Book Review: The Cure Within

By Mirka Knaster | June 1, 2008 | 0 comments

The Cure Within: A history of mind-body medicine
By Anne Harrington, W. W. Norton, 2008, 354 pages

When we say that someone is “lovesick” or “dying of a broken heart,” we are making a connection between that person’s mental state and physical health.

Yet for centuries, Western medicine dismissed the notion that the mind and body were linked, and treated illness as a strictly physical affair. In recent years, however, scientific discoveries have sparked a new interest in the powerful ways by which people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior affect their health and healing.

In The Cure Within, Harvard historian Anne Harrington examines the roots of mind-body medicine, exploring how today’s alternative treatments, such as mindfulness meditation, came into existence. She structures the book around six ideas of how the mind is involved in healing, focusing specifically on United States history since the 19th century.

For example, the first chapter, “The Power of Suggestion,” explores how charismatic authority figures can trigger changes in our bodies, such as when an exorcist “cures” an illness that springs from supposed demonic possession.

In later chapters, Harrington shows how we have increasingly used science to explain the connection between mind and body. She traces how disparate lines of research—such as psychoanalysis, meditation research, and social epidemiology—have interacted to shape a new kind of mind-body medicine.

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Greater Good wants to know:
Do you think this article will influence your opinions or behavior?

  • Very Likely

  • Likely

  • Unlikely

  • Very Unlikely

  • Not sure

About The Author

Mirka Knaster, Ph.D., is an independent scholar, freelance writer, and editor, and is the author of Discovering the Body’s Wisdom and Living this Life Fully (Shambhala, 2010), about the meditation master Anagarika Munindra.


Like this article?

Here's what you can do:

blog comments powered by Disqus



Greater Good Events

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017
Clark Kerr Campus, UC-Berkeley
Sunday, June 25 - Friday, June 30, 2017 OR Sunday, July 16 - Friday, July 21, 2017

The Greater Good Science Center Summer Institute for Educators 2017

The GGSC’s six-day Summer Institute equips education professionals with prosocial learning strategies, tools and processes that benefit both students and teachers.


Take a Greater Good Quiz!

How compassionate are you? How generous, grateful, or forgiving? Find out!


Watch Greater Good Videos

Jon Kabat-Zinn

Talks by inspiring speakers like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dacher Keltner, and Barbara Fredrickson.


Greater Good Resources


Book of the Week

Roots of Empathy By Mary Gordon Mary Gordon explains how best to nurture empathy and social emotional literacy in all children—and thereby reduce aggression, antisocial behavior, and bullying.

Is she flirting with you? Take the quiz and find out.
"It is a great good and a great gift, this Greater Good. I bow to you for your efforts to bring these uplifting and illuminating expressions of humanity, grounded in good science, to the attention of us all."  
Jon Kabat-Zinn

Best-selling author and founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program

thnx advertisement