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Timeless Healing: The Power and Biology of Belief (Anglais) Cassette – Livre audio, mai 1996

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Chapter 1


When I was a student at Harvard Medical School, I was taught that the greater part of what I was learning about the human body would be obsolete within five years. In other words, a few years after I finished medical school, before I even completed my hospital residency and became a full-fledged member of the medical profession, medical science would have progressed so far as to create a whole new set of rules for taking care of patients.

Thus began my search for something in medicine that lasts. I wanted to identify some timeless source of healing, the merits of which could never be denied. Not only would this "treatment of choice" outlast the five-year mark but it would have proven value for generations present, for generations past, and for generations to come.

I will confess that, in part, youthful laziness launched my search. No medical student relishes the idea of having to learn a subject over and over again. But my contemplation of the enduring aspects of human life began in earnest when I was twenty-one, a premed student in college, and had to face the death of my father from rheumatic heart disease. In my mind, science never adequately explained his passing. With their diagrams, definitions, and anatomic drawings, my textbooks couldn't begin to capture the spirit and presence he embodied.

This was a man who had grown up in the jungles of South America, who came to the United States with only a fourth-grade education, who spoke five languages, and who went on to become a successful businessman in the wholesale and retail produce industry in Yonkers, New York. My father tried to impress upon me and my siblings the importance of "doing things fight." He told us about the time a shopkeeper had had to let him go from his job sweeping up. To finish the job well, my dad was especially thorough cleaning up that night, so the next day the shopkeeper called to tell my father that if he was willing to return, the shopkeeper would find the financial means to keep him on.

This was what defined my father's life, the same way that family and work, hardships and victories, principles and life lessons define the lives of all human beings. But these matters were rarely addressed in the education I received as a physician -- in the scientific literature, in grand rounds, or even in the training I received at the bedside. And as much as I began to believe that science was all-powerful, snowballing in its ability track and explain life's mysteries, I had a nagging feeling that medicine was missing a critical point.

Accumulating the Evidence

This book traces my steps over thirty years of accumulating evidence of an eternal truth about human physiology and the human experience. Luck, hunches, and happenstance often guided my journey, as with most people's careers. I went from patient to patient, from research study to research study in the same way that all physician-researchers do, unable to predict how each line of inquiry and its corresponding results would contribute to long-term improvements in medicine. But deep down, I always hoped that some immutable wisdom would emerge.

Partly because my father had died from heart disease, I started my career as a cardiologist. But soon I began to feel inhibited by my specialty, which limited its explorations to keeping chambered organs pumping in patients' chests. Increasingly, I was drawn to mind/body research, and would go on to become one of a handful of medical investigators who established the scientific field recognized today as mind/body medicine.

Except for a brief training stint in Seattle, and the time I spent in the U.S. Public Health Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico, I've spent my entire career working within Harvard Medical School's teaching hospitals. In 1988, I founded Harvard's Mind/Body Medical Institute at Boston's Deaconess Hospital. Perhaps my most significant contribution to the field was in defining a bodily calm that all of us can evoke and that has the opposite effect of the well-known fight-or-flight response. I call this bodily calm "the relaxation response," a state in which blood pressure is lowered, and heart rate, breathing rate, and metabolic rate are decreased. The relaxation response yields many long-term benefits in both health and well-being and can be brought on with very simple mental focusing or meditation techniques.

Teaching these methods to patients, health care professionals, and others, I began to realize the power of self-care, the healthy things that individuals can do for themselves. More and more, I became convinced that our bodies are wired to benefit from exercising not only our muscles but our rich inner, human core -- our beliefs, values, thoughts, and feelings. I was reluctant to explore these factors because philosophers and scientists have, through the ages, considered them intangible and unmeasurable, making any study of them "unscientific." But I wanted to try, because, again and again, my patients' progress and recoveries often seemed to hinge upon their spirit and will to live. And I could not shake the sense I had that the human mind -- and the beliefs we so often associate with the human soul -- had physical manifestations.

First Hints of Mind/Body Influence

I had witnessed this firsthand while serving as a merchant seaman the summer after my junior year of college. From the time I read Joseph Conrad as a youth, I was determined to "go to sea." And together with my best friend Howard Rotner, I fulfilled this dream by acquiring this incredible "summer job," which took me across oceans and to ports as diverse as Casablanca, Morocco; Naples, Italy; Piraeus, Greece; Southampton, England; Istanbul and Izmir, Turkey. In these ports, my fellow seamen were fond of barroom bingeing and often returned to the ship with awful hangovers. Knowing that I planned to be a doctor, my suffering shipmates would come to me for relief. But all I had to offer them were vitamins, which I promptly dispensed.

Though the vitamins should have had little or no effect, my shipmates' symptoms -- and foul moods -- improved rapidly and dramatically after taking the pills. And as word spread of the wondrous results, more and more of my fellow sailors sought me out for my magic pills. But once my indoctrination into medicine began, I found my medical mentors and peers far less interested in this phenomenon. For the first time, I realized there was a great disparity between the things laypeople felt were good for them and those that medical scientists decided were good for them.

This disparity made me uncomfortable, as did the fact that a diagnosis -- a few words from a doctor -- could dramatically change a patient's view of him- or herself. On the basis of an office visit and a simple test, a doctor could, for example, in diagnosing hypertension, ask a patient to take medication for the rest of his or her life, to endure aggravating side effects, and make major adjustments in diet and lifestyle. Overnight, patients diagnosed with chronic medical problems or illnesses began to think of themselves as "sick," and the effect that label had on their psyches and their physical health was substantial.

This is what happened to a patient of mine, Antonia Baquero. Before I met her, Ms. Baquero had had calcium deposits removed from her breast, an operation that left a large indentation. The calcium deposits were benign, but her surgeon recommended the operation because of the relatively small chance that a malignant tumor might later develop. The mere suggestion that she might develop cancer frightened Ms. Baquero. "I panicked," she explains. "I decided immediately, in one moment, to have the calcium deposits removed." Later, she regretted the decision. "My body felt cut up. It was a very difficult time in my life. I was trying to juggle business and family. I would wake up at three A.M. and be unable to sleep. There was too much tension."

Seeking relief from the anxiety and panic that escalated after her surgery, Ms. Baquero happened to pick up my book Your Maximum Mind at the library. Soon after, she came to Boston from her home in New York to see me. I talked with her about the relaxation response and the ways in which this relaxed physical condition could be brought about, or "elicited" as I prefer to say. To elicit the response, I explained that she needed to focus silently on a word or phrase for a period of ten to twenty minutes twice every day, gently brushing aside any everyday thoughts that distracted her to return to her focus. I told her that this was the mental exercise I had shown would dramatically ease the body's usual alert mode of operation, not undermining it, simply letting it calm down and rest for a while while one was awake.

As so many of my patients do, Ms. Baquero decided to incorporate a religious phrase in this mental focusing exercise. Since I encourage people to pick a focus that pleases them, she adopted a Spanish blessing, "Jesu Christo ayudame, ampárame y curame," which means "Jesus Christ, help me, protect me, and cure me." Her mother said a similar blessing to her and her siblings as children before they left for school each day. And over the course of months in which she used this familiar prayer to elicit the relaxation response, Ms. Baquero began to feel liberated from the worry and strain that had bothered her incessantly before. "I started to feel better. I started looking at people and life in a different way. I put less pressure on myself," she says.

Surely, Ms. Baquero was experiencing the wonderful physical solace of the relaxation response, the opposite effect of the edgy, adrenaline rush we experience in the stress-induced fight-or-flight response. But she also spoke of a more emotional comfort, which the symbolism and meaning of her mother's blessing inspired. The emotional and spiritual balm seemed to affect her as much as the chemical and physical changes that occur during the relaxation response.

Not only was he... --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

'Fascinating… a gold mine of information about the integration of body, mind and soul.'
M. SCOTT PECK, author of The Road Less Travelled --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.

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Amazon.com: 23 commentaires
45 internautes sur 48 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Mind/body connection 29 janvier 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Dr Benson presents strong evidence for what others have called the "mind / body connection." Mainstream medical science has not yet recognized the importance belief plays in health but, Dr. Benson presents numerous studies that validate the major role belief plays in the healing process and wellness. Practitioners of complimentary therapies will find this book especially helpful in understanding how many non-drug based therapies can work. Well written and thought provoking!
51 internautes sur 57 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Faith in God turbo-charges our indwelling healing nature 20 novembre 2000
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I think what is amazing about this book is that Herbert Benson states without a doubt that faith in God is healthy for us. While our ancestors took it for granted that God healed them, as Dr. Benson explains, we have been taught to see healing purely in technical scientific terms. Dr. Benson explains that when we repudiated the importance of belief in healing we deprived ourselves of a powerful healing force.
Dr. Benson knows that his rational-scientific audience will be skeptical of his arguements. So, he provides us with well-reasoned arguements supported by ample evidence. He explains that we need to relax our over-stressed minds on a regular basis. We need this as an antedote to our hurried lives that stress us out and make us sick. He cites many studies (much from his own research) that daily meditation stimulates the bodies natural healing mechanisms.
Now, the radical finding of Dr. Benson's research is that belief in God makes a difference in healing. If a person meditates regularly using a spiritual phrase they are more likely to heal than those who use a secular word such as "peace". The person's religion doesn't matter. It seems that God is an equal opportunity healer.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Easy to read, Understand and Put into Practice 19 mars 2007
Par Scott H. Strickland - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
This is a well-written book that clearly describes the links between our thoughts and our physical health. It is written in an accessible personal style, without the "guru" overtones of works by Deepak Chopra or Wayne Dyer (good writers, just with a different style). Everyone, regardless of their view of God, can benfit from the concepts of Remembered Wellness and the Relaxation Response described in this book. A personal recomendation - couple this book, with its "unproven healing energy", with Greg Bradden's "The Divine Matrix", which describes this energy, and you will be good to go.
13 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Benson's Definition of Belief Doesn't Exclude the Non-Believers 14 octobre 2008
Par Pavel Somov, Ph.D., author of "Lotus Effect," "Present Perfect," & "Eating the Moment" - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Benson's book "Timeless Healing," contrary to its subtitle, "The Power and Biology of Belief," is not just for believers. Benson defines belief in epistemologically correct way: belief is nothing other than a set of operating assumptions, as a substitute for immediate and direct experience. It is with this epistemologically value-neutral manner that Dr. Benson approaches the topic at hand - the biology of expectation.

Benson - as most psychologists know from their grad studies - is the guy that brought the Relaxation Response to the West. Sure, the East-West synthesis had predated his writings and research, but Benson is arguably the first to have empirically studied and reported on the physiology that underlies relaxation.

The present book is an excellent resource for a behavioral medicine/health psychology clinician as well as for a general reader who is interested in leveraging the mind-over-body self-help. The book offers a cogent, highly accessible coverage of the concept of placebo (and its "evil twin," nocebo); it details the psycho-neuro-physiology of the relaxation response; it examines the variables that potentiate therapeutic suggestion and expectation in the clinician-client interactions; the book summarizes the mind-over-body research, and generally succeeds in making a good case for the need to infuse a greater degree of psychological savvy into the Western medical training.

The book is in some ways auto-biographical. Benson shares his journey from the medical establishment to the study of the relaxation response and, arguably, back to the medical establishment but on a mission of integrating what he had learnt.

As such, the book is a kind of life-review, perhaps, an attempt at professional legacy, and a suggested mission statement. A particularly secular reader might find Benson's book to be slightly evangelical. But Benson doesn't deceive: he checks his faith at the door, so to say, and offers an explicit "disclosure of belief." As a scientist-practitioner, he appears to be acutely aware of his potential for bias and narrates in a respectfully parenthetical manner, always seemingly cognizant of not overstepping the value boundaries of his hypotheses.

In short, Benson's "Timeless Healing" is an effective attempt to redefine "faith healing" in medical terms and to ground it in the axioms of behavioral medicine. Benson - in my opinion - succeeds in leaving a cosmopolitan enough legacy that is compatible both with secular and non-secular worldviews.

Pavel Somov, Ph.D.
Author of "Eating the Moment: 141 Mindful Practices to Overcome Overeating One Meal at a Time" (New Harbinger, Nov. 2008)
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The importance of mind on bodily health 28 juin 2012
Par Dr. H. A. Jones - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
Timeless Healing: The power and biology of belief, by Herbert Benson, Fireside (Scribner), New York, 1997, 352 ff.

A medical account of the importance of mental attitude on bodily health

Here, a physician presents his professional experience of cases where attitude of mind or belief had a remarkable effect on the physical health of his patients. In this respect, the book is mostly anecdotal - but none the less persuasive for that! It provides a clinical complement to Candace Pert's "Molecules of Emotion", which is largely biochemical. In Benson's own words: `the entire book [is] about the fact that beliefs have physical repercussions [and] that the human spirit [is] influential in the treatment and prevention of illnesses.' The patient, the caregiver and the relationship between the two are all considered important. There is sharp criticism of the American (and, by implication, of the British) medical care system for its enthusiasm for change, and for its heavy reliance on new technologies and drugs. Benson does not suggest that these new techniques should not be used, only that caregivers should not lose sight of the emotional, subjective feelings and beliefs of the patients.

These beliefs may involve a benevolent God, or an awareness of some kind of overarching spirituality, or simply a patient's belief that they were going to get well, perhaps by having been given placebo medication. Whatever the source of inspiration, the patient's belief in themselves could produce, or at least contribute to, wellness. But the reverse is also true. Belief in a vengeful God, or that one deserved one's ill-health, or that the disease prognosis was hopeless - the nocebo - had a markedly detrimental effect. In this context, Benson distinguishes two types of physiological events: `bottom-up' events where the brain responds to sensory signals or physical interventions, and `top-down' events where the body responds symptomatically to mental images of wellness or illness.

There are nearly 30 pages of References of research papers and books giving details of the clinical settings and experiments producing these results, including several from the world of complementary medicine. Most of the references are American, as we might expect from an American physician, but some British medical publications are included as well. Overall, the book is very readable and informative. It makes a worthy counter to the propaganda disseminated by British obscurantists like Professors David Colquhoun and Richard Dawkins who dismiss alternative medicine and mind-body interaction as imaginative nonsense. This book offers an uplifting, optimistic philosophy of life with the empirical evidence to indicate that such a positive world-view is effective in producing or maintaining health.

Howard Jones is the author of The World as Spirit

The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul
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