Book Review: Molecules of Emotion

Updated: Sep 13, 2020

Part how-it-works, part autobiography, part exposé, Molecules of Emotion is a must read for anyone who is interested in seeing the human being as a whole.

Dr. Candace Pert is an amazing individual. Though I have never met her, she definitely hits the top of my If-You-Could-Have-Dinner-With-Anyone list. Her best selling book, Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine, has given me enough insight into her world to know that it would be one heck of a conversation!

Molecules of Emotion is a wonderfully fluid work that seamlessly integrates three major themes in a way that perfectly complements the subject matter both in telling and in spirit. It is part autobiography exploring her evolution from strict, rational scientist dealing in only acceptable facts to a person who is willing to explore the real-world implications of her experimental results and to push back against the traditional boundaries of the scientific disciplines; part exposé on the gender bias, politics, and rigidity in the scientific community that prevents medicine and other life saving therapies from reaching the public as quickly as they are discovered; and part how-it-works, exploring the chemicals (peptides) that trigger emotions as well as physiological reactions (increased circulation, digestion, body temperature, etc.) and how this information is designed to flow through our immune systems, digestive systems, musculoskeletal systems, and endocrine systems as well as our nervous systems creating non-hierarchical communication in our bodyminds.

I began reading this book to learn more about how the mind can impact the body. As anyone who has worked with me lately has experienced, my world has come (back) around to seeing the importance of mental state, both conscious and unconscious, on a person’s physical state. For a long time, I have pushed aside the energetic and emotional elements of my work in favor of what I saw to be the more palatable, acceptable entirely structurally based therapies. Yet, the more I work with people, especially those who have chronic pain and pelvic pain, the less I can deny the importance of our internal landscapes. And the less I can say I am doing everything I can to help my clients by only working on the bio-mechanical and structural aspects of their being. So in an effort to be able to translate what I, and most of us when we’re honest, intuitively know into language that is more grounded even in it’s “woo,” I am seeking the science that backs the feeling.

This book had so many brain bombs! By far the largest was the complete “click” it inspired regarding the mind/body connection: they aren’t just connected but the mind and the body are the same! “The body is the unconscious mind!” (p 141) Pert’s work clearly illustrates that our unconscious selves have distinct, measurable elements because the unconscious can also be interpreted as our autonomic nervous system - the part of us that controls things such as heart rate. She also demonstrates that those elements can come under conscious control when attention and intention is applied aided by practices like yoga, meditation, and breathwork. This revelation completely demolishes the Cartesian view of the body as simply parts that somehow culminate in a human machine blindly reacting to stimulus creating the illusion of consciousness!

Molecules of Emotion is an absolute must-read for anyone who is interested in grasping the nature of what it means to be human. I, for one, am looking forward to re-reading it over and over again.

Have you read this book? What did you think? What brain bombs did you experience? Let me know in the comments! #MoleculesofEmotion #bodymind #mindbody #mindbodyconnection #wearenotmachines #consciousness #holisticbodywork

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