The Alchemy of Illness

Overview

Illness is a universal experience. There is no privilege that can make us immune to its touch. We are taught to assume health, illnesses being just temporary breakdowns in the well-oiled machinery of the body. But illness has its own geography, its own laws and commandments. At a time when the attention of the whole nation is focused on health care, Kat Duff inquires into the nature and function of illness itself. Duff, a counselor in private practice in Taos, New Mexico, wrote this book out of her experience ...
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Overview

Illness is a universal experience. There is no privilege that can make us immune to its touch. We are taught to assume health, illnesses being just temporary breakdowns in the well-oiled machinery of the body. But illness has its own geography, its own laws and commandments. At a time when the attention of the whole nation is focused on health care, Kat Duff inquires into the nature and function of illness itself. Duff, a counselor in private practice in Taos, New Mexico, wrote this book out of her experience with chronic fatigue syndrome, but what she has to say is applicable to every illness and every one of us.

For those who are sick, this book offers solace and recognition. For those who care for them either physically or emotionally, it offers inspiration and compassion. Finally, this fresh perspective on healing reveals how every illness is a crucible that tries our mettle, tests our limits, and provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to integrate its lessons into our lives.

In this trenchant and elegantly written inquiry into the function and purpose of illness, Kat Duff reflects upon her own experience with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and offers a fresh perspective on recovery and healing. "A lovely book . . . full of insight."--Thomas Moore (Care of the Soul).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Drawing on her own experience with CFIDS (chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome), the author of this collection of eight essays explores the mystery of human pain. ``Illness is a familiar yet foreign landscape,'' she writes. ``It remains a wilderness . . . despite its continuing presence in our lives.'' Duff spent ``the better part of two years'' in bed; during her sickness she read widely and voluminously, pursuing ``the meaning and purposes of illness.'' Bringing together insights from psychology, religion and anthropology, and explicating the words of shamans and philosophers from many cultures, Duff tracks the universality of illness and the curious contradictions--the sense of freedom, for example--that emerge in its midst. Her own healing, achieved through ``tedious, tenuous and life-giving labor,'' is a model of hope. Duff is a counselor in northern New Mexico. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Library of Congress-assigned subject headings (``Sick-psychology'' and ``Chronic fatigue syndrome-psychological aspects'') suggest the gist of this book, which was written by ``a white woman of sufficient means and mystical temperament nearing forty in twentieth century America'' and unfortunately stricken with chronic Epstein-Barr virus, the yuppie flu. However, the LC listings fail to bring out the parapsychological aspects--the ``alchemy'' of the title--that are a major part of the story. Duff writes, ``For the only way I can evoke and describe this ultimately ineffable dark heart of the universe, that black hole that opens up in illness, and begin to address the question of healing that rises from its center, is through storytelling: the telling of my dreams, the stories of goddesses, my experience and those of other sick people.'' Duff proceeds to recount her dreams. A shaman tells her that she was ``a sacrifice dying so that others may live . . . we would not call you sick, but wounded.'' This reader just doesn't get it. For ``Sick-psychology,'' Arthur Frank's At the Will of the Body ( LJ 3/15/91) and Norman Cousins's Anatomy of an Illness (LJ 9/1/79) are better titles.-- James Swanton, Albert Einstein Coll. of Medicine, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780609899434
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 629,415
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The Invisible Underworld of Illness 3
2 The Secrets Our Bodies Keep Safe 19
3 Toxic Health: Cultural Assumptions and Illusions 34
4 Dancing With Death: Vegetative Processes at Work 59
5 The Alchemy of Illness 77
6 The Underworld Journey 92
7 Shame and the White Shadow of the Collective 104
8 Mythology and the Dark Heart of Healing 125
Notes 147
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