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The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body…
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The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine

by Anne Harrington

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Like any human endeavor, mind-body medicine has a history which can help us make sense of the present. The author highlights 6 different narratives that have shaped our understanding (and even our experience) of the way the mind and body are related. Very relevant for the modern yogi - much of what we consider "ancient yogic wisdom" has a long history in the West. ( )
  gratefulyoga | Feb 9, 2012 |
The Cure Within
A History of Mind-Body Medicine

Anne Harrington
Aug 25, 2009 9:18 PM

An interesting history of psychological approaches to medical problems. I found that it resonated with my experience of caring for patients with psychophysiological complaints, and partially with my skepticism of many of the techniques of medical care by suggestion. It is organized by narratives representing different approaches to mindful techniques in medicine. The first is the power of suggestion, typified by hypnosis and Mesmer and the hysteria of Charcot, in which doctor-led rituals predominate and are skeptical of patients’ own ability to control and understand the experience of illness. There is the largely Freudian narrative that suggests the healing power of the examined life. There is the power of positive thinking that stems from skepticism of medical expertise as dominant in understanding symptoms. There is the concepts of stress, and the power of physiological recording to expose the damage done by modern life. Healing ties is a narrative of the power of community and social support to alleviate disease, and the Journey to the East suggests moral and health redemption in ancient Chinese techniques, supported interestingly by the political needs of Mao in opposing the Russian Soviet supply of medical benefits and doctors. This was a compelling story, well written, drawing me on to read it in about two days. The point that I highlighted was the “existential psychotherapy” first introduced by Irvin Yalom, and popularized by David Spiegel, encouraging patients to make sense of the fact that they would die soon, confronting the “primitive dread of death ... resides in the unconsciousness-a dread that is part of the fabric of being, that is formed early in life before the development of precise, conceptual formulation, a dread that is chilling, uncanny and inchoate, a dread that exists prior to and outside of language”
Once again I have read a book that touches on many of what I consider my private and unique interests and wish that I had written the text. ( )
  neurodrew | Aug 25, 2009 |
Harrington is chair of the History of Science Dept. at Harvard and this is a necessary, often skeptical look at what is currently called complimentary medicine. The chapter on meditation and the so-called "energy" modalities was valuable for me.

Author-physician-professors-researchers Hans Selye, Herbert Benson (of the Relaxation Response from the early 70s) and Jon Kabat-Zin (Full Catastrophe Living) are among the many "players" profiled and it's shown that it has been pretty much been scientifically proven that the ancient modality of meditation works, though you have to work it, diligently. There are no quick fixes. Charlatans abound in the alternative medicine field. There are several pages on QiQong as well, detailing its history and success in China, but the scientific jury is a long way from reaching a verdict there. This is a necessary sobering overview by an accomplished popularizer who has also written books about the placebo affect and has either authored or co-authored material on the Dalai Lama and the effects of meditation. One reviewer called her work, "necessary cultural cartography" which pretty much pegs it. The book also explores hypnosis, the Positive Thinking movement resurrected mass culturally in America by Norman Vincent Peale and the entire gamut throughout history here in America and elsewhere in the world.

As a helplessly brainwashed cradle Catholic, it was revealing to me (and a dose of self-knowledge and understanding) that Anne Harrington says that secular ideas about the power of positive thinking have their roots in New Testament accounts of healing through faith. And talk therapy has its origins in beliefs in the healing power of the ritual of confession. And for that personal insight alone into why I might be drawn to the mind-body modalities (though posessed of an analytical and skeptically trained mind), this was a valuable read for me.
  kerowackie | Aug 5, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393065634, Hardcover)

Lays bare the history behind mind-body healing.

People suffering from serious illnesses improve their survival chances by adopting a positive attitude and refusing to believe in the worst. Stress is the great killer of modern life. Ancient Eastern mind-body techniques can bring us balance and healing. We’ve all heard claims like these, and many find them plausible. When it comes to disease and healing, we believe we must look beyond doctors and drugs; we must look within ourselves. Faith, relationships, and attitude matter. But why do we believe such things? From psychoanalysis to the placebo effect to meditation, this vibrant history describes our commitments to mind-body healing as rooted in a patchwork of stories that have allowed people to make new sense of their suffering, express discontent with existing care, and rationalize new treatments and lifestyles. These stories are sometimes supported by science, sometimes quarrel with science, but are all ultimately about much more than just science.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:59 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

When it comes to disease and healing, most of us believe we must look beyond doctors and drugs; we must look within ourselves. Faith, relationships, and attitude matter. We've all heard that people suffering from serious illnesses improve their survival chances by adopting a positive attitude and refusing to believe in the worst, that stress can kill, and that ancient Eastern mind-body techniques can bring us balance and healing. But why do we believe such things? From psychoanalysis to the placebo effect to meditation, this history describes our commitments to mind-body healing as rooted in a patchwork of stories that have allowed people to make new sense of their suffering, express discontent with existing care, and rationalize new treatments and lifestyles. These stories are sometimes supported by science, sometimes at odds with science, but are all ultimately about much more than just science.--From publisher description.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393065634, 0393333973

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