I heard recently of a medical conference being held to discuss the link between depression and heart disease. Hailed as a first in the industry, it appears to be a real ground-breaker, challenging the old Cartesian notion, which is the basis of modern medicine and emphasizes the split between Mind and Body. And not before time!
Born in 1596, Rene Descartes had a primary influence on thinking in his day, and through his book, Discourse on Method, his philosophy went on to influence the development of the underlying principles of the emerging medical model. Descartes distinguished between the res cogitans and the res extensa. The former referred to the soul or mind and was said to be essentially "a thing which thinks." The latter was the material stuff of the body, characterised primarily by the fact that it occupied space and was therefore amenable to measurement.
Descartes was a pretty smart fellow who established several patterns for modern Europe to follow: he laid down the idea that the thinking mind was somehow more real than the body in which it is housed (this is called the Cartesian mind-body split); and that emotions were due to the overall nature of the character of the individual–called Cartesian affect (i.e., emotion) theory.
From that point onwards in European culture, subjective truth would hold a higher and more important epistemological place than objective truth, skepticism would be built into every inquiry, method would hold a higher place than practice, and the mind would be separated from the body.
In recent years neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists have argued that this ontological separation of mind and body is no longer tenable.
Upheld by some of the mind-boggling discoveries concerning the interactive nature of energy and matter described in New Physics, we are charging into the new millennium knowing the ‘energy and matter are dual expressions of the same primary substance’.
So Mind and Body are interconnected after all, and Descartes was wrong.
No wonder modern medicine, with its emphasis on the split between what we think and how our body responds, is losing followers in droves – many people, these days, are more informed about the true nature of how we function as living human beings than medical doctors, who are supposed to be the experts on health and well-being.
The Mind-Body split developed in mainstream medicine as separate disciplines, each robustly defending the boundaries of their own job description. Physicians treated the body, while psychiatrists treated the mind and ‘ne’er the twain shall meet’. In fact, to emphasis the split, psychiatrists are not licensed to touch the body.
I was discussing this very topic yesterday with an ex-nurse. She said that when she was training they were told that when treating patients, any procedure or strategy that would cause their patients to close their eyes was not allowed – because such practice belongs to the realm of psychiatry, not physical medicine!
So, as practitioner myself, the notion that I would be not allowed to reach out and touch a client empathetically, during an ‘emotional storm’, is abhorrent. Touch is such a reassuring comfort, for a person who is ‘beside themselves’ with emotional distress, evoking a sense of connection and safety that assists in healing the wound for them.
True healing involves healing the mind of inconsistencies and distortions, at the same time as correcting the body function that has gone out of balance in resonance. Often we do not recognize the attitudes and mind fixations that negatively affect us, until we have them mirrored back to us by someone outside of ourselves – that is the nature of Mind – it can always defend its own position. But when some disturbing physical symptom appears to come out of nowhere, that is the time to turn inwards for a moment and reflect on what messages we have been giving our body and what parts of our lives we have been neglecting, that have resulted in dis-ease.
The Body is a reflection of the Mind – a healthy Mind results in a healthy Body and vice versa – energy and matter are dual expressions of the same primary substance. And what is that primary substance? It is the Vital Force or energy (Qi) that animates all life and is expressed through the Body-Mind as body, mind and spirit.
So pleased to know that mainstream medicine is finally getting it, as evidenced by psychiatrists and physicians getting together at this conference to discuss the connection between heart disease and depression! It stands to reason that a depressed person will not have a happy heart.
In energy medicine we say that ‘when the heart is unhappy, the organs tremble’
A book on treating cancer that grabbed my attention, when researching this post looks interesting. Let me pass it on to you:
Healing the Mind/Body Split: Bringing the Patient Back Into Oncology
Steven Greer, MD, FRCPsych
St. Raphael’s Hospice, Surrey, United Kingdom
The effect on oncology of the doctrine of Cartesian dualism is examined. It is argued that this doctrine continues to exert a baneful (though unacknowledged) influence on the practice of oncology, Descartes’s doctrine of a mind/ body split is mistaken, and mind and body (brain) are inextricably interwoven. A biopsychosocial model of disease is advocated. The role of psychooncology in healing the mind/ body split by focusing research attention on the patient is outlined.
And if you haven’t read my book, The Essence of Woman, you may be interested to follow this topic. It takes one step further, describing how the energy/matter fusion is expressed in the body, in both women and men, with especial emphasis on feminine intelligence (Yin Qi)