Close to the Bone: LifeThreatening Illness and the Search for Meaning

Overview

In this beautifully written and profoundly affecting new book, Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen explores what it means when serious illness brings one "close to the bone": close to the soul's needs. As in her critically acclaimed best-seller Goddesses in Everywoman, the author weaves myth, experience, and story to produce a book which at once illuminates the experience of the seriously ill patient and shows that facing one's mortality can be a life-transforming, and even a life-saving, process. Close to the Bone follows ...
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New York, NY 1998 Trade paperback New. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 224 p. Audience: General/trade. BRAND NEW IN ORIGINAL SHRINKWRAP

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Overview

In this beautifully written and profoundly affecting new book, Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen explores what it means when serious illness brings one "close to the bone": close to the soul's needs. As in her critically acclaimed best-seller Goddesses in Everywoman, the author weaves myth, experience, and story to produce a book which at once illuminates the experience of the seriously ill patient and shows that facing one's mortality can be a life-transforming, and even a life-saving, process. Close to the Bone follows the patients and their loved ones on a path which, soon after diagnosis, brings them into a kind of underworld of experience, a state of emotional trauma that has the potential to strip away what become merely superfluous concerns, focusing the individual on what is truly important. This process can be enhanced by prayer, meditation, participation in rituals, the sharing of stories, and a deeper and more honest level of communication with those we love and with ourselves.

"...follows the paths of seriously ill patients and their loved ones, and discusses rituals such as story telling, prayer, and meditation that can create a deeper level of communication with friends and family."

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Editorial Reviews

Natural Health
"Should be required reading in medical schools and by anyone who wants to understand how illness can be a midwife that helps the soul to emerge."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The crisis brought on by a serious or disastrous illness is the concern of this richly probing essay by a Jungian analyst and medical doctor. Although various diseases are touched on, cancerespecially as it affects womenis Bolen's focus. Yet far from being a grim tract, this book is a kind of metaphysical how-to filled with hope, second chances and sound guidance. But from the very first "initiation story" the author narrates for usthe myth of the abduction to the underworld of Persephone, an ancient Greek emblem of spring, vitality, rebirthBolen makes clear that there are dark and dangerous realms to traverse to learn how to help make oneself well and whole again. In her view, there is no mind/body split, no dichotomy between psyche and soma: the mind is everywhere in the body and affects physiological outcomes. While the book's Jungian tone will keep some readers away (even as it attracts others), and while it's not full of original ideas, it is a skillful assemblage of views on the harrowing experience of physical illness and mental dissociation from which we can and may emerge with a new clarity about who we are and what we want our lives to be. (Oct.)
Library Journal
From a best-selling author (Goddesses in Everywoman, LJ 7/84): advice on making serious illness a chance for growth.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684835303
  • Publisher: Scribner
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

1. Close to the Bone: Illness and the Soul

2. Harbinger of Truth

3. Like Green meat on a Hook

4. Procrustean Dismemberment

5. Illness as a turning Point

6. Sometimes We Need a Story

7. Soul Connection

8. Summoning Angels: Prayer

9. Prescribing Imagination

10. Rituals: Enacting Myth

11. Helping Each Other

12. Musings

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Introduction

The Chinese pictograph for crisis is comprised of the ideograms for "danger" and "opportunity". Every life-threatening illness is a major crisis for everyone concerned that shakes the foundations of previous assumptions. Such a crisis is not restricted to the person with the illness, nor is it just about the fate of a body. A life-threatening condition throws all aspects of life for the patient and all significant relationships into a time of turmoil and transition. Life-threatening illness is a crisis for the soul. When death and disability come close, it is indeed a time of danger and opportunity, which raises questions about the meaning of life and tests the bonds of relationships.

This book grew out of a series of lectures and workshops about illness as a descent of the soul into the underworld and the healing that can result. The central message that illness is a soul experience was one of the inspirations for a series of conferences for women surviving cancer, called "Healing Journeys: Cancer as Turning Point," along with Lawrence LeShan's ground-breaking book, whose title inspired the second part of the conference name. Cancer as a turning point was the perspective of the four organizers, three of whom had been diagnosed and treated for cancer of the breast.

I have accompanied family members, friends, and patients through illnesses and hospitalizations that were descents into the underworld. The terrain is very familiar, though the gateway of physical illness is not as familiar as the psychological entry points that bring people on a soul path into a Jungian analysis with me.

Whether the life-threatening illness is psychological or physical, when depression colors or influences thought and action, people often give up on themselves and on the future. It is then not enough to treat a depression only with medications, or only pay attention to the physical signs and symptoms of disease, when giving up on life having any meaning, now or in the future, is the underlying life-or-death issue.

The parallels between psychiatric and physical life-threatening illnesses are easy for me to see because I have straddled both worlds. Before I was a psychiatrist and even now as an analyst, I am, in some essential way, still a physician. Medical school and a rotating internship in a large county hospital were an initiation, not just an education. To be a doctor of the body or of the psyche is to be at those border crossings between ordinary life and life thereafter. A life-threatening illness brings an end to a phase of life, as it may to life itself. The doctor of the body or of the psyche is a witness to and a participant in the outcome.

A life-threatening illness has the impact of a stone hitting the still surface of a lake, sending concentric rings of disturbance out, as feelings, thoughts, and

reactions radiate out from this center. It impacts relationships, it stirs the depths of others, it potentially brings the patient and those who are affected "close to the bone," into the proximity of the soul. Soul questions arise about the meaning of life when the mind is still or the body is ailing. Healing and recovery may depend as much or more upon a deepening of relationships and connection to one's own soul and spiritual life, as on medical or psychiatric expertise.

I have learned over and over again that a life-threatening illness is soul-shaking for everyone involved, that it provides us an opportunity to get intimations and intuitions about why we are here, and what and who really matters. It is this experience, and the archetypal underpinning provided by mythology, that is the soul of the book.

I hope this book will be an inner companion during time of descent or difficulty. Maybe it will come to you through synchronicity to affirm what you intuitively know, and to support you to do whatever it is that will heal you. I can imagine it being read aloud, a portion or a chapter. I hope that it opens the way for significant conversations with others, and to rich internal dialogues with yourself.

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2010

    "CLOSE TO THE BONE" IS AN ASTOUNDINGLY INSIGHTFUL RESOURCE FOR ANYONE FACING LIFE-THREATENING ILLNESS... AND THOSE WHO LONG TO SUPPORT THEM IN THE MOST SACRED WAY THEY CAN...

    I'm a two-time cancer warrior myself, so I've walked this terrifying ground more than once. When we can learn to face "life threatening illness" as a Spiritual Warrior rather than a frail physical vessel only, half the healing battle is already won.

    Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen is unfathomably wise and masterful in leading us through this dark terrain that every human dreads. Bolen teaches that "healing" is possible for all, even if "cure" ultimately eludes us. The gifts that come from making this journey in a fully empowered and conscious way will change not only OUR life, but the lives of all who love us. If you are willing to move from "helpless victim" to profound "healing teacher," the quintessential guidebook is in your hands.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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