Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Healing [and Sickening] Mind

Wanna read a great book?
No, seriously... that question is not rhetorical.
I highly recommend Paul Martin's [no, not the former Canadian Prime Minister] The Healing Mind: The Vital Links Between Brain and Behavior, Immunity and Disease. [published 1997].

The principle argument or theme is that disease and death seldom have single causes. There is a link between what goes on in the mind, and what goes on in the body.
This particular branch of study is known as "psychoneuroimmunology".
Try saying that with a mouthful of crackers!

Contemporary physicians and scientists frequently dismiss the idea that the mind has any marked effect on physical health. The fact is that most people, doctors and scientists included, find it inherently easier to believe in the reality of apparently simple physical causes of disease (such as cholesterol, salt, smoking, lack of exercise, bacteria or viruses) than to accept that mere thoughts can affect our health. There are extremists on either side of the spectrum; those that claim that the mind/emotions have no influence whatsoever, and the New-Age gurus who believe that adopting certain thinking patterns can prevent cancer!

Dr. Martin's familiarity with well-documented research, authoritative commentary, and overall witty style combine to present a very convincing argument for a middle ground conclusion: that the relationships between mind, body and disease work both ways. The mind affects the body and hence physical health (negatively AND positively). Conversely, physical health affects the mind and hence our thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
Throughout the book, he alludes to examples in literature to illustrate these links between psychological factors and disease. These illustrations help to convey complex scientific ideas in a recognizable form, and I found this feature very innovative and effective... lifting the weight from some very heavy ideas, and making me say, "Of course, I get it now."
There is an extensive discussion of that modern-day source of malady... STRESS. How does "stress" make us more susceptible to breakdown and disease? Interesting sections on the Type A personality (typified by free-floating hostility, aggressiveness, competitiveness, impatience) and how it lends itself to increased risk of heart disease. Also, a section on the Type C personality (typified by suppression of strong emotions, avoidance of conflict, compliance with the wishes of others) and how it lends itself to increased risk of cancer.

A fascinating book!
Incidentally, my copy is old, and bears the original title, which was "The Sickening Mind". 
Read the newer "Healing Mind" and find out for yourself just how appropriate both titles actually are!



Ruminating red said...

Just a word of support for the concept of a mind/body reality. PNI, or PNEI,(the "E" stands for endocrinology) is a fascinating field of study that has actually been in full swing since the 1970's. Contained in the research done by these scientists is a wealth of evidence supporting the concept that the mind and body not only affect one another, but that they ARE one another. i.e. the body/mind or more accurately the body/brain are one and the same. Researchers in the field have also delved into the subject of consciousness and how we can use our mind to positively and negatively affect both internal and external events. They have actually proven it proven it again and again.

Keep reading-start with some of the research done by Candace Pert..Bill Moyers TV series and book "The Mind" (I think that's the name of it) also has some wild stuff in it if you are looking for a jumping off point to look into this further. It is the sceince of the future and it is my personal belief that PNEI will be the key that puts an end to diseases like cancer, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain and many other auto-immune diseases.

Thanks for bringing this fascinating subject into the public eye one more time.
Kathleen Clohessy

Stefanie said...

What an interesting sounding book! I'll have to see if my library has it. Thanks for the review!

cipriano said...

Kathleen, I am totally amazed at how much you seem to know about this entire subject. Thank you for reading, and for your response here on the Puddle.

Yes Stefanie... rummage the shelving the next time you are volunteering at that colossal Library over there.... it's truly a great book!

Cheers, all!

Anonymous said...

I have just spent a month in the South of France, for some of the time I was alone. This enabled me to read books that were in the house that belonged to a retired GP friend. I picked up 'The Sickening Mind' and read it from cover to cover. It was fascinating and euridite. I am an Arts graduate. My husband came out to join me later and he is a Scientist and I encouraged him to read it. He thought it was fascinating. What an excellent read. We both recommend it highly