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Does the mind produce consciousness?or transmit it? Can machines detect love? Why has job stress become a worldwide epidemic? Why do objects sometimes seem to have minds of their own? Could war be a biological condition? Dr. Larry Dossey,
one of the most influential spokespersons for the role of consciousness and spirituality in medicine, tackles all these questions and more with clarity and wit. In this book, he explores the relationship?often...
Does the mind produce consciousness—or transmit it? Can machines detect love? Why has job stress become a worldwide epidemic? Why do objects sometimes seem to have minds of their own? Could war be a biological condition? Dr. Larry Dossey,
one of the most influential spokespersons for the role of consciousness and spirituality in medicine, tackles all these questions and more with clarity and wit. In this book, he explores the relationship—often documented in extensive research—between science and "unscientific" topics such as prayer,
love, laughter, war, creativity, dreams, and immortality.
We physicians are simple creatures. We like to see the world in black-and-white terms—illness is bad, health is good, and disease means nothing more than the physical breakdown of the body. To speak of the meaning or deeper significance of an illness, or how such meaning might affect our health, seems beyond the scope of our mission, something for philosophers or psychologists to mull over.
But as we examine our own experience and listen to the stories our patients tell us, we gradually put together a different picture.
I was a battalion surgeon in Vietnam, I learned a lot about the connections between meaning and health. I was an idealistic young physician fresh out of my internship, eager to stamp out any disease I encountered. A major threat to the young soldiers in my battalion was malaria, which was endemic throughout
Southeast Asia. One of my responsibilities was to make sure they took their antimalarial pills to prevent their getting sick. I preached the horrors of malaria to the young troops, trying to impress on them how our combat readiness and their survival depended on avoiding this lethal illness. I quickly discovered that many of the soldiers did not share my concerns. Some of them actually wanted to contract malaria, because a debilitating illness was their ticket home. They preferred the risk of malaria to a sniper's bullet or an ambush. Consequently, they would fake taking their medication. One young man whom I evacuated with shaking chills and fever gave me a high five as he was being loaded onto the medevac helicopter. "I'm outa here, Doc! Malaria is my best friend!" he said with a laugh.
realized that meaning and malaria were bound up together, and that I could not do a good job as a combat doc without taking this into account. To me, malaria meant a deadly condition that should be prevented if possible or eliminated by any means at hand. To my battalion commander, malaria meant a drain on personnel and a threat to combat preparedness. To many of the young soldiers,
malaria was desirable and should actually be courted as a way of escaping the perils of Vietnam. To me, then, malaria was an opportunity to do my job effectively. The battalion commander, on the other hand, saw it as an unwelcome threat to his ability to carry out his mission. It presented that same threat to the soldiers—but they saw that threat as a lifesaver. One disease, three meanings, all different.
The conflict in meanings I encountered in Vietnam occurs every day in clinics and hospitals. For instance, in a five-year study, researchers found that only one-third of women with breast cancer who used alternative medicine in addition to conventional treatment told their personal physicians they had done so. The women's three main reasons were a belief that their doctors weren't interested,
would respond negatively and criticize them, or had inadequate training in alternative medicine or were biased against it. In other words, the women experienced profound conflicts with their doctors about the meaning of conventional medicine. To the doctors, conventional medicine was almost a religion, something they'd staked their careers and their patients' lives on—and would no doubt stake their own lives on when the time came. To many women, on the other hand, it was a potentially helpful system, but also a potentially uncaring, intimidating, biased, and close-minded one. Conflicts such as these can lead to serious problems because, although some alternative therapies are beneficial, others are harmful or may interact negatively with conventional medications.
As we will see, sometimes it isn't the actual life event that is crucial but the meaning we attach to it. The same set of circumstances can affect health differently, depending on how we interpret it. Consider job stress. Men who hate their job have a higher incidence of heart attacks, which are more likely to occur on Monday morning, around nine o'clock, than at any other time. Women,
in contrast, do not seem to be affected by job stress to the same degree. In one study, job stress had little effect on the course of women who were already diagnosed with heart problems. Of far greater importance for their future health was the level of stress in their marriage. In our culture, jobs generally mean different things to men and women. Men's personal identity and self-esteem are more tightly connected with their job than
the case for women, for whom familial and marital relationships may be more meaningful—thus the gender differences in how jobs affect health.
In the essays that follow, we will see that meaning and health are related in two main ways. First, health
something—it mirrors, represents, and symbolizes what is taking place in our life.
we find in life—the meaning of a relationship, a job, a particular therapy—can affect our mind and body and thus our health.
Part 1 we will see how this double movement of meaning is a vital factor in our life, and how meaning can make the difference in life and death.
What Does Illness Mean? 10
What Ever Happened to Healers? 22
Suffering on the Job 38
The Eating-Papers 53
War: A Vietnam Memoir 79
Reenchanting the World 109
Tickled Pink 133
Embracing the Trickster 150
Trout Mind 166
A Different Kind of DNA 192
The Return of Prayer 222
What's Love Got to Do with It? 243
Creativity and Cosmic Soup 261
Posted March 4, 2005
Posted October 29, 2003
Larry Dossey discusses the mystery of life and how consciousness is related to all of the physical things in the world. He does a superb job in explaining the wonders of the soul. Although is work is always inspiring, this book is especially so. It tells us that everything including consciousness is connected in a convincing way. For another astonishing book with a slightly different take on the subject, I'd highly recommend 'The Ever-Transcending Spirit' by Toru Sato. It is also a tremendously insightful book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.