Don’t think I haven’t noticed. Some of you are very interested in articles on provings, and some of you avoid them like the plague. It would be easy enough to blame it all on students who don’t want to read lengthy shopping lists of gory symptoms – but many, if not most practitioners don’t read provings either.
This is a pity. Homoeopathy is a system of healing with some certainties and some unknowns. The patients generously provide us with most of the unknowns. We don’t know how sensitive they are to remedies when we start out. We don’t know if there’s something they haven’t told us (hint: there usually is). We don’t know if there’s something they told us which is deliberately or unintentionally incorrect. And that’s before we get started on case-taking centred around airplane style “chicken or beef” food inquisitions. The central certainty we do have in homoeopathy is that substances that cause symptoms in the sick can heal similar symptoms in the healthy. And we can find out what symptoms these substances cause in the sick.
So much is imperfect and uncertain in our work – inevitably we are dealing with human beings, in extremely non-sterile, non-laboratory conditions. So we should look for the certainties. And when provings have been done appropriately, they offer us some of these certainties, in which we can anchor our prescriptions to better avail.
So I am offering you ten tips for working with provings. I’ve been working almost exclusively with Hahnemann’s provings in Chronic Diseases and Materia Medica Pura so these instructions are relevant mainly to these works – but you can apply them elsewhere as well. In a way, actually digging into the provings in this “nuts and bolts” fashion makes them easier to conquer – and much less easy to ignore. And once you start organizing the material, you begin to own it.
- Read the introduction! Hahnemann used his introductions to give some more information on the remedy, but he also used them to give short lectures on homoeopathy.
- Number all the symptoms. Hahnemannian proving symptoms are usually numbered in fives and tens – numbering the symptoms individually will give you more of a sense of familiarity with the material.
- Divide the symptoms into systems and organs. The most commonly found divisions are roughly parallel to the organization of most repertories – Mind, Inner head, External Head, Eyes and Vision, Nose and Smell, Ears and Hearing etc. There is no perfect division – sometimes symptoms appear where they shouldn’t – but it is the beginning of organization of the material. These divisions are for your own use – so don’t sweat it.
- Look at the sections you have marked, and note which are very long, and which only have a few symptoms. Note which sections – although short – seem to have a lot of bold symptoms.
- Note the bold symptoms in general, together with any symptoms you find particularly odd or interesting.
- Based just on these steps, see if you can determine the central affinities of the remedy.
- Note which symptoms are “old school” reports (marked in capital letters), and which are from provers. The symptoms from “old school” reports are usually much more extreme, proving symptoms are usually more moderate. An extreme symptom may lead you to think there is no way the remedy is relevant for your patient – but the moderate version given by a prover may change your mind.
- Note the main aggravations in the proving. Pay special attention to those aggravations which repeat through more than one system – headaches, stomach aches, back pain all worse for standing, for example.
- Note the main ameliorations in the proving.
AND LAST BUT BY NO MEANS LEAST:
10. Since probably most people reading this have been trained to believe in the overarching importance of mental symptoms, I advise you to read the mental symptoms of the proving carefully. You may be surprised by what you find, and in particular, by what you don’t find.