The following is an example of how a homeopath gathers information for a complaint.

Presenting complaint: Chronic stress headaches

Let’s suppose a man has chronic stress headaches and neither aspirin nor painkillers is helping. He goes to see a registered homeopath. As part of the consultation she asks him to tell her about his work environment. The man instantly describes a heated argument with a colleague over a project. “As always, the boss decides to go with the other guy’s suggestions instead of mine,” sneers the man. “That gosh-darned, hot-air balloon Stanley always gets prize.”

The homeopath notes that the man’s voice has become louder. He has loosened his tie and his eyes are getting a little manic as the stress hormones come flooding back through his body, as though the argument is happening at that very moment. She puts a little star in her notes next to how he describes his co-worker Stanley and how he reverted to a childish voice. She notices that he is taking shallow breaths, his forehead is getting sweaty, and his face is flushed. The arteries in his temples and neck are showing, and the energy in the room has shifted considerably. He snaps out of his reverie, almost embarrassed to have shown her his inner mind.

All this man has to do is think about work and his body goes into a full fight-or-flight response, creating a stressed body and a continual loop of fiery energy that has to go somewhere. In his case, it goes to his head and creates headaches. This stress energy could just as easily become a stomach ulcer, heart attack, depression, or eczema. Where and how it will show up depends on lifestyle, genetics, food choices, environment, and self-care practices.

The homeopath understands that the problem is not really the headaches. It is how the man handles stress in his life. With a little more prodding, she tries to narrow it down into smaller components. She asks if there was any other time in his life that he experienced headaches like these. He says, “Yes, as a teenager.” She asks what was happening in his life at that time. He explains that his father wanted him to play football, but he was not very good so the coach kept him on the bench. While sitting on the sidelines, he knew his father would yell at him when he got home, telling him to try harder and that he was a disappointment and that a monkey could play ball better than him. He would work himself into such a frenzy he would get a crippling headache, which provided distraction from his father’s tirade. It also offered protection as he would soon be able to escape and go lie down. The man’s body goes back to this familiar pattern whenever he feels inferior, unworthy, small, insecure, and just not good enough—as is happening in the present when Stanley’s ideas are chosen over his.

We know that balance or homeostasis is the bull’s-eye for the body, which will always try to get there. We use homeopathic remedies to harness and direct that inherent intelligence. Here is where I think homeopathy gets really fun. Using the energy of the remedies, we can essentially pull a fast one on a body and mind that is stuck in a dis-ease pattern, encouraging the built-in homeostasis. We use the remedies to create a similar, yet slightly stronger version of the patient’s complaint, allowing the body to wipe it out as it pushes back to center. As a result of purposely directing the inherent healer inside you, the illness or discomfort is extinguished as the body strives for balance, overcompensating for the remedy.

To treat our man with the headaches, having established there is no physical reason for his pain, we narrow his symptoms down to grief, shame, disappointment, and/or rejection. Then we give a remedy that addresses those emotions. The patient now has an awareness of this dis-eased emotional pattern and how it is connected to his headaches. If he were my patient, I would show him breathing exercises, encourage physical activity, probably more water and 'me-time'. 

If the homeopathic remedy has worked well, I would expect a follow-up appointment to go like this: A month later the man returns and reports that not only are the headaches gone, he is getting along better with his boss, and now sees that Stanley the blowhard actually has some great ideas. He has broken the pattern of feeling small, holding in the anger until a headache comes on. He has used his breathing consciously in traffic and during stress at work, and finds it helps calm him down, as do the weekend fishing trips he's started taking with his son. Will he ever get a headache again? Maybe, because patterns run deep. But now he has awareness, his energy has changed, and he has more control over how he responds to challenge. His likelihood of having headaches diminishes greatly and with continued care he may just resolve them forever.