From mainstream, popular culture to the physician’s examination room, the mind-body connection is an issue with widespread interest. Whether you are a reader of scientific journals or TV Guide, you have surely been exposed to the “buzz” around these issues.
We can understand the interest in mind/body health, as part of a larger shift, a correction of the reductionism and fragmentation more typical of modern thought and modern life. This fragmentation was an unintended side effect of the explosion of scientific knowledge over the last few centuries. The resulting deluge of information has led to endless specialization in most scientific fields. This specialization of study and understanding “trickles down” to the mainstream, sometimes in obvious ways, such as in our educational and healthcare systems.
Our Fragmented Selves
We are products of our culture. Therefore, it should be no surprise that the modern person finds him or herself in such a fragmented state. Too many forces conspire to convince us that the various aspects of our selves really are separate. In error, we come to believe that we can have physical health without emotional health–or either in the midst of lives that preclude balance. We come to believe that we can sustain ourselves while ignoring some of the most valuable aspects of our lives. By extension, we also believe that our illness, when it inevitably arises, also occurs in isolation–and so seek remedies that reflect such wrong views. And our spiritual lives? Well, we can attend to those later, right?
Pros and Cons
The current interest in mind/body issues is sure to have mixed effects. Some effects will likely be positive, such as renewed interest in whole person health, curiosity and openness to alternative treatments, and increased understanding of the complex interactions among our biology, psyche, learning history, environment, and spirit. Some effects will be unfortunate, such as the inevitable commercialization of mind/body issues, and the costs (time, energy, and resources) of pursuing ineffective treatments for serious ailments. The challenge will be to take what is of value and to leave the rest–to ride this wave mindfully.
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