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The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine Hardcover – January 17, 2008
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This brilliant study ... concludes that 'mind-body medicine is a deeply storied world.' — Barbara Fisher (Boston Globe)
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Top Customer Reviews
This volume tells us much of the history, in the United States, of the various mind-over-body schemes: psychoanalysis, Transcendental Meditation, bio-feedback, Christian Science, and others. Nobody interested in modern American history can afford to ignore this story.
But I also found the book profoundly confusing. The author wants to tell us about these movements and how they were received by the public, but she has little interest, it seems, in the truth value behind the claims of these popular movements. Does bio-feedback, for instance, really help in reducing stress ? For that matter, is there such a thing as "stress" in the sense that the proponents of these movements have in mind ? Truth or untruth are things that hold little interest for this author.
Harrington generally tells the story of the beginnings of these movements as a series of successes, and then, for some reason, time and again, "things begin to unravel," as she has to state time and again. With all her sympathies for "mind-over-body," sympathies that dominate her "narratives" (a favorite phrase of hers), it turns out, generally, and in stark contrast to her enthusiasms, that things don't work out after all, and it would seem -- though she never says this -- that it's probably best to be cynical about the whole lot of these movements.
However, the book is so dense with information that after finishing it, I felt forced to read it through once more, and in doing so, picked up a great deal more than I had the first time. It's also written in a monotone, as though the author were delivering it in one long, record-breaking breath. And yet, perhaps, that might have been wise, as the style deflects any sense of sensationalism or silliness in a subject that often attracts just that from other writers.
All in all, there are few books out there that display this kind of interdisciplinary wisdom and insightful commentary. However, as other reviewers have pointed out, she is careful to avoid a point of view; would she herself prefer acupuncture to anesthesia? Would she practice meditiation or take a valium? You have to guess.
I had every reason not to pick up that book. The cover page, with the hand of a Buddha statue in a meditative position, evoked Eastern spirituality and esoteric rituals, things that leave me rather insensitive. The title reinforced that cautious impression, as The Cure Within could be construed either as a self-help manual or the tale of an inner journey, two categories I prefer to avoid. But here was the subtitle, A History of Mind-Body Medicine, which included two categories--history and medicine--that feature in my tag list. So I figured there was something for me in this book. I wasn't disappointed.
It is not easy to explain what this book is about. The expression "mind-body medicine" may not be familiar to all readers. It certainly wasn't for me. There is no obvious equivalent in my native language (I never heard of "la médecine du corps et de l'esprit"), and other terms that relate to the same field (psychosomatic medicine, behavioral medicine, holistic medicine, new age medicine, spiritual healing...) are either dated, limited to specialists, or code words for alternative practices only loosely related to medicine. As Anne Harrington explains, mind-body medicine is a rather new concept.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved it. It expanded my insights during important stages in the development of alternative health and all I do today.Thanks so much!Published 3 months ago by Brian Sheen
This is a marvelous overview of the history mind/body healing. It is fascinating to see how opinions and prevailing wisdom has changed over the years. Read morePublished 5 months ago by RaisinBran
This is one of the best researched books I have ever read and the writer needs to be congratulated on a job well done. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Roger Podmore
Harrington's book is well researched and provides a wealth of information. Her narrative approach to the history of mind-body issues works better in some places than others. Read morePublished on October 13, 2013 by John From MA
This book is so insightful about how we got to the place we are as a society of illness while maintaining hope for the truth of healing.Published on December 20, 2012 by H. Kwiker
The author does a good job of sorting and classifying mind-body healing narratives, but often leaves things dangling in such a way as to make some of these very unproven ideas seem... Read morePublished on February 13, 2011 by P. Yeargin