My next book The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage As Medicine For The Body, Mind & Soul comes out February 24! What inspired me to write The Fear Cure? After writing Mind Over Medicine, I had a post-publishing epiphany. I realized that it's all well and good to teach the 6 Steps to Healing Yourself, to invite people to do the deep transformational work that makes the body ripe for miracles and facilitates “spontaneous” remissions. But even if people are intuitive enough to tune into what their bodies need in order to heal, and even if they’re wise enough to write The Prescription for themselves, way too often, fear gets in the way. You may know what needs to change in your life, but if you’re not courageous enough to act upon your inner guidance, you’re likely to stay sick—and stuck.
That’s when I realized (with a gulp) that I needed to write a book about fear and courage.
(You can preorder it here.)
A lot of people think of fear as a painful, disruptive emotion, and they may be aware of how fear is holding them back in their personal or professional lives. But few people, including physicians, are aware that fear predisposes you to illness and interrupts the healing process. In The Fear Cure, I share scientific data proving that fear and disease are linked and that fear can out-picture as heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, chronic pain syndromes, and even the common cold.
But fear doesn’t just make you sick. It limits your ability to fully step into your soul’s purpose in what poet Mary Oliver calls “this one wild and precious life.” Perhaps even more importantly, it keeps us stuck in a cultural world view that will destroy our planet—and us along with it—if we don't WAKE UP.
In The Fear Cure, I share what I call the "Four Fearful Assumptions," beliefs we have adopted that contribute to our fear-mongering culture and lead us to make choices based on a scarcity mentality, and these choices not sabotage your efforts to be happy, healthy, and thriving; these choices harm us all.
My mother had a sore neck, probably from Pilates class, she figured. So Mom went to her doctor, who ordered an X-ray. Upon reviewing the X-ray, her doctor ordered a CT scan for a week later. My mother asked her doctor why he was ordering more tests. Did he see evidence of osteoporosis? Arthritis? A slipped disc?
Without even making eye contact with her, Mom’s doctor said, “Could be metastatic cancer.” Then he promptly left the room.
Let me explain what was happening in my mother’s nervous system in that moment when my mother’s doctor said the words “metastatic cancer” without offering any comfort. Mom was married to my father, a radiologist who read X-rays for a living, so Mom’s thinking rational forebrain knew that if the radiologist saw anything even mildly suspicious, he might order follow up testing and it wasn’t necessarily the end of the world. But Mom’s rational forebrain was not in charge in the moment when her doctor said the words “metastatic cancer.” Instead, the amygdala in Mom’s primal brain flashed back to my father, who had died of metastatic cancer only a few years earlier. All her amygdala heard was, “METASTATIC CANCER! A CERTAIN DEATH SENTENCE!”
When Mom’s amygdala heard the word “cancer,” her amygdala automatically signaled “danger,” and the red alert fired off, flipping on Mom’s “fight-or-flight” stress response. Mom’s hypothalamus then released hormones that communicated with her pituitary gland, which communicated with her adrenal gland, and then BOOM. Her body was instantly filled with high levels of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine. Her whole body was now in what Walter Cannon at Harvard called the “stress response.” It was ready to outrun the threat, even though in reality, there was no threat to outrun. The only thing Mom could do was wait a week until her CT scan was scheduled.
As I scan the New York Times Bestseller’s list week after week, it kills me to notice how many bestselling books are about yet another diet or exercise regimen guaranteed to help you lose weight so you will finally be thin enough/ pretty enough/ good enough/ [insert your deepest insecurity] enough. Blech! No wonder so many people struggle with weight control when the weight loss and beauty industries focus on teaching you to hate yourself thin.
As much as I resent the weight loss industry for pressuring people into eating disorders, triggering their self-loathing, and leading to unhealthy yo yo diet habits that don’t benefit the health of the body, mind, or spirit, when I read Jessica Ortner’s The Tapping Solution For Weight Loss & Body Confidence, my soul let out a resounding, “Hell yeah!” As a physician fully aware of the many health benefits of maintaining a healthy weight, I’ve long been on the lookout for a book I could recommend to patients who were ready to get off the dieting treadmill and really do the internal work necessary in order to achieve an optimally healthy weight. Look no further. The Tapping Solution For Weight Loss is exactly that book.
Mind Over Weight Loss
As the author of Mind Over Medicine, I’ve joked that I might one day write a book called Mind Over Weight Loss, because the research I’ve done has led me to believe that our minds play a much greater role in our weight than what we eat or how much we exercise. Now I don’t need to write that book. Jessica Ortner already has. I know it’s radical to suggest that the solution to weight loss might lie more in the realm of the mind than in the mouth, the stomach, or the gym. How could that be? I’ll give you one hint- the stress hormone cortisol.
You know how everyone seems to expect the holidays to be perfect? You may feel pressured to have the perfect presents under the tree (and lots of them). You may be expected to prepare the perfect holiday feast. Maybe you feel like you’re supposed to act perfectly happy and content, even though the holidays remind you of losing someone you loved or having your heart broken or not having someone you love to spend the holidays with. Maybe you think you’re supposed to look a certain way or dress a certain way. Maybe you feel pressured to stuff your feelings and overlook the way your family sometimes hurts you.
Sure, it’s a time to be grateful for what we have. But the holidays don’t have to be perfect. It’s WAY better when they’re just real.
But what does it mean to be real? Margery Williams says it best in The Velveteen Rabbit:
“’Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'
'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.
'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'
'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.’”
When my literary agent Michele read the first draft of my book Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself, she said, “Lissa, before I read your book, I honestly thought my body was none of my business. It was my doctor’s business. I thought my body was like my car. When my car breaks, I hand it over to my auto mechanic and expect my mechanic to fix it and hand it back to me. I expected the same from my doctor. But after reading Mind Over Medicine, I now know that my body is my business, that nobody knows my body better than me and that my health is my responsibility.”
In my decades of experience working with patients as a physician, Michele’s formerly passive approach to her health is not uncommon. Many patients take this auto mechanic approach to health, handing over their bodies to doctors they may not even screen as carefully as they choose their auto mechanics, never questioning what the doctor says, seeking clarity when they’re confused, asking for second opinions when they doubt the diagnosis or treatment plan of the doctor, or taking their bodies elsewhere when something doesn’t feel right.
Essentially these patients, especially the ones who have been labeled with a “chronic,” “incurable,” or “terminal” illness, have been programmed to believe that Western medicine has done all it can do and they are therefore at the mercy of doctors who can’t cure them. They often come to experience what physician and researcher Martin Seligman coins “learned helplessness.”