Not seeing the elephant in the room
Now we know where and how to look for the Vital information, there’s one more thing to consider. We first have to have a general idea before we go into the details. As self-evident this might seem, I see most homeopaths I coach or supervise being so eager to find something Strange, Rare and peculiar in every little twist of the patients’ words and gestures they risk to miss the big picture. They caught a hair but miss the elephant so to speak.
That is why my first question to the homeopath I supervise in Master Classes and Master Apprentice’s always is ‘? What kind of case is this?’
I’m always surprised by the long silence that usually follows. And then by the detail picked out by the homeopath, struggling to find something to say about the patient. However I’m sure the homeopath observed loads of all kind of things but the difficulty is putting his implicit impressions into words. Nevertheless we have to.
The medium of the homeopath is language.
We use language to talk to each other, listen to his/her words, translate the body language into words, repertory rubrics are made out of words and we come to the conclusion by saying The Word: the name of the remedy (and the evil alike) that will break the spell.
Why do we have such difficulty putting words to what we observe? Is it because of the adagio we should be unprejudiced? Do we mistranslate this into ‘don’t judge’? While judging is all we do in a homeopathic encounter, or if you, prefer: ‘discerning’, which is more precise. But how to discriminate if you don’t first judge? To label something ‘Common’ and something else ‘Weird’ is an evaluation, based on judgment.
The essential point is that this kind of evaluation contains no morals: it isn’t good or bad, desirable or undesirable, successful or failing. It just is. All we have to do is observe and describe the ‘it’. You can compare it to watching a picture: it’s a sunny day and you see a tree, a road, a house and a dog on it but you don’t call the tree ‘good’ and the house ‘bad’. Neither do you try to explain the tree by the house. If the house is painted orange and the upper floor contains no windows you might find this remarkable but again: neither good nor bad. We might prefer sunny to rainy days but that doesn’t make the sunny ones successes and the rainy days failures. How nonsensical this may sound, this is what we usually do during consultation: we observe the patient and try to ‘understand’ his behavior by his upbringing and his psychological make up. No wonder we feel at a loss when the question ‘who sits in front of you?’ is asked after 20 minutes. We don’t have his psyche mapped yet. However by then we observed hundreds of things but disregard them while anxiously trying to complete his psychological portrait.
We should discriminate between ‘what is common’ and ‘what is not’ by what we observe, not by explaining why.
We try to get the general overall picture first before we go into the details. More often than not the patient takes off by giving the homeopath this overall picture in the first paragraph, answering your questions ‘what is the problem, what can I do for you?’ and the rest of the consultation is basically confirmation.
For instance: once a patient presented her case of life long traumata, problems and symptoms on all levels by the opening sentence she now suffers most from sleeplessness, too much thoughts about her past and pain in the abdomen. What followed was such a touching, sad and endless report of all thinkable emotional and physical suffering that the homeopaths in the room were literally crying from sympathy. It was nearly impossible to pick out the most important feelings, as she displayed them all. But taking one step back: the overall, basic and most typical features of the case were: ‘very sensitive person, with an over-active mind, sleeplessness and intestinal symptoms’. Then it becomes hard to miss Coffea, doesn’t it?
One more example: A young man about 30 years old answered my question what I could do for him with the following: ‘I suffer from eczema that I had since childhood but suddenly flared up all over my body since I hit my head badly’. Ever heard that before? We are looking for a remedy sensitive to unexpected blows… because that is the core of the case. (he got Foeniculum)
Another patient told me two hours about his problems, relating them to his work. Though it was technical he explained me it patiently as I wanted to understand what in his work was stressful. It all came down to continuous measurements he did (even in his free time) and he proclaimed ‘when the measurements go up, my mood goes up, when the measurements go down, my mood goes down’. This was the whole case. It’s not our job to explain why this is so, it is our job to observe it is. And to find a remedy that exactly does what he described. He got Pituitary Gland.
Another useful hint is to go for the one thing the patient said you never heard anybody say before. In the odd way of the description is the Vital hidden. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s about a detail in the case report or not. For instance, a patient once told a dramatic story, in which a baby was found moribund in bed and was brought to the Emergency Ward of the hospital. They tried by all means to reanimate her, to no avail. She described the baby on her way to the hospital as ‘all grey’. As she wasn’t present, it struck me as such an odd and unnecessary remark. In my understanding it can only be because it must be very meaningful for the patient and a direct pointer to the remedy. In other words: my remedy needs to explain this remark for me to be happy with my prescription.
Another example: a boy of 12 once told me he was afraid of burglars because ‘they steal, they kill and they beat you up’. This was a funny sequence! Why bother being beaten up after you’re killed?! A logical sequence would be: steal, beat and kill. Adding the beaten up after killing makes the word beaten red alarm!
This makes also a good example of the importance of context. In another context, another story or another level the word ‘beaten’ might not mean much. Here it points to the state (the boy got Chamomilla, by the way, an injury remedy and all the Asterales have the sensation/fear of being beaten up). Another 12 year old afraid of burglars described his fear in this way: ‘they beat you, tie you up and leave you there to starve to death.’ Now isn’t that a strange thing to do for burglars? I mean isn’t it about the last thing burglars would do? Since it doesn’t fit the story, it must come from the state. In another context being afraid to starve could be completely understandable or legitimate.(being long periods without food and starving is essential in this case, plus of course the ropes which point to Spiders, he got Atrax robusta).
Hopefully I managed to convey the idea that the general overall impression, the elephant in the room so to speak, should not be ignored.