A holistic system of medicine treats the individual as a whole person, and not as an assembly of separate disease conditions. A patient with headaches, period pains, acid reflux, arthritis and depression, who receives a different treatment for each condition, without a consideration of the whole, is not being treated holistically. The non-holistic approach can be applied using pharmaceutical drugs, as is current practice in mainstream medicine, or by using herbs, supplements or homoeopathic remedies. In other words, the style of drugs does not determine whether the treatment is holistic or not. What determines this is the approach of the practitioner.
A holistic perspective requires individualisation. In analysing the patient’s symptoms, the physician pays close attention to the personal, unusual aspects, which illuminate the patients unique nature and condition, so that a treatment can be applied which targets the root cause. In the case of our fictitious patient, the symptoms involve imbalances in the circulatory system, producing headaches, hormonal system producing menstrual problems, digestive system producing acidity, articulation creating arthritis and the emotional/chemical balance, resulting in depression. The patient would also be asked about their feelings, and what events in their life preceded the onset of their symptoms. The sum of all the symptoms adds up to a recognisable totality, and it is this totality that reflects the unique pattern, that individualises the patient.
Holistic medicine begins with the perception of the totality, and seeks to treat causes, rather than effects.
Treatments aimed in this way can legitimately be said to be treating the whole person. This is an energetic rather than a chemical approach to disease and health, and is the foundation for energetic treatment systems, such as acupuncture, cranial osteopathy, homoeopathy and shiatsu.
If there is a unitary source that creates the multiplicity of symptoms, how is it possible to target this unitary source with treatment?
To answer this, we have to approach health more like a quantum physicist. We need to perceive the human being as an energy system.
The symptoms are not the source of the problem, they are the attempts by the body to harmonise or re-stabilise itself. The real problem is a disturbance in the vital energy. The symptoms are the result of adaptations to change, especially trauma.
Homeopathy is a bridge between the empiricism that dominates the knowledge industry, and the rationalism of our forbearers in medicine. It is based upon a foundation of principles, or universal laws, such as the law of similars, and the law of cure, but it uses an empirical methodology for discovering the specicific curative powers of each remedy.
In the words of Samuel Hahnemann, the originator of homeopathy: If the physician can perceive what needs to be cured in the patient, i.e. in each individual patient, that which is disturbed at the core, from which all symptoms are the result; and if he can perceive what is curative in medicines, i.e. in each individual plant, mineral or animal medicine, the principle that each medicine is most exactly suited to correct, then is he a true practitioner of the healing arts.
Let’s take the first component:
To perceive what needs to be cured in the patient, who may have a multiplicity of complaints, distributed throughout the body and the psyche, the first task is to take the case. The position required for this is to perceive without prejudice.
We call this the unprejudiced observer. This means to perceive without projection. The practice requires being centred, i.e. being still, being open, and working from silence. We should be empty, so that the patient experiences the space as an invitation. It is a held space, not a vacuum, in which the patient is witnessed and acknowledged, and experiences empathy. The role of the witness is an important aspect of the Unprejudiced Observer. When you are centred in yourself, you perceive others with clarity. For example, when a patient makes a gesture, you experience the energy that lies behind the gesture. It has a charge. It is important to differentiate between a giveaway comment that has no energy behind it, and one that could open a door to the heart of the patient’s reality.
What are we listening for?
In nature there is a hierarchy. Likewise, there is a hierarchy of symptoms in disease. The disease state has progressed in time, symptom by symptom. There may have been treatments along the way that successfully suppressed a presenting symptom, but some time later, a new and deeper manifestation of the problem has crystallised. This timeline must be uncovered. The patient is usually not clear about these links, so this work is painstaking, but essential. At the root, or at the top of the hierarchy, are the feelings and attitudes that drive the patients conscious state. These manifest as anxiety, fears and perceptions of reality that are determined by past experience. The original circumstances are the exciting causes, and the buried state, often unconscious, is the maintaining cause of the patients suffering. This central disturbance often lies hidden behind compensating behaviour. The inner hidden state, and the face that is shown to the world are frequently a polarity. The classical example is when someone who feels small within acts tough and big on the outside to compensate.
It is this polarity, in its most accurate detail that we seek to uncover. The remedy chosen should reflect the central disturbance and the functional changes and morbid pathological tendencies that have developed as a result of that state.