Hair of the Dog

Daniel (not his real name) was distraught and in tears the first time we met.   It wasn’t an appointment - he had just dropped by the office with his wife to ask if homeopathy might help. Waves of emotions passed over his face as we spoke and he seemed barely able to contain whatever pain he was experiencing within himself.  There was no physical illness as far as he knew – or so he explained, but mentally Daniel felt at the end of his rope and wasn’t sure if or how to carry on. Actually, when the time came, I wasn’t sure he would show for his appointment. We had set it up for a few weeks out because of some traveling he had planned and my schedule. In such an acute state, who knows what might happen between now and then? But, in fact, there he was right on time…

It didn’t take much prompting to have him describe his condition. With tears streaming down his face again, he began, “I’m not OK… There are these emotional swings and it becomes impossible for me – or others – to deal with them. I wake in a horrible mood, snap at my family, and don’t cooperate at all.”

Describe it a bit more.

“When I go to work, I'm just plain mad. I get angry if people ask me questions or want something from me – or even just look at me. So little tolerance for others – I just go over the edge. I’m sharp tongued, insulting and feel hurtful. Obviously, that makes it hard to keep jobs. People don’t want to be around me. But I never really act violent.”

Tell me more about being angry.

“Authority is a problem for me. If I see a police office, I feel confrontational – though I never do anything…”

Describe the problem with the authority more.

“Anything that restricts me – physically or otherwise – it makes me feel corned. And that doesn’t feel safe. I need space.”

Go on…

“I feel vulnerable, attacked – always feel like I’m attacked. I don’t like people behind me. It’s an unknown. I don’t trust they have good intentions. I have to be cautious. I don’t like people looking at me – it’s even worse if they stare or touch me.”

What else can you tell me?

“I’m reclusive. Don’t like going out and talking to people… Actually, I’m sensitive underneath all this – sensitive to lights, sounds, energy. I can go to a place and feel things that have happened there. Often, it is terrible things like someone killed themselves. But it can be the opposite, like the beauty and serenity at a temple.”

“I love my wife deeply. She’s magical, but she has put up with so much from me. I don’t mean to, don’t want to hurt her”.

By this time in the consultation, I had an inkling of what kind of remedy Dan might need, but needed to hone in on the specifics a bit more.

When is the earliest time you can remember having these swings?

“Probably always… We moved around a lot as a kid. I was always the outsider, smaller than the other kids, the runt who wasn’t strong and didn’t belong. There always has been this sense of outsider-ness”.

Daniel went on to describe how his family had disintegrated around him when he was a child, ending up in foster care and then going into the service. Wherever he went, the same story repeated itself: the outsider, bullied, and repeated instances of being attacked.

The worst of it was when a superior officer assaulted him. “I was being tormented and that was the definitive point in time when I just stopped functioning.”

Later on he ‘bounced around’ from a few years at college to an assortment of jobs. But he would always feel wronged by someone or other, be it a supervisor, a co-worker or a bank teller and get himself fired. Despite getting married and opening his own business, nothing relieved him of this sense of injustice and persecution.

At this point, the remedy seemed pretty clear, but I wanted some confirmation.

Do you have any fears or phobias?

“A few things like needles. Anything that could stab me in the eye, actually anything that gets near my eyes is scary. I don’t like cemeteries either – I’m just too aware of the presences. I used to be scared of being arrested and never able to escape.”

Anything else?

“I’m not really scared of them, but I’m cautious around dogs… I actually have a hard time with how well people treat their dogs and how sh***y they treat other people.   They have two different natures – one animal, the other spiritual. One is base and gross, the other evolved”.

With this the remedy was confirmed.

Lyssinum is a nosode, that is, a remedy made from a disease substance. There are many such medicinal preparations in homeopathy derived from various sources such as a scabies vesicle, a tubercular abscess or the exudate of a syphilitic chancre. They have a time-honored place amongst some of the most effective medicines at our disposal.

Lyssininum, as it turns out, is made from the saliva of a rabid dog. ‘Lyss’ is the Greek for ‘rabies’ and apparently the word is synonymous for ‘madness’. In English, we have the word ‘lyssophobia’, which means a fear of becoming insane. The remedy was first introduced into the homeopathic material medica in 1833, based on the provings or homeopathic experiments conducted by the ‘father of American homeopathy’, Constantine Hering.

An alternative name for the remedy is ‘Hydrophobinum’, related to the well-known fear of water that occurs when infected with rabies. Hydrophobia is also one of the well-known symptoms a person needing this remedy might have. The remedy has a strong affinity for the nervous system, the throat and the reproductive system. People needing this remedy tend to have very acute senses and are prone to be quite reactive.

On the one hand they can be quite fearful, often anxious about the future. On the other, they often display a quick, violent temper. They can be rude, abusive, and, in certain cases, violent. When the violence finds no outward expression , it can turn inward. So, Lyssinum is one of the remedies indicated for cutters or other forms of self-mutilation.

Underneath this anger is a sense of being insulted or tormented, frequently by someone they feel reliant on or subordinate to. Characteristically, Lyssinum will lash out suddenly and then feel remorseful. It is as though the rage at being dominated becomes uncontrollable, but once expressed, they return to a submissive state. This then refuels the sense of injustice and establishes a continuing cycle of acting out. This state of mind often makes Lyssinum a very useful remedy in cases of abuse.

It has been about a year since Daniel first began homeopathic treatment, consistent with taking his remedy and reliable about follow up appointments. All in all, there has been great progress. His anger and mood swings have improved dramatically. He still faces many challenges because, while no longer so reactive, the negative consequences of his former extreme behavior will take time to redress.   But he is now in a position to do so because the inner torment is much diminished.