The case of (the fictitious) Lady Gwendolyn Ponsonby-Blythe
There are certain attributes to this case (details given again at the end of this post), some reflect prescribing symptoms, and some must be noted with care….
- the patient is haughty
- chief complaint – pain on turning the head to the left and to the right
- aggravation from drafts
- coughing and sneezing
- susceptibility to neck pain since childhood
- hot bath amel
- brandy amel
- agg mortification
The mortification this patient felt in not getting an invitation to the wedding does seem to be part of the trigger for the flare-up and I would include it in repertorization. So too aggravation from drafts and turning the head, the amelioration from brandy and from a hot bath, and even the weeping. But although I would not include haughtiness in my repertorization as it is part of her personality, not part of her pathology (although some would say it is the inbred pathology of many aristocrats…), I wouldn’t be surprised if haughtiness was found in the chosen remedy’s proving. The spring allergies will probably show up in the proving as well.
Possible remedies are easy to see here. But I didn’t post this small fictitious case as an exercise in choice of remedy. It’s not particularly complex, and there aren’t even any interesting a-ha moments in it.
The important thing to note is that this case is an acute flare-up of a chronic condition. This kind of case can be very muddied by dosing as if it is a completely new acute. Often, less doses are needed, and greater care must be taken that the patient won’t aggravate.
Very often patients come with an acute complaint which turns out to be a flare-up of a chronic condition. In such cases I have found patients to be more susceptible to remedies and more likely to aggravate on frequent dosing. This is also a logical expectation. For example, if someone is chronically susceptible to insults, and usually gets sick after any mortification, any remedy which can cause a feeling of offense in a person will be treading directly on the thin ice of a large frozen lake of existing sensitivity to this. Sensitivity is increased, and so dosing must be carefully monitored.
In addition, because this is really a chronic, not an acute, there is more likelihood that changes in the symptom picture during treatment, both in resolution of the acute flare-up and subsequently, will make it necessary to switch remedies.
In these cases, the patients can be difficult to work with. They often find it hard to believe that they aren’t being told to take a remedy three times a day for a week, and some will even be convinced that the instructions for minimal dosing were wrong, and will take more of the remedy “just in case”. In these situations, a slew of old and new symptoms may appear, and case management becomes far more complex than it should be.
More on case management in a future post.
another british aristocrat…
Lady Gwendolyn Ponsonby-Blythe sat condescendingly in my consulting room. I have never seen anyone sit condescendingly before, but Lady Ponsonby-Blythe’s sitting had an expression all of its own. She looked around and sniffed, clearly unimpressed by my simple chairs, desk and unadorned walls.
I asked how I could help.
“It was the royal wedding, you know,” she confided. I must admit, I was impressed.
“You were invited?” I asked.
“One’s television screen in the main hall of one’s castle is set at the most inconvenient angle,” she continued, ignoring my question as an expression of plebeian ignorance. “Since the royal wedding, one’s neck hurts, every time one turns it, so,” and she turned her head to the left and to the right, wincing with the utmost gentility. I thought for a moment that she was about to wave to imaginary courtiers.
“It’s dreadfully cold in the big hall, impossible to heat, you know, and one cannot stand drafts.”
I asked about other complaints.
“Spring allergies, you know, most people have ‘em,” was the response. “One still suffers from the occasional cough and sneeze,” and she withdrew a small square of cambric and patted her nose.
“And does one – er, do you get neck pain often?”
“Oh yes,” she responded. “Since one was a child, always the drafts, one just can’t abide ’em . One asks Tompkins to draw one a hot bath, that and a small brandy, for medicinal purposes, you know.”
“Does that help?” I asked.
“Of course,” the lady snapped, clearly impatient with so many impertinent questions.
And suddenly, the small square of cambric emerged again as the lofty Lady Gwendolyn Ponsonby-Blythe dissolved into tears. I don’t know which one of us, whether it was “one” or myself, was the most surprised.
I handed her a glass of water and waited.
She sipped the water with a grimace, as if it was not sufficiently well-bred. When she spoke next, her voice was uneven but controlled.
“It was that damned wedding,” she explained. “Obviously Cedric and oneself must have been invited, but without the invitation there would have been a fuss, don’t you know, and one does not like fuss. So common, you know. So one watched the event on the television – and now this!” she ended, turning her head gently but painfully from side to side.
“It’s just all too much!” The tears threatened again, but were subdued into silence by “one’s” iron will.
I asked some more questions, gave a remedy and instructions, and Lady Ponsonby-Blythe sailed, galleon-like, out of my consultation room into the masses of the great unwashed, cambric handkerchief held gently to her nose for protection.
As others greater and wiser than myself have said of this kind of story – it didn’t happen but it could have done… in a parallel universe or somewhere equally exotic…
What remedy would you give – and why?
How would you dose? And why?
What results would you expect?
Hepar Sulph, provings, and a rant in a teacup…
winking? or dry eye…
I was recently working with a patient suffering from dry eyes. The patient would wake at night unable to open his eyes, and said the condition was ameliorated by cupping his hands gently over his eyes. Among the symptoms – worse during sleep, worse in artificial light, sensation of dryness and burning in the eye, unable to open the eye at night. I had given Rhus Tox which had helped somewhat but it was stalling. And we homeopaths expect more from our remedies – don’t we now…
I used the rubric worse for uncovering as an expression of the hand-cupping amelioration but based the center of the case on all the other symptoms and modalities where the rubrics were more precise. I reviewed everything again and saw that only two remedies covered all the symptoms – Rhus Tox and Hepar Sulph. I looked closely at the provings of the two remedies, thinking that if Hepar Sulph didn’t look like a better match I’d go up in potency on the Rhus-Tox. The eye symptoms were very well represented in the Hepar proving, but I could not find clear mention of hand-cupping ameliorates.
So I went on an obsessive hunt for the symptom – even though I knew I didn’t really need it. I found it in Kent’s repertory – but no Hepar. The only remedies there were Aur-Mur and Thuja. I went through the books I used many years ago, in the olden pre-TPB days – Phatak, Kent, Clarke, Boger Synoptic and others, and finally tracked down the symptom in Vermeullen’s Prisma given as Eye, pain, better for lightly covering eyes with hand. But where did it come from?
I looked in Schroyen’s Synthesis, and there I found Eye Pain, covering eyes, hand with, amel with the previous suspects from Kent – Aur mur and Thuj. And then – Eye pain, covering eyes, lightly, amel – Hepar.
Various materia medicas do report that some light covering amel with Hepar. Vermeullen is the only one I found in my search who specifically states the symptom, and the source is unclear. It appears in the Rubrics section of his Prisma, which he writes gives symptoms taken from the Synthesis, and further states that he made corrections and additions in this section where he felt symptoms had been misinterpreted or overlooked. So no certainty there…
And as I was on this hunt which was unnecessary as I could already see that Hepar was indicated but by this time I couldn’t stop – I realized that this was a kind of reversed engineering of the way I used to work, a way that has become completely unnatural for me.
I started out on my homoeopathy studies with an impressive (and heavy) hardcopy of Schroyen’s Synthesis, in a scholarly dark red binding with gold lettering. I studied out of town, and this huge book, together with other weighty tomes, were my constant companions and back-straighteners (in a reinforced backpack for hikers). I would take symptoms, rummage around in the Synthesis to repertorize the case, and hunt through Kent, Phatak, Tyler, Boger, Vermeullen, Sankaran et al to see if I could make a case for a remedy. The work was imprecise and frustrating. There was no certainty, no clear path through all this literature – even though eventual purchases of a laptop and software eased the back pain somewhat but little else…
Which brings me to a conversation I had recently with a colleague (this is the “rant-in-a-teacup” part). I had mentioned that I was thinking of putting together an online course for the study of provings. Wake up, he said, don’t you get it? No-one is interested in provings. And I had to admit he was right. I can see from the interest in various posts on the IHM sites. Readers of our sites really like the articles on vaccinations, and damning materials quoted from other sources. Scandals in the conventional medical world are a particular favourite. Readers, hopefully many of them homoeopaths, like case presentation and analysis, methodology, posology, repertorization, and even discussion of materia medica, and this is good. IHM rants are quite popular as we can on occasion be quite amusing… But while articles on provings have their devotees (thank you, you know who you are), they garner much less interest in the world of modern homoeopathy.
But then I thought further. If the mass of people in this field are not interested in provings, then they are also not interested in doing homoeopathy properly. Because the principle of like cures like rests on provings, without provings homoeopathy as a scientific medical method would not exist.
Until you’ve read a remedy proving you really know very little about it, about its diversity, potential for healing. You will be forever mired in the prejudices passed from teacher to student, prescribing Pulsatilla for needy, weepy blonde women with blue eyes, and Hepar only where the patient is extremely chilly. Men and children would never be given Sepia. Everything would rest on what was learned from teachers rather than primary sources. And so much would be lost.
And if you start with software, speculative materia medica, and the mass of material from the older homoeopaths which has simply been copied from work to work as can be seen from the exact repeats in wording – it’s a mess. You don’t know what symptoms come from provings, clinical or poisoning. What is central and certain and what is at best confirmatory. You don’t know where to start and where to finish. And in my obsessive sleuthing, when I started with the proving and ended with the synthesis, I realized just how little these materia medica reflect the proving, how disconnected the investigation became.
Since I had started out on this rather senseless quest with Hahnemann’s provings on Hepar and Rhus Tox, and with Boenninghausen’s therapeutic pocketbook which is based on primary sources and not on a cacophonous centuries-long game of Chinese Whispers and creative writing, I recognized that my sleuthing was, for the most part, a waste of time. I was confident that Hepar would help my patient. My process today, for which I am totally grateful to P&W and the IHM, is much easier, and more sure-footed. But it also reminded me of those early days, how literally back-breaking it was to rely on these hefty tomes which just didn’t seem to add wisdom, only to dilute it, to shatter what little knowledge they contained into tiny unrecognizable fragments.
Homoeopaths should be interested in provings. Homoeopaths should want to go to original sources, and to have the ability to do so. But I have come to the point where I feel I have to recognize and accept the reality. Very few (undeniably intelligent) homoeopaths are interested in provings.
Unless I’m wrong? Whether I do an online course on the study of provings or not – I would be delighted to be proven wrong.
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