Monday, November 1, 2010
It's All Arbitrary
After the accident, which included a concussion, my husband and best friend were relieved that I had not had a personality change. I was puzzled by their concern. These are people who like me – wouldn’t they like me if my personality changed?
All my life, I’ve met people who want me to have a different personality. It used to bother me. I didn’t have many friends, and if I could have popped personalities in and out like memory chips in a camera, I’d have done so.
As I got older, and made good friends, whom I liked for who they are and they liked me for who I am, I got used to the camaraderie. And I forgot how unhappy I’d been as a child.
Recently, I had a time-warp conversation. On the recommendation of my massage therapist, I went to her homeopath for help with healing my hip. Homeopaths don’t heal hips. They don’t want to know the name of your injury or disease. The are only interested in the quality of the pain – is it burning or cutting or aching? They want to know your favorite activities, the accidents you’ve been in, favorite foods, dislikes, upsets – the kinds of things that friends learn about you over time – they want it all at once.
This homeopath told me I was a “pulsatilla.” She asked me to look at the materia medica on the web about Pulsatilla, which is a wind flower. I looked at several websites about pulsatilla females. They are blond, blue-eyed, fair-skinned, soft, plump, weepy, sociable, and like to sleep with lots of pillows. I am none of the above. They do like to be outside, which I also like. They also like to move, which I enjoy. But my thought was that being outside and liking to move might be traits of other remedy plants, in addition to pulsatilla.
The homeopath was furious with me for questioning her choice of remedies. She insisted I was looking for things that are different instead of things that are the same. She does not like to be questioned.
When I was younger, I’d have questioned whether questioning a health practitioner was a good idea – they are trained in a field about which I know little or nothing. But that’s my personality – I question. I agreed to take the pulsatilla remedy. The homeopath warned me that I might have a discharge and I was to call her immediately if I did. She wasn’t going to tell me what kind of discharge. I asked if she wanted to know if I sweat a lot at the gym. Yes, she did. She warned me not to schedule anything important for the weekend because I might feel sick.
Over the next two days, I felt like I was getting a pimple, and I hunted for it, so I could pop it, but I couldn’t find it. And I have not had those little grains in the corners of my eyes when I wake up, so I figured I was making more tear fluid in my eyes, which is a kind of a discharge. I called her. These didn’t seem like a big deal to me. I reminded her that I did not see myself as a match for pulsatilla. She responded that I wouldn’t see myself as a match for anything. I told her that I found Myers - Briggs test pretty accurate. She said she’d never heard of that and was not interested. She was also angry that I’d called at 7 in the morning. She said to call immediately. And to me 7 AM is not early. She wasn’t answering her phone, so I left a message. I don’t know why the hour matters if it’s just a message.
Homeopathy treats the whole person, not just an ailment. She needed to know my “whole person” in words she understands, and I need to report my sensations in her preferred vernacular. I agreed to this. She did not agree to communicate with me in words I understand. I didn’t know I needed to ask for that. I have a huge vocabulary and I understand most of what I read or hear (or at least I think I do.) Standardized tests rank me very high on reading comprehension.
I looked up what she told me to research. She was refusing to look up something I recommended. She demanded to know why I was still harping on my not thinking pulsatilla was right a match for me. Because nothing happened. Because I’m not better. Because the more I read, the more traits I see that do not describe me. Because my friend the massage therapist said that this woman’s remedy choice for her got rid of headaches that had plagued her for 3 years, but I’m still in pain.
The more I explained, the angrier she got. And I did not wish for a changeable personality module. Instead I saw clearly how arbitrary it all is – do I like pillows? Do I like outdoors? Do I ask questions?
The homeopath told me that the remedy I took will work in my system for 6 to 8 months. Then she said she thought I should quit because she was angry. I asked her how I can quit if the drug is going to work in my system for 6 to8 months. She became furious that I called her remedy a drug. Homeopathic remedies are not “drugs.”
Okay, she’s got her own jargon. I tried paraphrasing what I’d heard and every time I tried she only became angrier. I asked her to paraphrase and she refused.
My personality became the issue. She does not like my personality. My husband and best friend do like it. And it’s totally arbitrary. No wonder they were worried my personality might change. They might not like me if my personality were different. We like to question, and play with words, and explore jargon, and do things outdoors together.
I wrote the homeopath releasing her from any obligation to care for me. Part of my personality is avoiding doing things that anger others. And my very presence angers her.
I now have a deeper and more profound appreciation for the friendships I enjoy and the arbitrariness of our personalities and preferences that make our friendships possible.