cover image The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine

The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine

Anne Harrington, . . Norton, $25.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-393-06563-3

Over the past several years, numerous medical reports have confirmed the connection between a positive mental attitude and good physical health. In this splendid book, Harrington (The Placebo Effect), chair of Harvard’s history of science department, demonstrates that the belief in such a connection between mind and body is nothing new. She uses case studies and stories of healings to show how deeply embedded the idea of positive mental health is in the quest for physical health, as well as the ways that contemporary medicine has incorporated a focus on mind-body healing into its black bag. In her highly original analysis of this history from ancient times to the present, she discovers six different “narratives” about mind-body healing. These include “the power of suggestion,” “the power of positive thinking” and “broken by modern life.” In “the body that speaks” narrative, for instance, Harrington traces the idea that physical symptoms are the outward expression of the mind’s secrets, and that revealing those secrets can heal, whether the revelation takes place in the confession box or on the analyst’s couch. Harrington’s study offers a first-rate cultural history of an age-old but still much debated topic. (Jan.)