We all know instinctively that body, mind, and spirit are intricately connected.
I began my work as a medical writer at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals with a focus on neurophysiology and the interconnections between emotion and pathophysiology. Research scientists, psychiatrists, and neurologists provided my training, which included learning the work of Hans Selye and Harold Wolff and their tradition of understanding neurophysiology and immunology in the light of human behavior and emotion.
It has been more than 20 years since Carl Simonton, Norman Cousins, Bernie Siegel, Herbert Benson, John Sarno, and Louise Hay brought mind-body awareness back into American medical practices. Meanwhile the NIH Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine is busy proving their work in the terminology of mainstream science.
In Molecules of Emotion, neuropharmacologist Dr. Candace Pert describes how, after devising the methodology and discovering the opiate receptor, her team of NIH scientists went on to identify and map the complex array of neurochemicals that orchestrate human functioning as well as emotion. Explaining her transformation from bench researcher into a mind-body specialist, Dr. Pert cites her 1985 article in the Journal of Immunology:
The answer, I believe, is all are best, and all are best approached together. I chose to work on a doctorate in clinical psychology to complement the years of research I have done in medical fields that often lacked an understanding of how to apply emotion to the equation of healing.
A body-mind-spirit approach to medicine helps us use that knowledge to develop more effective ways of solving clinical mysteries.
Most major medical centers now have centers devoted to the study of psychoneuroimmunology, busy with both laboratory and clinical experiments. Yet the everyday world of medicine still splits its focus into parts, so patients and their physicians are not sure what approach is best nor which is primary for dealing with multilayered illness.
A major conceptual shift in neuroscience has been wrought by the realization that brain function is modulated by numerous chemicals... many within emotion-mediating brain areas.... Neuropeptides and their receptors thus join the brain, glands, and immune system in a network of communication between brain and body...
Pert, Candace. Molecules of Emotion, the science behind mind-body medicine. New York: Scribner, 1997 (page 179).