Sometimes, it is necessary to take a leap of faith. It may not happen very often but when it does, it’s liberating, as it confirms your faith in your own intuition and reaffirms your trust in fellow homeopaths.
I was presented with this opportunity when I met 15-year-old Natasha. It was a tough case. If I took the conventional path and prescribed an oft-used remedy, I could end up harming the girl. Alternatively, if I prescribed a remedy whose provings were recent, I might be able to cure Natasha.
It was a dilemma that weighed conventional wisdom against gut feel. Should I stick to the tried and tested or should I take a leap of faith? This dilemma brought into sharp focus the debates on recent provings. But I reminded myself that the hollow cynicism over some of the recent work in homeopathy is motivated more by fractured egos, than the need to evolve and take Hahnemann’s work forward.
My conscience told me that my responsibility was to cure, with the purest intentions, and with the weight of my knowledge and my intuition. I took a deep breath and I went with my gut. Here’s how the case unfolded.
Keeping an Open Mind
Natasha came to my clinic with a complaint of hypothyroidism, which had been afflicting her since she was – hold your breath – 4 months old. I automatically began to assess her physical traits: she was 5 ft 6 in tall… But, then, I stopped myself in my tracks. If we jump the gun in our haste to arrive at rubrics, I could end up giving her the wrong remedy. Something told me this case was different.
I enquired about the teenager’s history. Who had diagnosed her condition when she was an infant and how was it detected? Natasha’s classic response: “I don’t know.” Low self-confidence? After some thought, she said, as a child, she used to fall sick very often and develop allergies, recurrent colds, cough and asthma. Every time I asked Natasha a question, she would pause to think. Sometimes, she would repeat the question and stare at me blankly and would answer only if prodded further. Every subsequent question and answer corroborated my assumption of low confidence and sluggishness.
When I enquired about family dynamics, Natasha, who was an only child, said her mother was over-critical, nagged her constantly and told her she was incapable of performing even small household chores. “When my mother compares me to other girls my age and says I am not smart like them, I sometimes think she is right. It makes me wonder why other children are nice and I am not like them. It makes me feel very low about myself.”
Next, I asked Natasha about school, and this provided me with some invaluable information. She said she kept aloof, but it was her description of her feelings that gave me an insight into her true nature. “I don’t feel like making friends. When I feel like making friends, they don’t come near me.”I asked Natasha to explain and she said, “I am a very different kind of person. I always compare myself with other people. I try to show off in front of other people, to prove that I am better than they are. But they dismiss me rudely when I show off and this makes me feel very low about myself.”
Natasha said she felt very jealous of other girls her age as they had lots of friends, so she kept to herself. “I also feel very vengeful. I once tore up my classmate’s worksheet and stole her geometry book. As a result, she lost marks. I did all this without her noticing. I did this so that people wouldn’t pay any attention to her and so that she would not have any friends. I chose this girl because she always tells me that no one wants to be friends with me. So I took revenge.” Natasha’s vengeance ran very deep. She said she tried to split up friends and tell on her classmates “just to embarrass and upset them”.
Natasha was speaking in the language of an animal remedy. But it is uncommon to develop hypothyroidism when you’re just 4 months old and so I decided to take Natasha’s mother case history. Her reply stunned me. “My daughter and I have the same nature,” she said immediately.
Natasha’s mother said she had a normal childhood and her problems began after marriage. “It was difficult to adjust to a new family. I was always compared to the other women in the family with regard to my homemaking skills. As a result, I felt I was incapable to doing anything and inferior. I used to feel like this all the time. I used to feel suffocated as I could neither express my feelings nor accept them.”
The last few pieces of the jigsaw were finally falling into place. I asked her if anything unusual had happened when she was pregnant with Natasha, and her reply, once again, surprised me. She said she had felt extreme anger toward her mother-in-law, as she believed the latter had attempted to curse her with “some black magic” earlier, and she lived in constant fear that her mother-in-law might try the same during her pregnancy. “I was constantly afraid that she would do something. I have always had to fight for myself to survive, as my mother-in-law was very dominating. I cannot speak up at home. I feel threatened, trapped and unable to move. Sometimes, I feel I can’t breathe in that house.”
I needed to know more about Natasha’s mother’s nature, so I probed her feelings further. “I am easily influenced. If someone criticises me, I really believe I am useless and cannot do anything properly. I feel inferior. Sometimes, when my bottled-up anger explodes, I have no control over the things I say,” she said. She also said something that confirmed a reptile remedy. (Competition, comparison, jealousy, survival issues, fear of attack). She said she frequently dreamt of snakes… of being trapped in a pit with them and trying to push them away. As she spoke, she would raise her eyebrows and stare fixedly at me. It was the same type of look her daughter wore when she spoke. Uncanny!
To confirm the remedy, I asked her whether she could tolerate tight clothing. She said a resounding ‘no’. “Neither me nor my daughter can tolerate tight clothing,” she said.
The history of a patient’s parents – both mother and father – is important to consider, but it is not relevant to every case. Natasha had developed hypothyroidism when she was an infant, which is very unusual. Hence, I thought her mother may have been in a highly emotional state during pregnancy.
I have found that to arrive at the right remedy, it is important to first identify the patient’s Key Sensitivity. We find this by asking, ‘What are the issues that the patient is most sensitive to’? What are the patient’s core disturbances that permeate his/her very being?
Natasha had said she was not like other girls her age; she had low self-esteem, felt weak; was aloof and had no friends. She was also dull and sluggish. She also had an ill feeling about herself because of her mother’s constant nagging and felt she couldn’t live up to the standards set by her mother. Another key issue was her jealousy of other girls her age and her consequent vengeance.
Natasha’s mother felt almost the exact same thing in her in-laws’ house. Among this cluster of feelings was a feeling of not living up to expectations and being suffocated before she exploded.
There are many remedies a homeopath may consider in Natasha’s case. Here are a couple the homeopath might consider.
Lachesis: In the animal kingdom, one may consider Lachesis. The Lachesis patient dreams of snakes, feels jealous. The sensitivity of lachesis is jealousy, a feeling of weakness due to comparisons with others and a need to show off or compete to gain attention and acceptance. They also believe that there are conspiracies against them.
Theme of Lachesis
* Cruel, aggressive
* Feeling of two people inside – antagonism with the self
* Plotting, planning and scheming. Deceitful
* Violence, anger – violence, vehemence, deeds of rage leading to
* Anger, irascibility jealousy with
Lachesis is characterised by a need to show off and be the centre of attention. They feel an intense need for entertainment and grandiosity, which arises from a feeling of competition, one-upmanship, jealousy and a desire to put others down. They would use any means to put someone down. They mock, spread rumours and make fun of people. The Lachesis patient is very suspicious and doesn’t trust even her closest friends. They are always on the lookout for conspiracies against them.
Lachesis is violent and gets aggressive at the slightest provocation.
Lachesis is extremely alert and agile.
Liliflorae Family: In the plant kingdom, one may consider the Liliflorae family. Remedies in this family also feel lonely, forsaken and excluded, just as Natasha felt. They say, “I am neglected; excluded; left out; no one is interested in me.” They feel oppressed and constricted. And to feel included, they resort to behaviour that draws attention to themselves.
Why Not Lachesis?
Despite the similarities with Lachesis, Natasha’s overriding feeling was one of low self-esteem. She was also sluggish and dull; definitely not alert and agile.
Why Not Liliflorae?
Although Natasha bore strong similarities to this plant family, she lacked the sensitivity of an individual who belongs to the plant family. She also harboured feelings of hatred and revenge, which does not characterise plant remedies.
Natasha clearly needed an animal remedy. And here is where I would like to mention the importance of ‘theme’ while assessing a case. Natasha’s theme was victim / aggressor; a need to do something for survival; competition; and attractiveness.
The other clue that Natasha needed an animal remedy was her feeling that she was “different from others’. It was in this context that she felt low, weak and powerless.
Confirmation of Natasha’s remedy came from her mother’s history during pregnancy, when the mother’s predominant feelings were bottled-up anger, suffocation, trapped, threatened and unable to move. Another clue was her distinctive mannerism of raising her eyebrows and staring fixedly.
Common Features of Reptiles
A common reptilian feature is a feeling of being defenseless. They have an inherent feeling that they are weak, powerless, inferior and in competition with someone much more powerful and superior. “I am powerless and the other person is more powerful.” Competition and jealousy are prominent snake features.
These feelings make them feel vulnerable to attack.
* Themes of superior and inferior
* Antagonism with self
Significant patterns seen while case-taking
Blank appearance, evil glances, hypnotic stare. All these traits were very apparent in Natasha’s mother and partly apparent in her daughter as well. The inability to tolerate tight clothing is also significant.
I wanted a snake which was dull, sluggish, heavy and with low self-confidence. So I referred to Dr Rajan Sankaran’s Survival and researched all the snake remedies in his work. What I found surprised me: boa constrictor. That was my ‘aha!’ moment.
Anatomically, the boa constrictor is heavily built and muscular. It is also the slowest of all snakes.
* Correspondingly, an individual of this nature is heavily built and tall
* Behaviour-wise, they move slowly and are sluggish
* Calm, quiet, easy-going and docile
* Low self-worth and therefore remain aloof. Low confidence, feeling of being incapable
* Struggle for survival leads to competition and showing off
* Feeling of not living up to the standards of other people
* Feeling of being excluded. Consequent feelings of jealousy and vengeance.
The main deciding factor in Natasha’s mother’s case was the feeling of squeezing, tightness, suffocation; strangulation and fear of choking.
The three main points I would like to highlight in this case are: being discerning yet respecting recent provings when the need arises; the importance of theme or doctrine; and the significance of the mother’s history in some cases.
Homeopathy relies on the practitioner’s ability to filter, distil and shake out the essence of the patient’s basic nature and constitution. Thankfully, we have an ocean of empirical knowledge to help us navigate something as complex as the human condition. But, I believe that perhaps the most valuable skill in the practitioner’s repertoire, is his/her intuitive ability to sense the core essence of every patient and use the vast pool of knowledge we have responsibly, and towards the common goal – cure.