“Why do we feel the way we feel?” is the question posed on the back cover.

Candace Pert was one of the first scientists to properly explore some of these questions – literally as the title suggests what are the molecules that cause emotion?  More specifically what are the receptors in the nervous system those molecules connect with?

The first two thirds of the book are the authors recounting of her research in the area, told from a autobiographic perspective.  Not only do we learn of the experiments and research, but of her struggle to have the work recognised and the difficulties of being a female scientist at a time when science was largely male dominated.  We learn something of the hard work of research and the painstaking effort required.  She also links the research to life around her – how what she found in the laboratory related to the surrounding world of relationships and emotion.

The later third of the book, again semi autobiographic, is how these findings affect our lives.  If we know the molecular and neurological rational behind that question – “Why do we feel the way we feel?” –  then how do we influence this?  How does this knowledge fit into a larger dialogue of healing, well being and healthy life?  How does it relate to what the author calls “unhealed feeling” – stored and repressed emotions – and how does it fit into an understanding of a spiritual dimension to life?

Through out the book emerging understandings of the workings of the brain and nervous system, along with the interface to other body systems such as the endocrine system (hormones) and the immune system (inflammation), are explained and teased apart.

So this is a book that bridges both science and practical life, and the author covers both bases well and writes eloquently.  This was a book that had been on my shelf for quite a while, and I really became quite absorbed by it when I started reading.  At well over 300 pages, and close set text, its not the shortest work but anyone with an interest in this area would find the book worth setting aside time to read.

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