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August 23, 2013

Warming to mindbody research

More than 25 years ago, leading science researchers likened research about mindbody to the research that proved that the sun was the center of our solar system, not Earth.

It took many years for people to adjust their thinking and world view following what Copernicus discovered about the heavens. It was sometime before the information became widely known. And when it did, many individuals found that this “new understanding” upset the status quo in ways that were unsettling to commonly accepted views about reality. A number of courageous scientists were even imprisoned as blasphemers and liars for daring to challenge the long-held belief that Earth was the center of the solar system.

Today, knowledge about the nature of mindbody functioning is in a similar situation. Most people know little, if anything, about the new knowledge. Change takes place slowly. Consider that most medical schools still teach “body only” ideas about health and well-being. Yet, mindbody science research presents exciting challenges to the long-held, wrongheaded views about health and illness, research that has profound implications for all of us.

A mechanistic view of reality still dominates views about health and healing. The body is seen as a machine with many separate parts and separate functions. And the mind is ignored as an important factor in influencing health and illness. The mind is too often mistakenly seen as a byproduct of brain. In some circles, the influence of the mind is ridiculed, such as in the notion that stress-related illness “is all in your mind, so don’t worry about it.” The fact is that stress-driven illness involves very real physical problems resulting from the influence of the mind on the body.

The tendency to overestimate the importance of the body and to disregard the mind, while ignoring the mind and body’s interdependence, is deeply embedded in our culture. We are not accustomed to thinking in mindbody ways. And, as is usually the case, what we have already learned often gets in the way of our being able to see new things.

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