In The Initial Homeopathic Intake I outlined what takes place the first time a patient meets a homeopath. The aim of the entire initial-interview process is to distill the portrait of disease, which can be physical, psychological, or spiritual in nature. But it now remains to translate this information, often referred to as the “totality of symptoms,” into a working diagnosis.
This totality is a carefully selected subset of the collected symptoms, one which emphasizes certain symptoms while de-emphasizing others. The least-important symptoms for determining the homeopathic diagnosis are general symptoms that lack qualities that differentiate them from person to person. Such symptoms are considered common, and they are rarely useful in pointing toward the correct diagnosis. Uncommon symptoms, on the other hand, are homeopathically the most important. They can be described as strange, rare, or peculiar:
- Strange symptoms are ones that do not make sense from a logical point of view, for example a “pounding headache made better by hitting the head against a hard surface.”
- Rare symptoms are phenomena observed only in unusual cases in the population at that time and place, for example a case of tuberculosis in contemporary North America.
- Peculiar symptoms are very detailed symptoms whose presentation is unique, for example a “tickling sensation inside the left knee felt only when drinking water.”
Whether common or not, symptoms belong to one of two categories — pathological or characteristic:
- Pathological symptoms are those that are bothersome to the patient or problematic from a medical point-of-view. These include physical pathology, pain, unpleasant sensations, and thoughts or feelings which interfere with normal functioning.
- Characteristic symptoms that are phenomena that are non-pathological but nevertheless individualize the patient by distinguishing him or her from everyone else with the same pathology. These include details of the patient’s personality, reactions to external influences of food, weather, and the like, and significant past events in the patient’s personal and family history, such as accidents, emotional trauma, and serious disease. To these are added the homeopath’s observations of physical appearance and behavior.
The categorization of symptoms just described is in reality a highly refined art that can only be roughly sketched in words, an art which combines clinical experience, intuition, and a deep knowledge of human psychology. When correctly practiced, this method forms the first step of case analysis in classical homeopathy.
This and subsequent steps (which will be outlined in future posts) together aim for the ideal of individualization of treatment: each and every homeopathic patient is given a blank slate on which to draw his illness, and each will ultimately receive a different homeopathic treatment from the next patient complaining of the same ailment.