this process is to become aware of what situations induce guiltÑbecause sometimes the response of guilt is so automatic that you may only realize that you feel awful. When you feel awful, ask yourself if you’re guilty about something.

If you feel brave, make a list of what induces guilt (and please don’t feel guilty if you don’t make a list). Making a list is a deliberate activity; it helps you to think about how you react to situations. If you can make your list with a sense of humor you may also find yourself able to laugh about something of the things that trigger your guilt reaction.

Another step is to realize that that you have a choice regarding your response (responsibility being the ability to respond). If you make a mistake at work, instead of feeling guilty see if you can figure out a way to prevent that mistake or a similar one from happening again.

If you feel guilty about something for which you can make amends (you yelled at the kids because you had a headache; you broke a promise) do so. The other person will feel better, and so will you.

If you feel guilty about something that happened a long time ago and it doesn’t appear that amends can be made to an actual, living person, you can still send out the intention of making amends. Write a letter, saying everything you did for which you’re sorry. Promise that you’ll never do it again. Address the envelope to the Universe, then burn the letter. A ceremony can be a powerful way of releasing the bonds of guilt.

While you’re writing letters, write one to yourself forgiving yourself. Write this letter with love, affection, and appreciation for yourself as someone who is a good person, a kind person, a spiritual person, and a person who isn’t perfect.

Because that’s who you are.

Crab Apple:
Color My World Clean


I have marshaled my weapons against you: Brooms, vacuum cleaner, armies of buckets, legions of cleansers, including soap, abrasive agents, bleach, anti-mold and anti-fungal agents, sponges, cloths, and industrial-strength cleaners. My battle cry: Every Day is Cleaning Day.

No surface will be left un-cleaned, no corner left un-swept or vacuumed. Spiders beware. Your homes will be destroyed, and you will be forced to build new ones outside, where you and all vermin belong.

All cats and dogs will report to the basement every morning to be vacuumed. Shedding will not be tolerated. All uneaten food must remain in food bowls. Pets are expected to earn their keep by destroying any crawling, creeping, or flying creatures that dare to cross the threshold.

All children will take off their shoes off before entering the house (winter and snowy conditions do not exempt you from this requirement). Dishes must be washed the moment you finish eating. Spilling is not allowed. Husbands are subject to the same rules. Any violators will be subject to room arrest until further notice.

As for myself, I pledge to keep every surface, horizontal and vertical, immaculate, including blinds, bathtubs, sinks, and places no one has ever seen or will ever see. Cleanliness must be total, or it is meaningless.

I am aware that I launch this war with reluctant allies. Please be aware that this is for the sake of your health and well being. Germs are disgusting and vile, and they kill. With your support, I can win the war against this deadly foe.

General Mom


As a child, I thought my mother was obsessed with cleanliness–just because she didn’t care for the sight of a week’s worth of dirty clothing piled in a corner and felt that it was important to wash dishes before the neighbors notified the Board of Health.

Although my mother wasn’t nearly as obsessive as I thought, cleanliness was highly regarded in my family. I remember the moment in my childhood when I learned that soap cleans away dirt because of various abrasive and chemical qualities. Up until then I’d believe that soap had magical properties, a kind of pure goodness that vanquished the badness of dirt.

Those for whom cleanliness is godliness regard dirt as evil. When they feel unclean, they also feel tortured.

This feeling isn’t limited to disgust with physical dirt. It may extend to negative feelings about the body, its functions, and sexuality. A feeling of uncleanliness may also accompany thoughts they believe unworthy of them.

(Remember: Like every energy imbalance, this sensitivity to physical and psychic dirt can occur in milder form.)

Toxic Thoughts

Ultra-cleanliness is in many ways a response to a much deeper and broader feeling of contamination, and its impact is so unbearable that it can no longer be experienced as one’s fault. Instead it is externalized, an enemy against one must fight constantly.

One cause for both extreme and milder forms of this syndrome can be adults who try to enforce the kinds of rigid moral standards impossible for most children to fulfill. Having failed to meet their parents’ demands, they are assaulted by a feeling of unworthiness they learn to identify as impurity.

The Terrible Teens

When this feeling of impurity coincides with adolescence, the impact can be huge. Teenagers are in general prime candidates for the Crab Apple remedy. Girls may be horrified by their changing bodies and by the onset of the menstrual cycle. Anorexia and bulimia can be attempts to control these rampant changes and to punish the body that won’t obey.

Teenaged boys may be disgusted by the sprouting of hair, sweat glands, and vocal changes. Skin problems can assault both sexes. Uncontrollable physical changes and social pressures can make teenagers feel they are worthless people. If anyone knew what he or she were really like inside (especially if they are thinking about sex) he or she would be ostracized forever.

Any teenager may go through some form of these feelings. Whether they evolve into a permanent feeling of disgust depends on the kinds of adults in their lives. Adults who are themselves disgusted by all expressions of physicality will help to embed these negative feelings permanently. Adults who lovingly nurture and reassure them and give them positive perspectives on sexuality can help ease teenagers through these troubled times.

The Forest and the Trees

Those who suffer more extreme forms of this imbalance need to have the outer world, the body, and the inner self be without flaw. Anything less causes them genuine physical and emotional pain.

It’s almost as if physical existence itself disgusts them. We all live on what is essentially a big ball of dirt, and the kind of purity people who need Crab Apple seek is not to be found on the physical plane.

We see the aversion to physical existence expressed in both severe and mild forms of the syndrome, which can also be expressed through pickiness about details. A Crab Apple person may go through his newly decorated house and notice the one tiny spot the painters missed or become traumatized because a letter signed with his name went out with a small typographic error.

They are like music students who plod through masterpieces, so intent on getting the notes right that they pay no attention to the spirit and power of the music. They are too busy noticing the missing branches on the trees to experience the forest.

They seem afraid to take in the larger picture. If they were to open themselves to the vastness and wonder of the physical world and to their own inner capacities, they would be overwhelmed with sensations and feelings. Their world would be out of control, and their relentless quest for perfection is an attempt to control their world and themselves and reduce both manageable proportions.

The Bach Flower Remedy Crab Apple helps people to recognize that their desire for perfection is an attempt to escape their very human natures. It broadens their vision so that they can safely experience this larger world and recognize how the imperfections that loom so large when viewed from a shrunken perspective fade away to nothing once they can experience and accept all that is part of the physical world.


Learning to appreciate the messiness of nature can be very healing. Leaves fall off trees, birds lose feathers, and weeds are untidy. If a walk in the country isn’t possible, regular visits to a city park may do the trick (depending on how often the trash is picked up).

Opening the senses is very important. Listening to music with eyes closed (so as not to notice any disorder in the house) can help to relax one. Music is perhaps the greatest healer and emotional/spiritual balancer.

Choosing a form of physical exercise that makes one feel good about one’s body and practicing it regularly can be of great benefit. Something beautiful and flowing like Tai Chi or yoga can be a good choiceÑbut it’s important to avoid the temptation to strive for perfect movements.


Part One

1. Which of these is more likely to be associated with adolescence?
a. Pine
b. Crab Apple

2. One person looks at a dirty room and feels guilty for not having done her job. She is
a. Crab Apple
b. Pine

3. Another looks at a dirty room and feels disgusting. She is
a. Pine
b. Crab Apple

4. Which person thinks “I am bad”?
a. Crab Apple
b. Pine

5. Which person thinks, “This dirt is bad”?
a. Pine
b. Crab Apple

6. The person who can feel guilty about anything needs
a. Pine
b. Crab Apple

7. The person whose guilt is mainly about physical dirt and bodily functions needs
a. Crab Apple
b. Pine

Part Two

You’ll probably easily guess the players in this hospital scene. I include it because it illustrates the language and feelings connected to each personality associated with the two Bach Flower Remedies.

Patient: And what about that knife and fork? I especially don’t like the look of the spoon. I really don’t want to eat anything, because then I’ll have to use the bedpan, and I hate to do that. And did you wash your hands after you took care of your last patient? There are some very sick people here, and I don’t want to catch anything from them.

Nurse (to herself): I know I should assure him that we have the highest standards of cleanliness here, but I would feel too guilty. People have gotten infections in this place, and I’d feel so awful if this happened to him. On the other hand, I don’t like him very much; he complains about the sanitary conditions all the time. Oh, I feel so guilty for thinking that. I’m a nurse; I’m supposed to be compassionate.

Part Three

Because the concepts of guilt and blame are so deeply entrenched in modern society, almost everyone can benefit from Pine and from learning to identify what makes them feel guilty and clearing out this negative vibration. Therefore, I’m giving special emphasis to the supportive measures listed after Pine. Spend some time with them, using your journal to write down what you learn.

Also pay attention to the automatic reactions you have to dirt and disorder. If you spill something on the kitchen floor, is it simply something to clean up or a source of disgust. How do you feel about cobwebs? Dirt tracked into the house? Did you adopt your parents’ values about cleanliness or did you rebel?
Examine your attitudes toward your body.


Part One

1. b. Crab Apple. The physical changes of adolescence, especially if one doesn’t have supportive parents, can lead to great feelings of uncleanliness.

2. b. Pine. They are guiltier about having not done what they were supposed to than about the specifics of what they didn’t do.

3. b. Crab Apple. Dirt is disgusting, and disgust is a Crab Apple word.

4. b. Pine. They are much more inclusive in their guilt.

5. b. They are more likely to externalize.

6. a. Pine. Again, they are inclusive.

7. a. Crab Apple. They have focus.