To be fair, I would never normally think of reviewing or writing about anyones lectures. However, this weekend of extraordinary homeopathic teaching had a profound effect on me. Having been out of academia for a few years now, and practicing on my own, I was in need of a huge intellectual, inspirational boost to motivate me in what is an ‘uneasy’ homeopathic climate in the UK. Being something of a ‘peripatetic’ homeopath at the moment and living between the UK and Canada (practising mostly in the UK) I was delighted to be able to attend this weekend. The last few weeks in the UK have seen homeopathy once again a target for ‘reform’ with The Medicines Act (1968) looming over our heads, which if enforced to the letter, could be catastrophic for lay homeopaths in Britain. Am I really going to take bus loads of patients to one of the 5 homeopathic pharmacies, in order that they may receive their remedies? I think not. The utter absurdity of the situation and the personal frustration that ensued had left me feeling completely de-motivated and angry with what we as talented healing professionals have to endure on a regular basis.
Preoccupied and distracted I began the journey to Stroud to the School of Homeopathy. Clearly, not in a good space, with my mind elsewhere, an altercation with an unexpected traffic jam resulted in my crashing into an indignant Gloucestershire farmer’s car (no amount of charm was going to pacify him); this was not a good end to a bad week. So with bruised professional pride and a serious dent in both my wallet and my car, I was in a negative state and was in desperate need of renewed inspiration. None of this is irrelevant; my hope is to demonstrate how the energy and experience of someone like Miranda Castro can alter a ‘state’ and motivate and encourage positive thinking, engender confidence and reaffirm what an incredible art and science homeopathy is.
On arriving at the School of Homeopathy my first impressions were of a beautiful haven, where one can focus, in peace; (my pulse rate was slowly returning to that of a normal person.) It is located at Hawkwood College which is an early 19th century grade II listed country house, situated at the head of the Cotswold valley surrounded by acres of woodland. The gardens are spectacular, the views, sublime. An air of serenity exudes from every part of the estate, which also boasts divine food and biodynamic gardens. The founder and Director of the school is Misha Norland, the Principal is Mani Norland. His lovely, welcoming wife Amanda runs the school on a day to day basis. Miranda is one of the school’s patrons.
As a true professional, Miranda commenced by defining the scope of the lectures; specifically what she was going to talk about, which on this occasion, was ‘Challenging Cases.’ What follows are the highlights of the lectures as I saw them, and my understanding of various concepts and the impact they had on me. Clearly, I cannot speak for everyone that attended.
From the start, Miranda’s passion for homeopathy was evident. Her exuberance shone through, making every part of the lectures interesting, and understandable. She commenced by showing a picture of a beautiful owl, camouflaged amongst the flora; then a similar picture of trees, where if one was incredibly observant, an outline of the artist Toulouse Lautrec could be defined. The message here was clear; look beyond what you actually see, on first sight. We are more than we appear to the naked eye. Seek out what is characteristic in a case. Often we are presented with too much information. Write down only the patients’ words.Strip a case; write key words, and then group words and/or phrases into themes. Most important however is where is the centre of gravity of a particular case? Is it in the emotional or physical sphere? By doing this, often a challenging case will start to make sense. She referred to ‘getting lost’ in a case as ‘going off piste’ a great analogy which adequately sums up what can often happen if we get overwhelmed with too much information, or make assumptions or extrapolations.
Delve into the psyche of a patient, and do not project your values and culture on to them. Step back, become ‘the unprejudiced observer.’ This lead on to an interesting discussion about reflective versus reflexive practice which was incredibly useful and highlighted to me the differences within these two terms, which at times, can be confusing. My understanding of reflective practice is that it is a process of self analysis achieved through reflecting on actions undertaken, which allows us to continuously learn. Conversely, reflexive practice is basing our subjective understandings of reality: i.e.: how we perceive someone, which comes from our own values and upbringing; what we think is right according to our own assumptions and culture. It is important to consider the wider context without projecting our own values. Reflexive practice for example, is particularly useful when dealing with teenagers, who invariably ‘inhabit a different world.’ In other words, do not presume everyone is like you. I strongly identify with the term ‘Be as stupid as possible, so as not to not walk in the tracks of our bias’ that was cited by Miranda, which comes from Jungian Psychologist and Homeopath Edward Whitmont’s ‘Psyche and Substance.’
Reflective/Reflexive Practice can also be applied to what do we do if a patient arrives and we take an immediate dislike to them, or what they are saying. Miranda stressed that it is important to acknowledge this, try not to ‘roll your eyes’, take a deep breath! Why are they pressing my buttons?
Many different sort of challenging cases were discussed (difficult, maddening, complicated), to cases where a homeopathic prescription was not necessary due to a maintaining cause. Specific, complex cases will be very briefly discussed, to demonstrate how to think creatively for a solution, whether homeopathic or simply, to remove the obstacle to cure.
A ‘Salutary’ case
A mother called about her baby, who was screaming incessantly. She presumed the baby was teething. Chamomilla 6c was given (as it was the baby’s first tooth). Days later the distraught mother called back as the baby was still screaming. Chamomilla 30c was prescribed. 2 days later, no improvement. Had this been the correct remedy, it should have worked. At this stage, Miranda engaged the mother in a rerun of the day the baby started screaming, covering every moment of the day that she could remember. The mother finally remembered that the older sister had fallen down a few stairs but subsequently found out that she had dropped the baby, who had banged her head on a sharp corner. The mother had given Arnica 30C., the baby slept for two hours, had woken up screaming and really hadn’t stopped since. The Arnica had destroyed the evidence! There was no bruising. So what had to remain was a very painful headache. Natrum Sulphuricum 200c was given, with immediate relief. This demonstrated the importance (particularly with young children and babies who are unable to speak for themselves) of observation and note taking and the value of writing down every single little prescription – including the Arnica 30c’s. Also, an interesting and very useful observation from Miranda:
‘For this little baby to have reacted so strongly to the fall there had to have been a predisposition, a weakness. I anticipated that we might need to have Natrum sulphuricum on hand for if and when she next fell or banged her head. For several years this little person did, indeed, suffer with headaches after each head injury, however minor. Natrum Sulphuricum helped each time, eventually removing that particular weakness altogether.’
An Unusual Case
A four-year-old girl, small, pale with fair hair. She has not eaten properly since she was twenty months old. Her diet consisted of soft, non edible substances, sponges, polystyrene, flowers, clothes, upholstery etc. Normal food was taken, but only minimally. The most characteristic symptom in this case, as well as the above (which are clearly SRPs!) was that she craved tea, up to 5-6 cups a day. The remedy given was Alumina. After taking the remedy, all symptoms and cravings disappeared. It would be difficult to imagine another system of medicine that could have treated this child so sweetly and effectively.
The background to this case is important. It was discovered during the consultation, that at eighteen months old she had been hospitalized and the eating ‘disorder’ had started shortly after. We all saw how easy it was to project all sorts of emotional and even physical trauma (from allopathic medicines) on to this little girl. How easy it would have been to go ‘off piste’ and make up all kinds of stories about her leading to all kinds of prescriptions. Miranda talked having made a mistake by giving Carcinosin at one point, after which the little girl completely relapsed. Luckily a repeat of the Alumina brought her back to a state of health. One bright student suggested that since Alumina had worked, maybe she had lost her sense of identity after the traumatic hospitalization.