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Healing and the Mind.

This book, stemming from the PBS television series of the same name, presents what optimistically may be the wave of the future in medicine. Its chief concern is the wholeness and healing of the sick person, rather than a piecemeal curing of a bodily ailment. In most serious cases, the psyche is involved as much as the body, and the presenters of each chapter indicate how this is the case.

Emotions are given special attention, since they reflect a middle status between body and mind. That a number of illnesses - such as asthma, depression, anxiety, and general malaise - are connected with emotions is clear, although how still is obscure. What is certain is that the power of faith, positive thinking, caring, and touch are all part of the healing process. So, too, is the will to live, as well as recognition that, in some circumstances, one has the right to will to die.

The book is divided into five sections with 15 interviews throughout. The experts all hold important hospital or academic posts and, to a person, insist that mind and body work in conjunction when true healing takes place. They stress not only the science of medicine, but the art of medical practice as well. For healing, full participation is required on the part of the sick person and his or her immediate support group. For this, the healer must get to know his charge in the latter's social milieu. To what extent busy doctors can do this is a major obstacle to successful healing.

Meditation, under the surrogate name to "stress reduction," is advocated and its techniques explained. Sometimes, mindfulness of a problem may be as helpful as distraction from it. (In a humorous passage, Moyers samples this by way of slowly eating a raisin, paying careful attention to each part of the process.) The teaching of biofeedback and self-hypnosis helps the healing to be effected from within, although it does not work for all.

The use and salutary outcome of placebos involves a puzzling discussion of the interplay of mind and body, not only in humans, but in animals as well. In an age where science nearly has the last word on everything, the placebo effect is impossible to measure exactly and, hence, its role and the ethics of its employment largely are not admitted or ignored. Yet, its success is clear, and the work of the medicine man often can duplicate that of the man of medicine.

A chapter on Chi Gong, "the manipulation of vital energy," generally called Chinese traditional medicine, is of particular interest. The use of acupuncture again illustrates something that can be highly effective, yet is difficult to measure and explain to Western satisfaction. This poses the question of a possible "shotgun marriage" between Chi Gong and Western medicine.

The mind-body union is not discussed philosophically or theologically. However, perhaps it is better to avoid that thornbush in a work such as this, which keeps the meaning of mind a bit vague and uses a number of substitutes for it, such as spirit.

There is a large selection of paintings and drawings interspersed throughout the chapters. They measurably add to the thrust of such a book which stresses subjectivity, emotions, and the inner man. Drawn from artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, and Edward Hopper, they provide pictorial insights into the work's theme that words could not achieve. All contributors insist that the sick person's perceptions do matter.

Healing and the Mind is on the cutting edge, and we already see changes in the concept and practice of health care occurring. For many, it can not be too soon.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Society for the Advancement of Education
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Kreyche, Gerald F.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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