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Tidbits 99:  No Answer!

Homeopathic Case-Taking and the closed patient.

People write to me with questions all the time.  Sometimes the answers require so much research, I can only think that they should be shared with everyone!  In this instance our friend Claire writes:

Elaine, I am trying to sort out what remedy would be the type that would only give yes-or-no answers.

Well, Claire, there is a rubric, Mind: answers with a whole list of sub-rubrics, such as…

Answers, aversion to

Answers, evasively

Answers, monosyllable

and so on.

I’m thinking in terms of a patient who doesn’t care to elaborate, uncomfortable about having to answer questions about any details regarding symptoms, or their emotional state, and so on.  Other than Nat-mur, who else is “closed” like that?  Doesn’t show their hand so to speak?  Not in a deceptive way, just someone very closed and does not display what they are feeling or thinking.  Everything is walled off.

Would the rubric “Mind: introverted” help?  What about “Mind: bashful”?  What about “Mind: shame, ailments from”?  What about “Mind: talking, indisposed to”?

You can’t tell what they are thinking or feeling.  If you inquire, they get squirmy or answer vaguely.

Mind: answers, vaguely.

Or is Nat-mur pretty much the only remedy for that?

No.  But, let’s look at why some of our remedies can’t or won’t answer fully:

Nat-mur—As you know, Nat-mur is our most famous closed-down remedy (better alone than in company).  The problem with Nat-mur is she’s afraid she’s going to cry—in public or in front of people.  She suffers from suppressed sadness, grief and disappointments, she is very close to crying at the slightest provocation: a show of affection, appreciation, a sentimental song….

They’re very good at cultivating humor and sarcasm as protection, it gets them through any awkward moment.  Rhoda Morgenstern (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) is a great example of the Nat-mur personality.  Always making people laugh with her witty comments and wry observations.  With this, everyone is always laughing, no danger to Rhoda as long as she can keep her act going.  The homeopathic interview must be extremely threatening to Nat-mur!

Thuja—Thuja is listed under “Answers evasively”.  Why?  Thuja feels unloved and disliked, the proverbial “black sheep”, always having to act like she belongs when, deep down, she knows she doesn’t, is not accepted; a perfect case of, “If they really knew me, they wouldn’t like me.”  A person with “secrets”, she’s doing something secretly that is socially unacceptable; has to pretend to be “normal”.  She surely feels that the less she says in an interview, the better.

Lycopodium—Lycopodium is listed under “Answers evasively”.  Why?  Lycopodium is seriously concerned with not embarrassing himself!  He has a low self-image, probably due to a drill-sergeant type father in childhood whose expectations Lycopodium could never live up to!  To keep from being embarrassed or humiliated, he usually has to lie, brag, act sophisticated, cool or brilliant…always trying to impress…whatever it takes to keep everyone from finding out what he really is: a NOBODY!  Hence, he really doesn’t want anyone to get to know him very well!  If someone gets too close to him, he might want to break it off in favor of maintaining only superficial relationships.

Pulsatilla—Pulsatilla is too dependent on a strong figure (usually Mom or husband, boss or teacher, etc.) who usually does all the talking for him or her.  The Pulsatilla flower is always in a group.  You don’t see any “lone” Pulsatillas.  If you put a Pulsatilla “out there”, in the spotlight, on her own, and expect her to answer questions, you will probably just get one-word answers or “I don’t know.”

Silica—We all know that Silica is timid and delicate, right?  Pale complexion with a slight build?  Because of this, a person in authority questioning her can be perceived as aggressive—something she fears!  She lacks stamina, and her parents may have over-protected her, making her condition worse.  She easily becomes tired, exhausted, overwhelmed, which can lead to headaches, stomach upsets and anxiety.  I remember reading a case where the homeopath knew it was Silica because the child would whisper in the mother’s ear and the mother would answer the questions.

Yet despite all of this, Silica is the intellectual type, has firm beliefs, a love of “truth”, if you will, and if you do or say something moronic in her presence, the normally quiet and passive Silica will spring to life, dogmatically issuing a moral defense of whatever person or ideal you may have trampled upon!  After which she may be trembling inside, as in, “What have I done??!!!!  OMG!  I’m as good as dead!”  Even so, she will not back down in the face of bullying and ignorance.  She is both fearful and, yet, angry at the same time!  Her motto is live and let live; and yet, she is very principled!

Staphysagria—The keynote here is suppressed anger.  The Staphysagria child grows up in an authoritarian household and learns early on that it is not safe to express a truth.  Only by being perpetually “sweet”, “mild” and “polite” does Staphysagria feel “safe”.

But, we all know the final act of the Staphysagria story, do we not?  Sweet and lovely Staphysagria, who normally serves others without complaint, invariably gets pushed to the limit and taken advantage of for the last time!!!  And what happens?  An unexpected explosion of anger!  Everyone’s jaw drops to the floor as a plate gets thrown across the room along with an outburst such as, “NO!  I am not going to do it!  Can’t you see I’ve got a headache?  I’ve been talking about it all day!!!!  But does anybody care?  No!  Get it yourself!!!  I should be lying down in my room!  You should be trying to help ME!”

Arsenicum—Determined, motivated, much like Nux vomica; but, her chief concern is herself and her health and safety; she is not concerned with you or others.  She has such anxiety about health and fear of death that in a consultation with you, the filter that all your questions have to fit through is, “Will answering this question keep me safe?  What do I need to hear to stay safe?”  If answering a question truthfully will result in an ambulance being called and being taken to the hospital, and if that scares Arsenicum, then the question will not be answered truthfully!  If the answer to a question will result in the care-giver being able to leave and go home, and that scares Arsenicum, then the question will not be answered truthfully!  Everything has to be on her terms, on Arsenicum’s terms.  She will control the meeting, the conversation, and hold you hostage.

Lachesis—If you’re thinking of having a normal back-and-forth interview with Lachesis, forget it!  Talking is very important to him, it’s a release through which he feels better, he can’t be reined in, you can’t put him on a short leash; if you ask him a question, God only knows if he will ever answer it, but he will have no trouble talking!  It may start out coherently and slowly, but he will pick up the pace and change topics unexpectedly as he goes, becoming more and more excited like a runaway train!  You may try to get him back on track by repeating your question but it will do you no good.  He doesn’t easily take a passive role, letting you be in control of the conversation, that does not suit him.

Sulphur—Big ego!  They’re not interested in helping you gather your information methodically and carefully so that you can arrive at a sensible decision about what remedy to give.  Chances are Sulphur already has an opinion about the remedy and you would do well to listen to it!  Sulphur is made of fire, and he cannot be contained!  He will very enthusiastically tell you everything you need to know about his condition.  And he’s read a ton of medical books and articles so he should know!  Your questions, according to him, are stupid and irrelevant; you haven’t grasped the true nature, the complicated nature, of his case! 

Sulphur only does what interests him.  Your pedantic, unimaginative, rote questioning will exasperate him.  In fact, do you want to see a Sulphur in an interview situation?  There is an iconic episode of The Dick Cavett show from the ’70’s, which everyone my age remembers full well, featuring prolific author and activist for liberal causes, Gore Vidal, and prolific author and Sulphur, Norman Mailer, who has managed to rub just about everyone the wrong way.  I’ve got the video here through the magic of Youtube!  The Dick Cavett Show was an oasis in a sea of “talk show” mediocrity.  But what I want you to do is, watch Norman Mailer–he’s the one on the right, his hair a bit wiry and disheveled; notice how he takes over the conversation, is immensely critical and judgmental, talks about his giant intellect—at which point Dick Cavett says, “Maybe you need an extra chair in order to contain it,” after which Norman replies, “Why don’t you ask another question from your ‘Question Sheet’?”  Ouch!  Anyway, here’s Mr. Sulphur.  Oh, and Janet Flanner is on the show too, she’s a Paris correspondent for The New Yorker which, as some of you may know, is a prestigious national magazine.


Nux vomica—Very briefly:  The no-nonsense, mission-driven, Nux vomica is in too much of a hurry to answer your pointless questions!  He has no interest in your “feelings” and will tell you in a minute that it doesn’t matter one way or the other if he does or doesn’t like ice cream!  Nux finds it very easy to fire people, so, if you don’t get to the point fast, he will end the question-answer session in a flash and walk out without a moment’s hesitation.

Ignatia—The emotions over-rule the intellect in this remedy.  Ignatia may try to keep on an even keel, but, very quickly you will find out if she is angry, sad, joyful, etc., her emotions will come through.  Free-spirited, affectionate, loving, caring, artistic and compassionate…all can be vanquished in a second if she is deeply hurt or hurt repeatedly.  A wall forms around her heart.  Anger and indignation well up at any sign of rejection or contradiction.  Tight-lipped, cold and silent, curses might be the way your interview begins, or she may refuse to answer at all.  If you’ve offended Ignatia, she may cut you off completely.  Bitter and vindictive after grief, she may be full of accusations and recriminations against the offending party, all to disguise what she really feels deep down inside, which is, that she is unlovable.

Sepia—Usually a female, the Sepia girl is high-spirited and independent.  She wants only to be herself.  Getting her to “behave” usually results in rebellion on her part rather than conformity as in the case of Nat-mur.  When Sepia’s upset, she’s likely to be crying as well as angry and she cries very easily.  You will find this for her whole life—that Sepia cries, crying in the interview rather than telling you her symptoms—that’s actually in the Repertory; in fact, it’s in Bold. (“Mind: crying, weeping, telling of her sickness, when”.)

Because we live in a patriarchy, Sepia is usually worn down by the time she reaches adulthood.  Work, family, children….having been cut off from her beloved dancing, joyfulness, and artistic pursuits, she becomes tired, dispirited and indifferent.  She finds herself shouting at her husband, yelling at her children for the slightest thing.  She might actually be too exhausted in your interview to do much more than cry.

I should probably stop now; though you can probably tell that the list is potentially endless.

See you again next time!


Elaine Lewis, DHom, CHom

Elaine takes online cases.  Write to her at [email protected]

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About the author

Elaine Lewis

Elaine Lewis, D.Hom., C.Hom.
Elaine is a passionate homeopath, helping people offline as well as online. Contact her at [email protected]
Elaine is a graduate of Robin Murphy's Hahnemann Academy of North America and author of many articles on homeopathy including her monthly feature in the Hpathy ezine, "The Quiz". Visit her website at: and


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