The author is a Consultant Neurologist, and the book is a user friendly – that’s to say for lay people rather than medics – exploration of psychosomatic illness told through anonymised case studies.
A psychosomatic illness is one manifesting physical symptoms in the body but without an identified physical cause and thus, by a process of elimination, being caused by the mind. This could be seizures, paralysis, ME, fibromyalgia or IBS. That’s not to say the conscious mind, and the author is at pains to develop the theme of the conditions stemming from the sub conscious mind and being inside of the immediate control of the patient.
This mind body connection is of course a fascinating one for yogis, and a link of which we are all to aware. Much of the magic of yoga rests on the practitioner slowly starting to get to know the sub conscious and bring it into conscious awareness – “Taming the thought waves of the mind” as Sutra 1:2 puts it.
However this book isn’t a yoga book, it strictly looks from a medical perspective; a repeated theme is the author trying to persuade patients they need to see a psychiatrist alongside her own neurological perspective, and you can’t help but wonder whether that’s a circle of medicalisation that may be assisted or alleviated by non medical modalities – including meditation and yoga. If nothing else the stories told are probably a good exhortation for taking care of the whole self – mental, emotional, spiritual and physical, as most of the case studies seem routed in suppressed trauma which has overflowed, quite often exacerbated by patients searching for physical causes and being unwilling, or perhaps unable, to countenance psychological causes.
A good read for anyone interested in mind and body, albeit from a medicalised perspective.