Conventional medicine tends to concentrate on disease – definition of symptoms, labelling (often purely a latin description of the symptoms), cause (often declared ‘unknown’ or attributed to infection with a ‘germ’). It can take a long time for medicine to agree that a particular ‘disease’ actually exists and treatments often come much later and can be ineffective or cause side effects.
Homeopaths work from the starting point of health. ‘That’s easy’ you might say: ’health is a lack of symptoms’, but we would disagree. Health is being able to react appropriately to circumstances and to be able to adapt and recover.
Reaction starts with reflexes, thoughts and emotions. If something dangerous occurs to you it is important to be able to make sense of the situation quickly and react appropriately to save yourself. It is necessary to have self-judgement and self-reliance to take these steps independently. After a stress and its corresponding physiological symptoms does the mind and body recover easily and continue as normal or do they suffer from the effects for a considerable time? These effects are an expression of ill-health or disease (dis-ease, i.e. not at ease) and can be in the forms of anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance as well as physiological effects in the organs of the body. Mental disturbance disrupts normal life activities of work, rest, play and relationships and sleep disturbance affects immune sytem function.
Homeopathy is a holistic therapy, the ‘hol’ in holistic referring to ‘whole’. Homeopaths look at whether a person has a full (whole) range of appropriate mental processes and emotions as well as physical functions: can the patient make sense of the world, get angry and defend themselves, can they show upset and get emotional support from family members and friends, do they have times of joy, happiness and sadness? Inbetween times, do they recover to a neutral state of relative contentment? If not content can they work out ways of reducing the discontent by confronting the problem and finding a solution, getting away from the problem or coming to terms with it?
In reality the effects of society and upbringing results in many people finding one or more emotional states difficult or impossible to express. These suppressive effects can have been in place over several generations in a family to the extent that its members become unaware of its absence. Where there is emotional suppression a corresponding emotion becomes uppermost: with the absence of anger comes resentment, with the absence of support comes vulnerability. These states can become quasi-normal states of being and lenses through which people perceive the world, and the source of compensating behaviours such as self-medication with drugs, alcohol and food, and personality disorders. Wars, epidemics and difficult living conditions weaken health and their effects can be noted from one generation to the next in the type of symptoms to which we are susceptible.
A key word is ‘appropriate’. Does the patient react appropriately to events in their lives? Some people overreact becoming easily angered or upset and affecting their confidence, work and relationships: others don’t react at all to the most severe provocation, putting themselves at risk of abuse and unable to reach their potential. At the simplest level, if it is hot: to sweat and to seek shade and cool; if in danger: to escape, fight, hide or flee; if tired: to rest and recuperate; if hungry: to seek food; If thirsty: to seek water. How many of us trust and act on our natural instincts? How many of us are still able to? How many side-effects of conventional medicine interfere with these natural functions?
At the heart of homeopathic treatment is the desire to move the patient towards a state of physical, emotional and mental health, to smooth out over-reactions, to generate appropriate reactions where before there were none, to encourage independence of action and thought so that above all the patient can know their limits, trust their natural instincts, reach their potential and take care of their own health.
Happy New Year
with thanks to Sheilagh Creasey for her inspiration for this blog.