The following is a post I originally put up on my general blog, aimed at the not-necessarily-homoeopathy-oriented public. However, as I’ve mentioned previously probably (possibly?) more than once, getting “true” answers and being aware of the less than “true” ones is so crucial to our case-taking that I decided to put this article up here too for your perusal.
I could also have titled this post “On homeopathy, marketing, treadmills and chocolate.” Read on. You will get my drift.
Modern culture is all about marketing and sales. How you present yourself has become all-important, and just being “you” seems to never be enough. It’s all about the spin.
When people come to me for treatment, I ask a lot of questions. But I’ve found that in many cases, certain questions are just asking for a marketing response, a how-does-this-make-me-look response, a spin. These responses are inventive, creative and make good marketing copy. But they are not true. The following examples relate to exercise and diet. Please note – I’m not talking here about whether people should or should not eat salad or exercise. I’m talking about how the responses may be so skewed for image and presentation that the questions themselves have become fairly useless in eliciting any truthful (and for homeopathy that means useful) response.
Q. Do you exercise?
In our times, regular exercise has moved right up there, next to cleanliness and godliness. From being a practical activity which some enjoy and some abhor, it has become a value-laden concept. If you don’t exercise regularly, you are lazy, a burden to society, doomed to suffer many unmentionable diseases, with no hope of salvation. The place of worship for this quasi-religion may be the gym, the track, or that little room at home where you keep your treadmill and personal rowing machine. If you do exercise regularly, you are demonstrating your value as a person, your sound willpower, your responsibility to your health, and your commitment to looking good reflecting a positive attitude to life. No pain, no gain is also part of the backstory here, denoting either serious masochism or the much-lauded ability to overcome limitations.
As with any religion, there are the exercise dissidents. Those for whom admitting to regular exercise means admitting to being uptight, uncool, addicted to lycra workout leotards. Gym membership (or “health club” as it is righteously termed nowadays) is tantamount to becoming “one of them”, someone who doesn’t think for themselves and lacks individuality, someone who follows the modern “quasi-gods” of the health and fitness columns, advocating toned bodies and cardiovascular wellbeing. The dissidents may well exercise regularly but they will find it hard to admit, often muttering something about a love for hiking in response to the question, while insisting that they would never give up smoking…
Here’s another loaded one:
Q. What do you like to eat?
As with exercise, we have the adherents of the food spin, and the dissidents. Some patients will wax lyrical about the Joy of Salads, describing their love of plant food in glowing terms. There are even those who make assumptions about my preferences, and seem to play to those assumptions. “I don’t eat any meat” they say shyly, looking at me for my approval. Others will inform me how healthy food is essential, and they always follow a healthy balanced diet, and will proceed to lecture me on what a healthy balanced diet is (don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t bother me). Then there are those who will describe how they never eat flour/carbs/meat/sugar/chocolate as they don’t like it/become instantly sick from it/can’t bear the sight or smell of it. One such patient, after expressing a deep seated love of raw vegetables in many colours, later came to me asking if I could do anything for weight loss. You will realize that I was slightly bemused – I had no idea that raw vegetables could have that effect. I have heard many descriptions of food preferences, which similarly have not been observed in practice. Like the lady who – in her desire to appear elegant, soignee and above such base pleasures – refuses dessert, the food preference responses often have more to do with image than truth.
And then we have the dissidents – those who insist that their eating habits are unhealthy because, let’s face it, there is nothing cool, or even slightly louche, about a salad. Some of these patients will assume that as a homoeopath, I could never, ever possibly have cravings for a really good, well done steak with chips, and they will declare their food preferences to me defiantly, with in-your-face aplomb. These people will tell me about their poor diets, their addictions to cake, chocolate, ice cream, burgers, pizzas, red meat. For some this is the truth. But for others – it’s yet another spin, plain and simple, and on investigating further, it turns out that their terrible diets are really not so bad after all.
This is why I prefer to ask very different questions, to get a more accurate picture of the patient’s state of sickness, and how it compares to their state of health. I have learned to ask questions where spin is irrelevant – where it’s more trouble to look for an alternative to the truth, and there isn’t really any perceived need to do so.
When you get a headache – can you turn your head? Can you move your eyes from side to side? Can you look up? Can you look up without moving your head?
Does your back hurt more when you bend backwards? Forwards? When you’re getting up from a chair? When you go from standing to sitting?
Do you get your stomach ache before a meal? During a meal? Afterwards?
Is your depression worse in the morning? Afternoon? Evening?
Are your sleep problems more connected to not being able to fall asleep? To waking frequently for no reason? To waking too early?
Even these questions could lead to some form of spin in the answer, but the chances of that happening are much less. And I challenge anyone to find a good reason to spin answers to questions about whether their runny nose is green, yellow or white, whether their haemorhoids are more painful sitting, lying down or standing, and whether that diarrhea is …. OK, I’ll save that one for a private conversation.