A Woman in Severe Pain
I remember a case of a colleague, Dr. Denis Somper, that illustrates this well. Dr. Somper is a classical homeopathic physician and a gentleman of the ‘old school’. He is a retiring and private man and can seldom be persuaded to teach, much to the disadvantage of many doctors studying homeopathy. However I will always associate the word ‘unsolicited’ with him. Over and over he stressed the value of ‘unsolicited’ information from the patient over anything obtained by a direct question. A woman in acute pain had consulted him. He had asked her to describe the pain which she began to do. Eventually she remained silent. As is his custom, he remained comfortable in that silence and waited for the next ‘unsolicited’ symptom. The silence continued….
Eventually the patient could take no more of it and thumping her fist on the desk she yelled at Dr. Somper: ‘ Don’t just sit there, do something!’ Dr. Somper’s description of what he did will remain forever etched in my memory. ‘I gave her Chamomilla and it did something!’ This was unsolicited information of the highest order. The patient did not tell him that she had the symptom, angry when in pain she demonstrated it right in front of him. And this would not have happened if he had spoken instead of remaining silent – even though he must have been aware that his patient was not exactly as comfortable with the silence as he was.
A Case of Passive Aggression?
“The consultation was a normal GP consultation. Husband and wife came in. The wife did all the talking initially and said that she had decided she couldn’t live with her husband any longer. He was stifling her by his neediness and that she was going to leave him but she was worried that this had put him into a suicidal state and could I sort it out please?
So already at this stage I was feeling intensely irritated and cross by the wife and the man who hadn’t even uttered a word at this moment, and was thinking that I was going to tell them to go to Relate and to leave me alone, basically. But because she mentioned suicide I again crossly thought that at least I would have to assess the man’s risk but I was feeling so irritated and angry by the whole situation, it started to set off alarm bells in my head. That made me do something I do in that situation when I’m feeling that I’m really in my stuff and not in the patient’s and I said a little prayer that I say to myself which is “Your eyes please?” It is my way of saying “Can I see this person as You would see him?” So without all my stuff getting in the way, and almost immediately, there was a very big change in the energy in the room from my point of view and I immediately felt a lot more cantered in myself. I looked up at this man and instead of feeling this intense irritation towards him that I’d felt before, I could just see a really frightened person sitting there, which opened me up to compassion instead of irritation, so suddenly I was present for this guy and not trying to throw him out the room.
I then, for no obvious reason, it was just the question that came straight into my mind, asked “Could you tell me about your parent’s marriage?” This guy was still very defended, very cross-legged, sitting back grumpily, sort of saying “I don’t see how that’s relevant.” So I said “Well, could you tell me anyway, I’d like to know something about it, it may be relevant” and he said “As far as I know it was happy” and all his answers were very monosyllabic and closed, closing me off more really but because I wasn’t reacting to that. I was still in my sort of inquiring, gentle space, I suppose. I pursued and just gently carried on with the questioning and said “You say it was happy, are your parents still alive?” which he just said “No, my father’s dead, he died when I was 12″. I said ” Well that was very long ago, it must have been very difficult for you, do you know what happened?” “He committed suicide” so I said “that must have been an awful thing, can you tell me some more about that?”
And there were all these very long silences before my questions. I always wait a bit, he was not forthcoming at all, and he then told me how he’d come home from school and found is father hanging in the kitchen, and again he just sort of stopped dead after telling me that, there was no emotion, still folded arms, quite dispassionate, so I was obviously quite shocked to hear it. I can remember not feeling shocked at the time, I was kind of still fine with it, so I said, “How old was your father?” and he said “44” and I said “how old are you?” again, with long pauses in between each question, and he said “44” and I said “Are you frightened you won’t make 45?” at which stage he completely …..he just started sobbing and sobbing and sobbing and it all just sort of, big release and after he’d sobbed for quite a long time……it then all came out, the story, of how he’d found his dad, how that day he hadn’t come straight home from school, he’d disobeyed his parents, he’d gone to play football with his friends in the park and if only he hadn’t done that, if he’d come straight home from school, he might have got there early enough and how this sense of it that it had all been his fault for being this disobedient child…… and he then told me about a recurrent nightmare that he had, where he, it was never about his father, that situation, he said the situations were different every time but it was always the same ending, and the ending of the nightmare was that he was always just too late and so, I wasn’t doing homeopathy at that time so I didn’t have a remedy to give him, nor knowledge of a remedy but it was just sort of real outpouring within about…..a normal GP conversation 15 minutes ……it was getting right to the center of the case in a very short space of time, in a very intense exchange somehow but it was all created by this extra energy that somehow came from somewhere else when I got out of my space, it kind of liberated up a lot of room for things to happen in….”
Story told to Dr Kaplan by homeopathic Doctor in supervision group
She now knew that:
– the husband, as well as feeling suicidal, was fearful of death rather than angry.
– he was keeping the fear hidden behind a mask of passive aggression and had probably not talked to anyone about it.
– he had suffered a significant grief in his life which had probably also been suppressed.
– he felt guilty and irrationally responsible for his father’s death
If she had been even a beginner homeopath at the time, this information would obviously be central to a homeopathic prescription. (Natrum muriaticum came to her mind on reflecting on the case although other remedies such as Aurum metallicum also come into consideration. (A few questions about general symptoms and physical complaints would probably make the choice of remedy clear.)
All this crucial information became available in a second. It was not the length of the consultation that produced it, but the change in the doctor when she said to herself: ‘Your eyes, please?’ I do not know the religion of this student and I did not ask her as it is not important because the actual words of her prayer are clearly non-denominational. What she had asked or prayed for was simply to be without prejudice. Her little prayer had worked and for one glorious moment she had managed to eliminate herself and her ego from the process. For an instant she was able to be totally objective rather than subjective. In that instant everything was clear and she knew that she had made a quantum leap in her understanding of the case. This was a wonderful breakthrough in the consultation. At times like this, we homeopaths, feel truly at ease with ourselves and we understand what it is to be of service in our profession.