Mind and Consciousness

Articles on the spiritual and mental spheres, their influence on physical reality, and their relevance to homeopathic practice.

Why Dreams Are Valuable in Homeopathic Diagnosis and Treatment

Homeopathic Dream

Homeopathic treatment begins with a thorough investigation into all aspects of the patient’s life. During the initial interview the homeopath routinely enquires about dreams (especially childhood dreams, memorable past dreams, recurrent dreams, and nightmares), because dreams have proven to be helpful clinical indicators in many patients’ cases.

But dreams must be amongst the most contentious, mysterious, and thoroughly unobjective of phenomena! Why, then, are they nevertheless considered valuable in homeopathic diagnosis and treatment? Their value lies in their ability to reveal the true state of the patient and to point the way to a confident selection of homeopathic remedy. In a followup article I will further explain how changes in sleep and dreaming patterns are sensitive indicators of the progress of healing once treatment has begun.

Dreams: Precious psychic gems or rubble of the mind?

One of the enduring mysteries of life is the nature of dreams. Scientists have a relatively poor understanding of the unique physiological states that occur during sleep and dreaming, let alone of the reasons for the bewildering array of dream content that we experience. In any event science does not yet possess a convincing theory that explains why we must, in the first place, sleep and experience dreaming states to function normally and stay alive (prolonged sleep deprivation of experimental animals leads to dire consequences).

The actual content of dreams is normally considered irrelevant or not amenable to the scientific mode of investigation. For example, one theory holds that dreams are simply the mind’s attempt at making sense of the electrical noise produced by brain metabolism: whereas in the waking state these signals find an outlet in miniature muscular contractions throughout the body, during the paralysis of sleep these signals are transformed into thoughts which bring about the dreaming experience.

But science apart and life apart: people of all cultures routinely interpret their dreams, finding patterns of meaning even when reasonably there are none to be found. Psychologists and occult practitioners of all kind investigate the dream world, hoping to offer insight and assistance to their clients through correct interpretation of their dreams.

Many spiritual traditions concur in their view that during sleep our soul leaves the body and locates itself in some other realm in which actions are not bound by physical laws. In the modern world dreams are regarded more conservatively, but not necessarily more accurately, as windows into the individual’s subconscious — a realm beyond the purview of science, governed (if at all) by the mysterious laws of spirit.

How do homeopaths make use of dreams?

The homeopathic approach to dreams is straightforward: on the one hand homeopaths fully accept the legitimacy of dream material (along with all of the subjective phenomena reported by patients), while on the other hand they strive to avoid dream interpretation.

Being that it is prone to error and speculation, dream interpretation is not considered a reliable foundation for homeopathic diagnosis, although it has its place within the healing dialogue between patient and homeopath. Instead, homeopaths employ dreams in these two ways: (i) as symptoms just like any other homeopathic symptom, and (ii) as pointers to the true state of the patient.

(i) Dreams are ordinary homeopathic symptoms

Dreams can be incorporated into the diagnosis simply as ordinary homeopathic symptoms alongside other symptoms, because among the physical and psychological symptoms listed under the materia medica (clinical description) of each remedy are listed dream rubrics such as:

  • Dreams - children
  • Dreams - dogs
  • Dreams - dancing
  • Dreams - war

as well as dream qualities such as:

  • Dreams - obscene
  • Dreams - pleasant
  • Dreams - vivid

Associated with each such category are remedies listed in the homeopathic repertory (index of symptoms). In a patient with a clear history of dreams the homeopath thus can narrow down the field of possibilities and concentrate his mind on a smaller set of potential remedies.

The use of dreams as reported phenomena just like any other mental and subjective symptoms is universally accepted among classical homeopaths.

(ii) Dreams point to the true state of the patient

The second use of dreams involves drawing out mental attributes from the raw dream reports. This is done under two assumptions: first, that dreams are meaningfully related to the person’s state and, second,  that they are at least as good a representation of this state as are the non-dream reports.

Because people are frequently unaware of aspects of their psyche, fears or delusions (perceptions in mentally healthy people that are not reflective of reality) are often revealed only through dreams. For example, a patient who has frightful encounters with snakes in her dreams might merit the designation and corresponding rubric “Fear of snakes,” while a patient who is regularly dreams of being involved in warfare might merit the rubric “Delusion - he is a soldier.”

Dream translation has to be done both skillfully and conservatively lest it devolve into speculation. Not surprisingly, homeopaths differ in their opinion about the legitimacy of using dreams in this indirect manner. Those, like myself, who consider it legitimate to venture into the dream world find in dreams a most-reliable gateway to the psyche: when correctly handled, dreams offer a precise view of the hidden dynamics that motivate the patient’s life, frequently leading to a correspondingly precise diagnosis and prescription.

The key to not abusing this approach lies in integrating the inferences from the patient’s dream world with the rest of the patient’s description by verifying that the dream element is corroborated elsewhere in the clinical report.

Further uses of dreams

Dreams can further be exploited as starting points for drawing out psychological material that the patient is aware of yet does not wish or is unable to divulge directly.

From their dream reports patients can be led rather craftily to reveal aspects of their persona that they are either reluctant to discuss or which they incorrectly consider irrelevant for the homeopathic interview. When used by the homeopath with the pure intention of helping the patient, this approach creates no harm and enables a precise diagnosis even in an uncooperative patient.

Finally, dreams can reveal the psychic makeup of children who are old enough to retell their dreams but not yet intellectually capable of answering more abstract enquiries into their mental state.

Dreams are valuable because they bypass compensations

In the final analysis, the key reason for the diagnostic importance of dreams is that much of the conscious reporting of the patient is based on his or her compensated state. Compensation involves the funneling of thoughts and behavioural impulses that are inappropriate to the situation toward more productive or socially acceptable outcomes.

Such restraint and rechanelling of behaviour is a cardinal ingredient of any civilized society, but it makes the homeopath’s task of correct diagnosis more difficult. For example, a person with violent impulses might take up Tai Chi, cultivating the peaceful, meditative aspect of the art and speaking at length about values such as inner calm and forgiveness. If asked directly about violent tendencies (i.e., if the homeopath were to suspect this from the patient’s ‘feel’ or appearance) such a patient would answer in denial. Yet a reported violent dream might reveal what lies hidden underneath the peaceful outward manner.

In a followup article I explain how changes in sleep and dreaming patterns are sensitive indicators of the progress of healing under homeopathic treatment.

How to Measure Treatment Success Through Sleep and Dreams

Homeopathic Dream Reveals the Unconscious

In a recent article I introduced the topic of the role of dreams in homeopathic diagnosis. In this article I explain how sleep and dreams serve as useful indicators of the progress of healing.

From Diagnosis to Treatment

The correct diagnosis marks only the beginning of the homeopathic healing journey. The process of treatment includes regular followup appointments (usually once every several weeks), during which the patient’s present state of health is carefully compared with the past state.

The action of a homeopathic remedy is very individual, and the initial phase of improvement is often experienced by patients as turbulent. Physical symptoms often get worse before they get better, there may be swings in mood and energy levels, and interpersonal relations may be strained as the patient begins to shift on a deep level.

This state of affairs is an unavoidable consequence of the nature of homeopathic healing which, unlike most other treatments, restores balance of the whole organism but may not provide symptomatic relief early on. Thus the best indicators of improvement are often not the symptoms comprising the patient’s suffering. Therefore in order to assess patients’ spiritual health, homeopaths rely heavily on general clinical indicators such as mood, energy, sleep quality, and pattern and content of dreams.

Even in cases of turmoil (known as a homeopathic aggravation) or apparent lack of progress, positive changes in these general indicators reliably herald eventual lasting improvement. On the other hand, a prolonged aggravation of specific symptoms without a concurrent positive shift in the general state may indicate a setback unrelated to the treatment, or in unusual cases a negative response to a wrongly prescribed remedy.

Sleep and dreams are sensitive early indicators of spiritual health

Improvement in the quality of sleep is among the most reliable indicators of a positive spiritual shift early on in the treatment process. Although few patients present with sleep problems as their main complaint, many people sleep poorly enough that they report an improvement in this sphere when prompted by the homeopath. Some will find that they fall asleep more easily and sleep more soundly, whereas others will temporarily experience more restless or dream-disturbed sleep yet will have better mood and energy the following day.

With regard to dreaming, two patterns of improvement are seen. The first and, in my experience, more common one is where patients experience a surge in their dreaming, noting upon waking that they have dreamt more at night, remembering more of their dreams, or being awoken by a dream during the night. The increase in dreaming is the surfacing of unconscious material and its integration into the person’s conscious life experience. This in turn frequently promotes a feeling of well being that compensates for the disruption of sleep.

The second pattern is seen in patients who used to dream a lot and presently begin to experience more peaceful sleep. In these patients it seems that there is a good connection to the subconscious, but issues are rehashed and re-experienced without resolution. As these issues are resolved, the need to process them during sleep decreases, and dreaming is reduced accordingly. This situation must be contrasted with the situation where a patient experiences less dreaming yet also poorer sleep: in such cases the reduction in dreaming suggests a disconnection from the subconscious.

Shifts in sleep and dreaming while under homeopathic treatment occur incidentally to shifts in the main complaint: they are non-specific indicators of the state of spiritual health of the organism, regardless of the nature of the patient’s main complaint. It is normal for the chief complaint, when it is physical or mental rather than purely spiritual, to lag behind the spiritual state: the physical or mental complaint can shift only once the spiritual foundation for healing has been prepared. For this reason changes in sleep and dreaming are among the earliest and most sensitive clinical indicators, and as such are extremely helpful whenever changes in specific symptoms are vague, contradictory, or otherwise difficult to interpret.

Finally, at times the changing content of dreams itself is a useful indicator of the trajectory of progress. In such cases it may be useful to discuss this with the patient, in order to bring to greater awareness the significance of a specific dream. Overall, however, homeopathy is much less concerned with deep dream analysis than are many schools of psychotherapy.

Common causes of failure of homeopathic treatment

For homeopaths, it is important to communicate the nature of homeopathic medicine to their patients. Otherwise patients form unrealistic expectations about their own progress, based on the reasonable expectation that their symptoms should be relieved not only permanently but quickly. Unfortunately, some homeopaths are not be sufficiently cognizant that they are dealing with purely spiritual medicine, or may be swayed away from this conviction in their desire to relieve their patients’ suffering. But the above described approach produces by far the best long-term clinical results, and failure to look for the subtle shifts in spiritual health that precede more obvious shifts in physical or mental symptoms is a frequent cause of failure of homeopathic treatment even when the first hurdle — choosing the correct remedy — has been overcome. Most commonly this is seen as the habit of chasing symptoms by changing remedies in quick succession, instead of persisting with one carefully chosen remedy for the several months to several years that it takes to fully resolve a spiritual imbalance.

Homeopathic patients, on their part, will sometimes become disillusioned after relief is not quick to come, thereby missing out on the profound healing benefits which must follow the correct homeopathic prescription. For them it is important to understand the natural laws of healing as they become manifest through sleep, dreams, and otherwise. Otherwise the only resort for such patients, other than to keep suffering, is to suppress their symptoms through conventional medications or other forms of symptomatic treatment, without regard for the long-term consequences. Homeopathic treatment is very powerful, but is not well-suited for those looking for a quick fix, as homeopathic patients need to be willing to forego immediate relief in favor of a long-term investment in health and well-being.