Last Edited: March 7, 2019
I think it’s safe to say Arsenicum persons have a bad rap amongst homeopaths; the less evolved of the type tend to cause the same amount of ruckus when mildly ill as they do when severely disordered. In Let Like Cure Like prominent practitioner Vinton McCabe writes, “Some consider Arsenicum to be one of the most intelligent constitutional types. My experience has been that, while they are certainly intellectual, they are not particularly smart” (236). He’s probably tired of all the calls he receives from them seeking this confirmation, inquiring about this symptom, intense or minor, which they may have inquired about many times before… More than any other constitution, Arsenicums will cling to their homeopaths like glue in order to ensure “everything’s OK” at all times, but not like a sweet, yielding Pulsatilla might. No, they do so rather unbecomingly: with authority. An interesting combination of fear and aggression characterizes this remedy type’s disordered persona, primarily because ne is not afraid of you, but nir illness; in this respect, Arsenicum is not so much a classic “nerd” (Silicea, Argentum Nitricum), nor a combative and egotistical Sulphur intellectual, but a self-possessed academic whom many avoid challenging in light of nir hidden, yet very present, willfulness and indomitability (Arsenicums can be rather intimidating). These persons don’t lack smarts in ill-health, they lack a basic faith in the world, and from that, practical application of their intellect, which explains why I caused so many aggravations throughout treatment. Indeed, few will fear as greatly and as thoroughly as Arsenicum, a fundamental propensity that invokes many of the constitution’s tell-tale coping mechanisms: control, dominance, and analysis to the point of self-destruction. Not unlike a victim of arsenic poisoning, Arsenicums (regardless of the disease afflicting them) suffer from an exaggerated feeling of insecurity in a deep state of malady. The heart brings fear, the body brings fear, the very concept of disorder brings fear; oddly enough, this unabridged terror differs drastically from the natural confidence, even forcefulness, Arsenicum assumes in wellness, or when moderately–and barely-noticeably–imbalanced.
Arsenicum types live in their heads; as such, they drive themselves to the ground, both in body and mind, for they do not fret over consequences they do not believe exist. They want what they want, and possess the wherewithal to get it, so long as their goals reflect their natural talents (Arsenicum will not go after what Arsenicum cannot do best). The more stable of the bunch won’t possess a lick of anxiety prior to getting sick, and may in fact suffer from an invincibility complex when life leaves them unscathed; thus, it is false pretense that provides Arsenicum with an illusion of security, and the sense of control ne values so dearly. Once Arsenicums are tested by life’s hardships, their underlying inability to cope manifests out of sheer panic, due to which they tighten their grip on the present in order to prepare for the impending doom of the future**. Unfortunately, the coping mechanisms Arsenicum often adopts fail, as only the physical, the intellectual, the practical, the regimented guides them; restriction ensues, and the spirit suffocates from lack of emotional fulfillment (Arsenicums analyze their emotions more than they actually feel them. They keep themselves at a safe distance whether they realize it or not.) Practicality over affection, “safety”–in the myriad of ways it manifests–over experience, and the self over others heightens Arsenicums’ deeply-rooted pessimism; isolation, which takes place in the home, wherein they can control their fate, furthers their disconnect from reality. But not all Arsenicums completely embody the remedy’s lower qualities, even at their lowest; we have spectrum here, right? Under a mild state of disequilibrium, like the one most Americans assume at some point or another in their lifetime (as I did in high school), Arsenicums won’t have much to fear except minor digestive upset, which they may not even realize they possess (as I did not in high school). The mind, however, will be affected, as evident in a heightened tendency toward irritability and cynicism, amongst other disordered characteristics. Furthermore, some Arsenicum types possess no propensity whatsoever to overcome their lower selves, while others aim to rise above. Such is true of all constitutions. Arsenicums may negate their critical nature by relinquishing their pride–they don’t know it all; choosing others over the self will accommodate accepting any consequences that may arise out of the futuristic unknown (it will also help restore their faith). Finally, because multiple essences comprise the totality of an individual, wherein differing tendencies work to subjugate, pacify, or amplify one another, the sentiments of other remedy types will modify or even counteract some of Arsenicum’s lower qualitites. Let me provide an example regarding my own treatment: Ignatia, a remedy type I semi-belong to*, favors morality–Arsenicum, perfectionism; combine the two and I found myself striving for moral perfectionism, which led to a lot of headaches when I wasn’t immediately rewarded with success (the higher self takes time to enact; Arsenicum must learn the virtue of patience). Perhaps the constant feeling that I had done something wrong (Ignatia) actually amplified my principalistic nature (Arsenicum), because I set such high, and often unattainable standards for myself. Moreover, I struggled to prevent my irritability from affecting how I treated others; I felt their pain like a true Phosphorus, and I knew my struggle did not give me the green light to act and behave based on the immediate conceptions of my mind. Similar to the study of Astrology, in which multiple signs influence an individual’s chart, it is possible to encounter a Virgo Sun with a messy room (or an Arsenicum that’s late to everything). Ja feel? In any event, Arsenicums tend to get their panties in a bunch more than most remedy types, and I certainly did these past few years. I also felt like a jerk 24/7. Reading some characterizations in homeopathic textbooks had me awestruck at their accuracy (was I being watched?? Just kidding, but Arsenicum is paranoid). Here I provide an analysis of my experiences while ill as well my interpretation of the motives behind many Arsenicum thought processes.
*I believe I developed a chronic Ignatia layer because of the deaths in my family that helped perpetuate my illness. I don’t believe I am full-on Ignatia otherwise; nonetheless, the mentalities associated with the constitution that I experienced I experienced heavily at the time.
**Do not forget the lower self becomes exacerbated in illness, and can exacerbate to an extreme degree given how sick someone is and how likely ne is to grow from nir shadow-side inclinations. The average, healthy Arsenicum type will not be so egotistical nor inclined to control. The lower self arises out of suffering, it is suffering, because it is a coping mechanism, not a healing mechanism. Hopefully your Arsenicum patient or the Arsenicum involved in your life, which may even be you, will learn to realize nir innate power by virtue of nir innate agency. This form of agency can only be honed when one in fact relinquishes control; it is an irony found in the quest to overcome many lower-self qualities.
.Arsenicum in a deep state of illness will assume a few key traits, which can be exemplified by these terms: “control [restriction], order, criticism, hypochondria” (McCabe 176), as well as restless fulfillment, fear, insecurity, and the sheer anguish that results out of these conditions.
.IN A NUTSHELL
Note the following particularly apply to those in a severe state of imbalance. Mildly-disordered Arsenicums are rather cool, uninclined to fear, fret, and worry as much as their ghastly counterparts, for they have much less to do so about (extreme disorder brings extreme instability); however, they will be more irritable, they will seek control, and they will, of course, criticize.
- serious worrywarts, about their health if compromised and that of family members, whether compromised or not (imagine the possibilities!).
- true over-analyzers–and specifically, psycho-analyzers (think Freud)-–being highly attuned to the bullshit of others whilst strategically manifesting it themselves.
- formulaic. In addition to the type’s exceptional ability to accurately and decisively split fine hairs, Arsenicums easily pick up on patterns within data.
- very perceptive–to their own motives (when they are willing to admit their wrongs to themselves, but perhaps not to everyone else), to the motives of those around them, as well as to changes in internal and external stimuli. Which means Arsenicums are also…
- suspicious of others, as they read into everything, too far into everything, in line with the heightening of their senses;
- sensitive to external impressions (Arsenicum cannot focus with the slightest noise disturbance, which functions to irritate);
- sensitive to internal impressions, constantly analyzing this symptom, or that feeling;
- and sensitive to disorder and confusion: unmade beds, unfinished sentences, sentences that don’t seem to be going anywhere, bunches of unopened mail, long lists that cannot be categorized, drawers with clothes carelessly thrown about them, spice cabinets, etc. utterly torment Arsenicum.
- controlling. Lower Arsenicums control others (delegating tasks quite nicely!); higher Arsenicums in the works may merely control every facet of their own life when severely diseased, until they learn to let go, and heal.
- manipulative when the lower self is allowed to dominate, knowing just the right words to say (and what not to say) in order to get what they want.
- direct when they ask questions, and indirect when they answer them.
- always reading between the lines, even if no in-between exists.
- paranoid, perhaps because they are so aware of their own manipulative powers that they think other people are trying to manipulate them. What we see in others is a reflection of ourselves.
- defensive due to a marked insecurity regarding their work and how others perceive it, specifically when ill; otherwise, Arsenicums are quite confident about their intellectual pursuits (think the competency complex–Arsenicum types want to appear competent in line with their perfectionism! If they have everything under control, they won’t feel exposed. See below).
- pessimistic (every reflection over my mood, how long I had spent suffering, if I’d ever get better, etc. was met with negativity).
- highly critical, highly attuned to flaws, extremely capable of stripping the necessary from the unnecessary, which will permeate all decision-making processes (although, what seems necessary to Arsenicum might deter from the necessity in living life).
- authoritative, both demanding respect and giving it where it is due.
- dominant at their worst, and leaders at their best, possessing a natural air of self-possession, refinement, duty, and the capacity to implement.
- irritable when people question them too much/question them at all when they don’t feel like talking, especially upon waking;
- irritable when inanimate objects do not oblige to their needs (i.e. when my phone runs out of battery while I’m out. Just kidding–I always charge my battery before leaving the house);
- irritable when others create a mess of what they have just cleaned (or wish they had the energy to clean);
- and irritable when their senses are overloaded.
- restless. Restless exhaustion will characterize a heavy Arsenicum state, in which physical debility intermingled with high anxiety completely tortures Arsenicum. This remedy type is wired and tired.
- averse to food; in the acute, this sensitivity will lead to vomiting with the slightest provocation. Although Arsenicums in a chronic state of illness are also food-averse, their repulsion may be dually heeded by a desire for perfection and control. The perhaps-“skinny” standards set by the society in which they live surely play a role.
- better with food, however, depending on the stage of the disease process and what can be stomached (hypoglycemia is common; it will be felt in the head and will further all mental complaints, such as irritability, depression, the fear of impending doom, etc.).
- worse with high-simple-carbohydrate diets (constipation, furthered adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, etc.). Interestingly, a preference for “light” foods may arise out of Arsenicum’s yearn for control, resulting in the aforementioned tendency toward disordered eating. Worry already taxes Arsenicum’s fatigued adrenals; complexity is needed to help the body properly regulate its blood sugar. Note that, in most cases, only people who are already disordered develop eating disorders, however.
- full of fear–of death, eternal sickness, insomnia, the future, microbes, dirty bathrooms 😉 , misdiagnoses, etc. Germaphobic tendencies naturally follow.
- afraid of getting themselves worked up.
- afraid of ghosts, robbers, heights, and being left alone.
- afraid of the very concept of disorder, which may include the corporeal (in contrast to Phosphorus, who directly fears the body).
- afraid of losing control, naturally.
- afraid even when they cannot direct their fear, particularly at night.
- suicidal in order to escape their fear (Arsenicum is full of suicidal inclinations).
- always cold, unless bundled up more than any healthy individual should ever have to. Think Antarctica in Floridian weather.
- better with heat, except for the head. (Burning sensations better with heat surely points to the remedy.)
- test their boundaries.
- perfect everything.
- get caught up in the details.
- think they know what’s best–and won’t hesitate to tell others just what that is.
- have an all-or-nothing attitude.
- play their cards right.
- delay their responses in order to play their cards right.
- clean everything.
- possess a great sense of urgency.
- feel like they’re on coke in earlier stages of illness.
- feel like they’re strung out on coke in later stages of illness.
- tap their feet incessantly.
- suffer from racing thoughts.
- think if only this situation was that way, everything else in life would be better (control).
- hate the idea that something could be better if it’s not.
- think: is it worth it? even in instances wherein emotion should predominate.
- weigh out all options in any given circumstance until everyone around them is driven to insanity.
- reduce their list of allowable behavior to the confines of their perfectionism.
- restrict anything and everything to feel secure, especially money.
- want all their ducks in a row, even when they do not possess the energy to make it so.
- organize their drawers once, twice, three times. Next week they’ll do the same thing.
- make lots of lists.
- think about cleaning the kitchen while doing the laundry.
- wash their hands in between touching the refrigerator door handle and their food, and then in between their phone and the salt shaker.
- constantly talk about health.
- feed into their fears and the symptoms of their illness. This is not necessarily a sign of melodrama, but an assumed inability to cope, an intense yearn for things to be the way they should be. Control equates to security.
- feel utterly defenseless, which is why they spend so much time preparing for the future.
- have nightmares about things they cannot control, like demons.
- feed into their perceptions of the world around them (everything is as they see it; so is the limitation of pure rationality). Manifesting is a true feat for Arsenicum.
- have a hard time letting things go (if only it had happened this way).
- think about unfinished work while out “having fun”.
- think back to work they have “finished” and assume it’s flawed.
- often focus too much on the end result instead of the journey.
- search for meaningless fulfillment (through the fulfillment of duty).
- forget to spend time with those they love amidst chasing their ambitions.
- hate to waste anything, especially time, money, and resources.
- want what they want at that very moment, doing anything to get it, especially if it’s within their power–or the power of someone around them (read: manipulation and playing their cards right. Lower Arsenicums will plan, implement, and conquer).
- want to know the ins and outs of everything, feeling incomplete until they do about a topic of choice (remember the extreme tendency toward detailed analysis. Arsenicums dissect all subjects of interest to them, even their emotions).
- run until they burn out, both mentally and physically.
- naturally disrespect the mind-body connection (a lack of self-love is evident even at mild states of imbalance–this is a biggie!).
- think they’re invincible prior to illness.
- respect their boundaries at all costs when ill.
- get irritated with neediness from people who don’t actually seem in need.
- give a lot to people in need, however.
- root for the underdog, especially if that underdog is giving their all.
- resist anything forced on them.
- force everything until it’s the way they want it to be.
- take things personally (think, once again, the competency complex!).
- never admit to their weaknesses.
- play the blame game. Arsenicums may displace responsibility for a few reasons (there are many Arsenicums, whom I will write about below, that are exceedingly pleasant; in contrast to their lower, controlling, manipulative counterparts, they use their keen, probing, unrelenting intellect and tendency to perfect in a way that allows them to rectify all lower traits): they are always right, and desire to be perceived as such; they don’t like to admit to their aforementioned weaknesses, and dub their own misjudgments just that; they don’t want other people to use their weaknesses against them at a later date, so they always seek to play their cards right; and because Arsenicums may simply refuse to accept that bad things happen sometimes, that the course of their lives, their relationships, and their conversations with those they enjoy are not always within their control, lower Arsenicums childishly cannot let go. They so gravely desire to micromanage every aspect of existence that to fail in that endeavor means to tolerate the consequences of experiences they could have “determined” the course of, if only they had done something different! Yet we can’t always determine the course of our lives, and such spontaneity is what makes them worth living (and learning from).
- hate when people stare at them for too long (fear of scrutiny). Arsenicums may get angry when they feel they are being psychoanalyzed, which is rather hypocritical considering they righteously do so to everyone else! Arsenicums tend to follow their own protocol in other aspects of life, however, for it is the output of their analyses they religiously follow, not always the methods by which they appraise certain behaviors and thought patterns… A major facet of the Arsenicum “enlightening” process, then, is to humble their strength in their own beliefs so as to allow room for the opinions of others (Arsenicum needn’t become malleable, just humble, and flexible); non-judgment will then succeed Arsenicums’ sometimes-black-and-white interpretation of the world, permitting them to become more open to potential truths.
- feel exposed, prompting methods of control to detract from the weaknesses they imagine are amplified (weaknesses that tend to be amplified only in their minds; consider again that what we see in others is a reflection of ourselves…). Arsenicums are not insecure like Phosphorus persons in that they seek approval, really a veiled form of love, from others; their desire to appear competent stems more from their inflated ego, and only insecurity when their methods of controlling how other perceive them are failing. Notably, in contrast, Sulphur isn’t concerned what others think because Sulphur does not think ne is weak. Clearly if Arsenicum can be made to feel weak it points to how ne feels about nemself: imperfect and thus flawed.
- think others think less of them than they actually do (self-consciousness combined with suspicion).
- let fear, control, and negativity ruin their concept of a valuable existence.
A FEW POSITIVES
The Arsenicum higher self features the negation of selfishness, irritability, and control in favor of letting go. Breathing soul-satisfying peace in and the ego, as well as fear, out. This all-encompassing tendency will be most apparent, of course, in good health (but how fruitful it is to manifest it in a deep state of illness!).
- often very witty, possessing a clever way with words.
- highly ambitious and perfectionistic; when these tendencies are geared toward subjects that really matter, such as morality and an unstoppable regard for the welfare of others (!), nothing will keep Arsenicums from achieving the vision they hold for themselves, or the world.
- generous, even philanthropic, especially toward those in need (Arsenicum is very down-to-earth, and despite possessing a grave fear of poverty–an often irrational fear rectified by the remedy–isn’t typically ostentatious, or in need of many material items. Arsenicums would rather give than “waste” an opportunity to do so, finding little desire to spend money on the frivolous when it could go towards a good cause!).
- highly intelligent. The Arsenicum capacity to analyze and dissect is almost unmatched, leading to many revolutionary discoveries. Freud is thought to have been Arsenicum constitutionally (Bailey 16), as was the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (Coulter xviii). Sulphur comprised Hahnemann’s constitutional makeup as well, a remedy type capable of the same mental agility and rationality; however, Sulphur is generally more concerned with the consolidation of a variety of broad topics than Arsenicum, who splits hairs like it’s nobody’s business.
- pragmatic, and very Virgo in the way in which ne deals with practical matters. Arsenicum is naturally grounded; the trick is not to become too grounded in the finite.
- compassionate, feeling very much for others, especially those that have been harmed by the lower morals Arsenicum views as a detriment to society. At one point or another, higher Arsenicums have analyzed the values they hold in a detached, philosophical manner. Thus, Arsenicum holds all of nir values highly, firm in nir beliefs, as they are the product of careful evaluation, precision, and implementation. When combined with other humanitarian constitutions in one personality, Arsenicum will cherish the ability to give solid advice unmuddled by sometimes-misleading emotion. Note that Arsenicums may possess more of a universal concern for humanity (as lovers of sociology, an extension of the human psyche which they so passionately analyze), than true empathy on a personal level. It’s not that they’re not sensitive toward others’ feelings, it’s just that they don’t feel them as much as, say a Phosphorus individual. Arsenicums intellectualize their own emotions! Arsenicums likely have an air or earth moon sign.
- affectionate, giving credit especially where credit is due.
- a practicing preacher. That is, ne practices what ne preaches.
- honest, consistent, responsible, reliable. Gets shit done, abiding by any promises ne makes in the process.
- a solid leader, especially when Arsenicum reduces nir standards of perfectionism (with love!!, understanding and non-judgment) to accommodate the imperfections of others.
- a lover of practicality–think “waste not, want not”–which can lead to a lot of saved resources.
- a source of stability for loved ones. Arsenicum will always be there for them during stressful times, as Arsenicums, in health (and having overcame ill-health) are very resilient themselves.
- defensive of loved ones. No one can talk shit without a rebuttal from Arsenicum–an argument Arsenicum will win.
- capable of making others feel really good about themselves through Arsenicum’s carefully-selected words.
- incredibly successful at reading comprehension, critical thinking, deciphering analytics, investigative endeavors, debate, and as always, seeing through bullshit.
While it is rare to find a (lengthy) higher depiction of Arenicum–and yet, so many portrayals of Phosphorus types feature almost exclusively-higher qualities, or at least those that do not seem so “low” (lower Phosphorus constitutions just don’t come off as abrasive as lower Arsenicums, making the former a favorite of homeopaths and the latter a headache, at least until Arsenicum is well)–I do not believe that any remedy type is naturally more moral than the other; rather, the involvement of certain miasms, the degree to which one suffers, and certainly, how willing one is to rise above nir lower qualities plays a role in nir soulful evolution. Yes, I am predominantly Phosphorus, a constitutional type of which I have identified very strongly, one that has likely pacified some of my lowly characteristics associated with other remedy types–but I am also an Arsenicum, and I never, not even at my worst, felt or acted as nastily as some lowly descriptions of that constitution… Homeopaths can, most certainly, be biased too! In any event, I thought I’d quote a nicer characterization below, written by someone whose entire book captivated me with her patience, understanding, non-prejudice, and the truth that arises out of such aware qualities.
Catherine R. Coulter writes in Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines…
Not every Arsenicum is the driving, domineering, anxious, excessively critical, or arrogant personality we have perforce been emphasizing in this chapter (recall that fear or intolerance brings out his worst traits). He can be the very antithesis: easy-going, exceptionally pleasant to deal with, gracious, and self-contained: ‘of a calm, firm mind; retaining his equanimity in all events’ (Hahnemann).
He is also the naturally cheerful, obliging, and serene person whom few can surpass in charm, wit, or thoughtfulness in friendship and whose high intelligence enables him to perform socially and professionally with ease (‘good humored… disposed to gaiety… has pleasure in entertaining himself with others’ (Hahnemann). Thus he can be an exceptionally fine individual who reasons correctly, acts with integrity, and whose rational approach to life is supported by the moral rectitude and emotionally unbiased judgement characteristic of the type… (291).
PHYSICALITY: Refined features with oval lips. Arsenicum often has an upturned, or otherwise narrow, aquiline nose. Bony faces; may even appear hawk-like in the extreme with deep-set eyes, structured cheekbones, and an evaluative, detached stare (especially when the lower self is exacerbated!). Most are thin and delicate, neat and tidy (petite); others are sturdier, but taut, and agile nonetheless. Both seek perfection. “Hurry, hurry, hurry” demeanor. Walks erect, swiftly, with a purpose. May look “pissy”; Arsenicums can’t believe they have to “deal with this shit”–i.e. their failing health. When utter exhaustion settles in, and wired and tired is the norm, heavy melancholia will replace Arsenicum’s former fire. Eventually, as life knocks the wind out of them, the type’s fight will be taken too.
EXAMPLES: Kate McKinnon (see her in interviews? Characteristic delayed response with a high level of intelligence to match. Dry humor, great wit, consistent, topnotch performance on SNL. Efficiency, precision, staying power). Arsenicum is often divided between the “thoroughbred and the drawhorse” (Bailey 27), the latter more earthy and the former more intellectual; Kate exemplifies the former.
Sigmund Freud must have also been an Arsenicum, according to Bailey (16).
- Bailey, Philip M. Homeopathic Psychology: Personality Profiles of the Major Constitutional Remedies. North Atlantic Books, 1995. Print.
- Coulter, Catherine R. Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines: Psychophysical Analyses of Selected Constitutional Types. Quality Medical Pub., 1997. Print.
- McCabe, Vinton. Let Like Cure Like. St Martins Press, 1997. Print.