A pupil, well along in homoeopathy, has recently told us that one of his stumbling blocks is the “Strange, rare, and peculiar” symptoms. He wants to know what such a symptom is, with examples, whether it may be both a general and a particular, how it affects the evaluation, whether it is equivalent to a key-note, etc.
A “strange, rare and peculiar” symptom may be of two kinds. It may be a symptom which is weird, fantastic, unheard of, rarely found, such as “sensation in a non-pregnant woman of something alive, jumping about in the abdomen,” or “sensation of the whole body being brittle.” The second class is that of symptoms which though not fantastic in themselves are unusual, unexpected and even contrary to what you could rationally predicate in a given condition, for instance, “laughs and sings when in pain”; “thirst for cold drink during chilly stage only, with no thirst during fever”. This latter type, as you will see from the two above examples is peculiar because of the juxtapositions, it is the concomitance that is queer, “laughter with pain, thirst with chill.”.
Such a symptom can be a mental, a general or a particular; in the nature of things it cannot be a common symptom. As an example of such a mental, take sensation “as if she were double in bed”, or “constantly washing the hands”; as a typical strange general take the well known Camphor symptom,” desires heat during the hot stages and cold during the cold stages”, or “thirsty with aversion to water”; as a rare particular take “empty sensation inside the head”, or “blueness of the nail during chill”, or “temporary blindness which passes off as the headache develops”, or “epistaxis brought on by washing the face in cold water”.
A “strange, rare and peculiar” general, such as “chilly but aggravated from heat”, outranks other ordinary generals of the same class, unless there is a general which runs through so many particulars that it is the leading feature of the case, for instance the case has “suicidal on waking”; “homicidal impulses on waking”; “chilliness only on waking”; “restless when he wakes in the morning”. Here it is the aggravation on waking in the morning which is the most marked symptom, and it outranks, for repertorizing purposes, even the mentals, suicidal and impulses, because these are modifies of the patients state on waking rather than his constant condition.
Among particular symptoms, also, you give preference to the “strange, rare and peculiar” ones. Angina pectoris with pain extending up into the occiput would take preference over heart pain extending down the arm, because the former is more strange and unusual. The strange mental symptoms may often be of less value than the peculiar generals and particulars. This is especially true in neurasthenic cases which often invent or embroider symptoms.
In the realm of mentals, especially, we must be sure that a symptom is viridical as we said in a former lecture. Some wise homoeopaths claim that in mental cases it is safer to repertorize by strange and prominent generals and particulars, and to consider the myriad mental symptoms only as part of the general picture when choosing from the materia medica study of the remedies that come out highest from the repertory study. As a rule, then, we select the generals and the particulars which are most peculiar, provided always that they are prominent features of the case.
“Strange, rare and peculiar” symptoms often become keynotes although not all keynotes are strange symptoms, for instance, “hunger at 11 a.m.” is a keynote of Sulphur but it not a “strange, rare and peculiar” symptom; the same with the 4-8 p.m. aggravation of Lycopodium, but a keynote which is also a peculiar symptom is the well known aggravation from downward motion of Borax, or “the more you belch the more you have to belch” of Ignatia, or the peculiar symptom which is also a keynote of Calc. Alum., and Nitric acid “craves indigestible things like chalk, earth and slate pencils.”.
This individualization which is so essential a part of homoeopathy is greatly helped by the understanding and use of “strange, rare and peculiar” symptoms, which Hahnemann himself especially stressed. It is needless to say that if strange symptoms, found under only a couple of remedies, are permitted to eliminate they may mislead the student; for instance, we had a case which kept telling us that his twitching was worse during eating and when he sat down at the dining table.
This symptoms is to be found in the Kent repertory under only one remedy, Plumbum, which is not at all the remedy for the whole of this case. These strange symptoms are often difficult to elicit as patients feel ashamed of telling anything so peculiar, so inconsequential or absurd, yet especially in simple people they will crop out, and especially where they are generals they prove of enormous value as parts of the totality of the symptoms.
The Homoeopathic Recorder,.
Vol. XLV., No. 8.