The homeopathic practitioner is faced with a challenging task in choosing precisely the correct remedy at each stage in a patient's treatment, but the patient as well carries significant responsibilities. Homeopathy is a powerful and effective therapy, but it also demands a great deal of the patient. One doesn't get something for nothing. The patient must learn to observe areas of life which are ordinarily ignored by most people, and this observation must be done objectively and dispassionately.
It is not enough for the patient to merely keep a notebook of every detail and then leave it to the prescriber to decide which details are significant and which are not. Symptoms are manifestations of the vital force, and as such they are the basis for making a homeopathic prescription. The symptoms important to the homeopath are those which have meaning to the patient, not mere pieces of data reported out of a compulsion to be 'complete'. Those observations noted by the patient in the course of daily existence - those which have some meaning, however small - are the very symptoms which are created by the organism's vital force, and therefore these are the ones which lead to a prescription. On the other hand, it is important that the patient does not go too far in the other direction either. Some people are too careful about not misleading the prescriber and so they ignore changes until they are absolutely certain. For example, if a patient of this type notices a definite tendency to chilliness on a particular afternoon, his mind may search for possible explanations - perhaps someone turned down the heat, or perhaps he drank a little too much iced water at lunch, or perhaps his metabolism is lower than normal because his sleep was restless the night before. If one searches hard enough, it is possible to 'explain away' virtually everything. This approach can present a big problem for the homeopath because there will be too few symptoms upon which to prescribe.
So, it is possible to go too far in either direction - either reporting too many symptoms having little actual significance or 'explaining away' the many symptoms which in fact are important. The best policy lies in between. The patient should accept the fact that everyone is an individual, including especially himself, and that any eccentricities which occur are simply a manifestation of his individuality.
At the same time, the patient should not place ultimate importance on these changes; he should refrain from interpreting what he observes. Otherwise, he may begin to imagine that he has some serious disease, or that he is sicker than he really is. This is why I recommend an objective and dispassionate attitude. Symptom observations are just that and no more; they are observations. No judgments are made about them. They are merely manifestations of the unique way that the defence mechanism is attempting to maintain balance.
The basic task of the patient is to report to the prescriber every deviation from natural function, not only on the physical level, but on mental and emotional levels as well. Homeopaths do not limit themselves to merely physical symptoms leading to an allopathic diagnosis. Much more important are the wide variety of symptoms expressing themselves in every aspect of the patient's life - relationships, work stresses, reactions to environmental changes, food cravings or aversions, sexual desire, quality of sleep, and so on.
Even small observations which seem insignificant from an allopathic standpoint may well be crucial from the homeopathic perspective - particularly if it is something which has meaning to the patient. For example, suppose a patient has been found by allopathic doctors to be suffering from ulcerative colitis. He is used to spending the entire consultation discussing details about his bowel habits. A homeopath is also interested in this information to some extent, of course, but much more time will be spent on other aspects of the patient's life.
To the homeopath, the most useful information might be that the patient is often anxious - particularly about the future, is easily startled by sudden noises, can fall asleep only while lying on the right side, and has a strong craving for salt. Such pieces of information are irrelevant in the allopathic context, but they lead directly to the curative medicine in the homeopathic setting.
Another responsibility of the patient is to avoid impatience. This is especially true for chronic disease sufferers. One cannot expect immediate relief from symptoms possibly caused by pain-killers, tranquillizers or cortisone. Homeo- pathy does not have specific medicines to relieve pain, allay anxiety, counteract insomnia, etc. Homeopathic prescriptions are always designed to bring about cure of the entire organism. The goal is harmonious functioning on all levels of being, not merely momentary relief of specific symptoms. Sometimes this process takes weeks or months and in more severe cases it can take one or two years.
One must not be too impatient. Patients sometimes consult homeopaths with the idea that a miracle is likely to occur, and when progress is slower than they expect, they denounce homeopathy and seek another therapy. The laws of Nature proceed at their own pace and they do not progress any faster under the demands of impatience.
The actual time required for cure depends upon several factors. The first is the strength of the vital force at the outset of treatment. A patient with a strong constitution will respond more dramatically, while someone with a weak vitality will take longer to cure. Stronger patients may need only one prescription and weaker ones may need a carefully- prescribed series of remedies.
The strength of the defence mechanism is determined to a large extent by hereditary factors. Patients coming from families exhibiting many chronic diseases are likely to require a longer time for cure. In addition, patients with a history of several illnesses, particularly if treated with many allopathic drugs, present more problems for homeopathic treatment. And finally, patients with long histories of poor diet, no exercise, and abuse of alcohol or drugs can expect cure only after extended periods of time.
Another factor in homeopathic treatment is the length of time the homeopath takes to find the indicated remedy. This is not an easy task and it may take some time to accomplish.
Patients who are used to the allopathic method of prescribing, which requires relatively simple judgments for finding palliative medications, may be disappointed at first with the systematic, painstaking process involved in homeopathic prescribing. Rarely, homeopaths encounter patients who become suspicious about the competence of the prescriber when he spends so much time consulting his books or computer and carefully inquiring into seemingly irrelevant details.
The patient must, however, remember that the process of finding a correct remedy is difficult enough without having to contend with a suspicious or impatient patient. Therefore, the patient should be glad to see the homeopath taking so much time and care. The patient should try to help the homeopath feel as psychologically at ease as possible in order to aid the process.
Another factor governing the length of time for cure is the level upon which the predominance of symptoms reside. Patients suffering primarily physical symptoms are generally easier to treat than patients suffering mostly from mental or emotional complaints. This is because the vital force, insofar as possible, always tries to limit disturbances to the most peripheral levels of the organism. People can suffer from physical difficulties and still maintain a considerable degree of well-being on mental or emotional levels, but the reverse is not true. People who are disturbed on these deep levels experience much less well-being and are generally much more limited in their life-expressions. For this reason, patients with primarily mental or emotional problems have a relatively weak vital force, and cure can be expected to be correspondingly slower.
Once a prescription has been made and progress has occurred, the patient still has responsibilities. There are a number of influences which can interfere with the action of homeopathic remedies. In the absence of these factors, remedies may literally continue to act for months or even years, but if the effect is disrupted, it makes further prescribing even more difficult.
Allopathic drugs are among the most powerful interfering factors. An occasional aspirin for temporary aches or pains is generally no problem, but consistent use of analgesics, tran- quillizers, antibiotics, contraceptive pills and especially cortisone can completely counteract the action of homeopathic remedies. In some instances, even dental work can produce the same effect. Therefore, homeopathic patients should refrain from all other therapies except for true emergencies and, if possible, only after consulting the homeopath.
Coffee is another common homeopathic 'antidote'. Coffee is a stimulant which can have effects as powerful as medicines. Individual sensitivities vary widely, so that for some patients a rare cup of mild coffee may have no effect, while for others even this exposure is enough to interfere. For this reason all homeopathic patients should avoid coffee altogether. Decaffeinated coffee, black tea, and grain-based coffee substitutes are all acceptable.
The handling of remedies themselves can also be an impor- tant factor for patients taking daily doses. Even in their glass vials or paper envelopes, remedies can be destroyed by exposure to direct sunlight, strong odours (particularly the odour of camphor and other aromatic substances) and excessive heat or cold. Remedies should be stored in a shaded place of moderate temperature free of strong odours.
Finally, the responsibility which occasionally can be the most demanding for patients is that of waiting out whatever healing crisis occurs. In the process of cure, the strengthening of the vital force may result in a temporary increase of symptoms. Usually this lasts from only a few hours to a few days, but in some cases it may take longer. If the patient doesn't understand this possibility, it may at first seem as if the homeopathic medicine is having an adverse effect and there may be a tendency to seek allopathic relief from the exacerbated symptoms. The same confusion may occur if the patient expects to never have a relapse, when in fact his or her particular case is expected to require several remedies in order to accomplish full cure. The patient must be able to recognize what is happening and trust the judgment of the homeopath. The patient must avoid panic and await further developments.
Homeopathy is a demanding system not only for the prescriber but for the patient as well. It is not a therapy in which the patient unthinkingly reports the diagnosis of allopathic physicians, receives a pill, and is then cured. It requires a good deal of objective self-observation, an attitude of sympathy and assistance for the task confronting the prescriber, a willingness to avoid interfering factors and the wisdom to be patient during whatever healing crises occur. For most people, these responsibilities are quite easy to meet, and the results are correspondingly gratifying.