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Homeopathy and the City: Class Warfare

by Elizabeth Kaye(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 119 - January 2006

Alice, one of my students, is presenting a case. She's managed to forget to ask several vital questions during the case-taking and is realizing that she's now got the choice of owning her inadequacy, or bluffing. I know what I'd do in the circumstances, having bluffed my way through many clinical hours during my own training, but I keep quiet. I believe this is what a good teacher should do. Pointing out someone's shortcomings is never the way to draw out the best in them, is it? Nurturing what is special in each person is the essence of education, isn't it? However, Alice is not leaving me much room for magnanimity. As I listen to her increasingly wayward diagnosis, prognosis and probably neurosis, I'm aware that Sibylle, the extremely organized, meticulous note-taker of the group is tapping her pen on the side of her nose, just desperate for a chance to butt in and make Alice look foolish. I have to take charge.

"Okay," I say, "Let's just look at what we know here rather than what we assume. Let's just take what information the patient has given." This is how I operate, working with what I have. The danger for students is that they always want to add more, bringing their own issues into the picture and thereby muddying the case.

Alice begins rambling again about the patient's menstrual irregularities being an expression of her power struggle with her mother. Sibylle is looking sour. Jamal is looking out of the window and Dorothy is breastfeeding her six months-old, which leaves her without a free hand to take notes.

"…And anyway" Alice concludes, almost defiantly, "I think she needs Lycopodium."

We're nowhere near the point of deciding on a prescription. As we are, in fact, still floundering in the swamp of Alice's attempt to disguise her mistakes, I need to draw the discussion back to some kind of overview of the case. However, I find myself suddenly irritated with Alice and her pretence that she knows what she¹s doing when she most clearly does not. "There's no Lycopodium here," I snap.

Alice looks crushed. Sibylle looks smug. Jamal looks bored. Dorothy looks for the baby's rattle which has fallen behind the sofa.

Lycopodium clavatum is a remedy made from club moss. Unlike the obviously poisonous plants such as Aconite, Belladonna or Nux vomica, Lycopodium is an innocuous little thing, inert in its natural state, classified somewhere between the mosses and the ferns. It has long, straggly stems and erect scaly spikes

The mental picture of Lycopodium is one of lack of confidence covered up with bravado. The indeterminate nature of the plant is reflected in a diffidence which, given the right conditions, can turn very prickly. Terrified that their shortcomings will be exposed, the Lycopodium patient will appear extremely self-possessed, charming and accommodating. This tends to be their operating strategy when at work, or when socializing. They bluff their way through situations, driven by a fear of failure. Conscientious to a fault and fixated on their ability to perform, they will become distraught if corrected or shown-up. Wary of conflict due to a deep-seated cowardice, they can, however, become monstrous bullies when they feel safe. There is a facility for biting sarcasm and unkindness towards those whom they consider to be weaker than themselves. Not for nothing is it renowned as a great remedy for teachers.

The physical problems created by this uneasy struggle of the ego will often centre in the abdomen. There is bloating, flatulence, an intolerance of tight clothing. Homeopaths will tell you this is caused by anxiety, though you may feel it's just your lunch. The liver is particularly affected and, therefore, symptoms will be on the right side of the body and will be worse between 4pm-8pm, when the liver reaches its lowest point of activity. There is often a craving for sugar at this time.

The effects of Lycopodium on the hormonal system can lead to weak muscles and weak circulation. There is an inadequacy of function which reflects, or maybe leads to, the sense of inferiority on the psychological plane.

I launch into Alice, telling her that she has completely missed the essence of the case. As I watch her humiliation manifest in her reddening cheeks, I know that I am not handling this well, but I just don't seem to be able to stop.

Aware that she is doing her best, as Alice always does, I find it impossible to desist from criticizing her just enough so that the group is in no doubt who is top dog. I kind of despise myself and wonder why I feel the need to be so harsh.

Superficially, it's in order that Alice will become a good homeopath but underneath I have the horrible suspicion that I just enjoy knowing more than she does. A small voice in my head is trying to suggest that actually I must be a lousy teacher if I haven't yet coached Alice properly in case-taking methods. I refuse to listen to it. Sibylle is nodding eagerly at everything I say, and I kind of despise her too in the moment for colluding with me. The counter-transference is so powerful now that, although I¹m firing on all cylinders intellectually, I feel a weakness in my belly and a weariness of spirit which I recognize as being a signal from my body that I need a cup of tea and a biscuit. I look at Jamal, and then at the clock. It's 4.15pm.

"Could you put the kettle on, Jamal," I say, knowing he'll appreciate the chance to escape the tension for five minutes. As he makes for the door, he accidentally kicks the side of Dorothy's chair. The vibration wakes the baby, who farts loudly. Dorothy apologizes on the baby's behalf and I reflect, for the thousandth time, on the ability of life to imitate art. I now have a constricting pain in my right temple, and my jeans feel too tight. Sibylle offers to hold the baby while Dorothy catches up with her notes. I look at Alice's defensive posture , all curled in on herself with her arms folded, and make a mental note to apologize to her for my rough behaviour when the others aren't around. Softening slightly, and ignoring the desire to belch, I lower myself onto the chair.

"Don¹t worry," I say, "you'll get the information next time you see her." Alice blinks at me through her fringe. And in the meantime, I continue, my magnanimous self returning to the room in increments, "let's hear your reasons for wanting to give her Lycopodium."

Jamal returns with the tea. I'm pleased to note he's remembered the biscuits. I do train them well, after all!

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About Elizabeth Kaye

Elizabeth Kaye qualified as a homeopath in 1998 and works in London, both in private practice and as part of a team delivering low-cost complementary therapies through a publicly funded agency. She can be contacted on elizabethkaye@hotmail.co.uk

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