At the beginning of the book, Young-Sowers presents the idea of combining energy work with standard Western biological medicine:
“We must learn about and understand the invisible world of feelings and spirit – the art of healing – as well as the visible world of treatments and procedures – the science of healing – so that we can combine them and benefit from the best of both world’s. The art and science of healing are like two halves of an apple – both are essential to create the whole (pg 5).”
Her concepts and ideas are to incorporate all of a person in the healing process, examining the physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of a person.
She offers Ask Yourself, Attitude, and Activities sections. The Ask Yourself sections are thought provoking. The Attitude shifts are summary sentences stated like affirmations that assist in recognizing main points of the chapter. The Activities are simple and easy to follow.
Early in the book Young-Sowers expresses a tolerance for all religious paths but throughout the book she refers to the divine more from a traditional Christian point of view. When she discusses divine forces, she separates divine power into male/female with a very traditional view of the gender roles. The female provides love and male provides power. When she tackles anger which can be a powerful and motivating, she treats it as a negative emotion only and advises the reader to shed it. I disagree with this perspective: Anger can be a driving force. Moreover, the author doesn’t present any new ideas. She discusses slowing the hectic pace of life and taking time to re-charge – who doesn’t know that by now?
Some of Young-Sowers concepts are controversial. She is a bit preachy in her assertion that someone who goes through “a serious illness can’t be an atheist” (pg 47). While this may be true in her personal experience, it is a naïve perspective given the variety of ways people experience healing. She believes that the path followed prior to a crisis point isn’t the right one and the only way out is to find the right path. (It could be they were following the right path and something collided with their path.) She says essentially that DNA has less to do with disease than a person’s thoughts, choices, fears, etc. and this is a downright dangerous attitude. Positive thinking certainly has an effect on a person’s recovery; however, this seems to ignore the scientific side of the equation she wants to incorporate into the healing process.
Towards the middle of the book, Young-Sowers relates feelings and attitudes to cancer so if we have the right attitude we won’t get cancer, according to her statements. This does not take into account any other factors like environment or genetics. She purports the need to be filled with love and light in order to stay healthy but sometimes love has to be tough love and sometimes good loving people die. Young-Sowers discusses her theory that women, when stressed, will tend and befriend rather than flight or fight. She says “if we’ve been the victim, it was because of our deeply rooted biological need to tend and befriend.” Feminism takes a step back a couple of hundred years and I must point out that ‘tend and befriend’ is about compromising and finding solutions, not giving up one’s personal power and ability. This makes women great negotiators and diplomats, not automatic victims. It isn’t a surprise that she presents a very traditional look at relationships: women are needy, men are physical, and this is a matter of basic biology (including the biological urge to mate that all women share (pg 225).) Perhaps that can be taken seriously if you take ‘mate’ to mean ‘have sex’ and not ‘procreate’ – in which case, I know a lot of men who enjoying mating.
Spirit Heals starts out on a positive note, but all too quickly falls prey to muddled thinking and poor rhetoric which on one hand says women have this amazing healing power but are simultaneously trapped within out-moded and false stereotypes. There isn’t anything new or fresh in this book: it is a poor attempt to incorporate alternative thinking and beliefs into traditional roles.
~review by Eileen Troemel
Author: Meredith L. Sowers
New World Library, 2007
pp. 309, $15.95