Mind Over Medicine: Wild, Dangerous Claims Or Salvation?

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lissaheadshotLissa Rankin’s new book, Mind Over Medicine, is creating quite a stir.

Rankin is an M.D. who walked away from her practice of mainstream medicine after a highly-successful career. She was frustrated, angry and looking for answers that traditional guidelines didn’t seem to support.

She discovered that in her practice, patients in one of the healthiest towns in the country still weren’t healing. For certain conditions mainstream medicine worked well. And, in fact, Rankin doesn’t cry for the end of it. But, for others, there was something deeper that was going on. And no matter how often mainstream medicine soothed the symptoms, the real challenge, the deeper pains, kept resurfacing new and old symptoms over and over.

What Rankin argues is that mainstream medicine does not represent the universe of potentially valuable treatment protocols or modalities. That state of mind, emotion, human circumstance, human interaction and belief not only play a role, but have the ability to effectively turn on or off the body’s innate ability to heal itself. To keep disease and pain ever-present, or serve as a foundation for sustained recovery.

Rankin knew this argument would potentially position her as a major target, a quack preaching pseudo-science. Even though her pedigree in medicine is reasonably bullet-proof. And, interestingly, while she’s looking to convince patients, the real demographic she seeks to make her case to is…doctors.

So instead of rely on purely anecdotal evidence (which she wields mightily), she also relies on science, culling years of research on “phenomena” that’s been written off and experimental “outliers” and showing how they in fact are signposts of something much bigger.

Yesterday, we aired an in-depth interview with Rankin on Good Life Project.

The episode is actually the longest one we’ve ever shot at over an hour, because we couldn’t find anything to cut. This will be an hour of your life well spent. As expected, it’s been getting a strong reaction on both sides of the aisle.

(FYI – If you’d rather just download and listen to the mp3, subscribe at GoodLifeProject.com and get instant access)

I thought it would interesting to speak to some of the comments and arguments here…

Someone from my community on Facebook shared his concern that people like Rankin and books like hers may stop people who are suffering from pursuing mainstream treatment had could be effective at relieving or curing a condition. He referenced the now famed example of Steve Jobs, who, we learned after his death, had put off mainstream treatment in favor or alternative therapies so long that by the time he went back to mainstream it was too late.

I struggle with this same argument. It’s valid. Especially when you’re gambling with someone’s life. Caution is critical when walking away from a traditional therapy in the name of an alternative. I’d never suppose to be in a position to tell someone which course is best for them.

And, interestingly, neither would Rankin. That’s actually not her message. She readily owns up to the value that many traditional therapies offer.

Her argument is simply that:

  • There may be alternatives that work equally well or better, but more importantly…
  • Regardless of the “treatment” protocol, the state of mind, life-circumstance and belief system of the patient and the social dynamic that exists both between the patient and the healthcare provider and the patient and her family and friends all play a huge role in the efficacy of ANY therapy, traditional or alternative.

Put another way, if your doctor, healer, surgeon, shaman or other person in whom you’ve placed your trust tells you your condition is hopeless, your outcome is far more likely to be bad. And the opposite holds true as well.

Similarly, if you treat the symptom without treating the underlying cause, the symptom will come back. That’s not controversial. Rankin is saying we need to dramatically expand the definition of what comes under the rubric of potential “underlying causes.”

But, where’s the research? And why do you have to buy a product to get at it? Doesn’t that automatically speak to the fact that this is all about the money? It’s just a sham?

This was a second question asked of me.

Interesting point of view, too. Great question. I’m what I’d call an optimistic skeptic, lol. I’m open to anything, but I want to be convinced.

Short answer – you don’t have to pay for the product or book to find the citations. I can’t speak to any other book or product, but Rankin’s book is actually fairly heavily end-noted with references to research published in respected journals. To access the citations, if you’d rather not buy the book, just borrow it from your local library. That’s the beauty of books.

“Well, sure,” comes the reply, “but that’s just citations, what about the actual research?”

Interesting thing about research in the modern world. It’s all submitted to and published in journals that generally share abstracts, but keep the full investigative reports behind paywalls.

Anyone can access them, but you’ve got to pay. That goes for the curious public, and it also goes for doctors themselves, though usually it’s their affiliated institutions who pay blanket subscription fees that provide access.

The way I see it, people like Rankin add value to this equation by paying those access fees, curating and digesting the research into a synthesis they feel makes sense and will help inform others. Instead of going through thousands of abstracts, I can then read the endnotes and, should I still want to go further, purchase the full reports from the journals (which I do, when a subject interests me and I don’t want to reply solely on someone else’s reading of the tea leaves).

Final thought…

While Rankin goes deep into things like belief and the placebo effect and the studies and databases that are being developed around these supposed outlier phenomena, there’s a bigger message that I think we can and should all get behind.

The standard of care provided by the healing professional has a huge impact on patient health. What they say and do, how they treat patients, how much time, presence, genuine nurturing and listening they offer, these things matter. They have a very real, measurable effect on clinical outcomes.

My sense is that healthcare providers know this. They WANT to provide exceptional levels of contact and care. But they’re also getting increasingly squeezed by a system that doesn’t allow it to happen. And, in the end, not only are patients suffering…doctors are suffering, too.

Especially if you’re someone who feels “called” to medicine. Called to heal. And the way you’re being pushed to practice no longer allows you to honor that call on the level that leaves you satisfied.

So, do I believe you should wholeheartedly buy into everything Rankin says in Mind Over Medicine?

Not a chance. I certainly wouldn’t. And, frankly, if she was reading her own book as an outsider, neither would Rankin.

But, you should read it, and really any other book, article or piece of content on this topic, with an openness to questioning the assumptions that have gotten us to where we are in medicine today. Asking if it’s where we want to be? And, if this is the course we want to continue to plot?

There is, no doubt, incredible good that’s come out of the allopathic tradition. But, what have we missed along the way? And how might we evolve if we were willing to engage in conversations that, not too long ago, would’ve been considered the rambling of a mad-person?

Inevitably, those who lead to the introduction of new paradigms are labeled pariahs and mavericks in the early days. Or, as Gandhi said…

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

Curious what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, with gratitude for your thoughtful presence,


[Disclosure – Rankin is a friend. When traveling to the Bay area, she regularly plies me with raw organic chocolate. At one point, in a cocoa, organic agave and coconut-oil induced stupor, I think she even convinced me to blurb the book, but frankly it’s all one big coca-bean blur. Friend or foe, I write what I believe is the truth, from my heart. Take it or leave it, just thought you should know]

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18 responses

18 responses to “Mind Over Medicine: Wild, Dangerous Claims Or Salvation?”

  1. Jennifer says:

    This was one of my favorite interviews and I love just about EVERY SINGLE ONE. This is the first one I have shared with someone I love.
    Thanks so much for introducing us to Lissa. I LOVE how she brings science to holistic medicine.

  2. ava grace says:

    Good for you Lissa!!! I suffered from asthma for 16 years, changed mainstream doctors, tried homeopathy and other modalities, and finally was told within the last few months from my mainstram specialist that I “had” to take Xolair – which is labeled as a “black box” drug by the FDA – highly controversial & dangerous. There are lawfirms already taking cases surrounding the sickness & deaths caused by this drug!

    I said “No” (thankfully) and decided to try chiropractic. All it took was one adjustment & I am markedly better – without drugs. I have lowered my asthma meds & am breathing like a kid again! I still go for weekly adjustments – but it’s a miracle. It’s the nerve system that needs to be healthy for us to function as healthy individuals & stress seems to be a major factor.

    I look forward to reading your book!!! Thank you for writing!

  3. Ligia Buzan says:

    Thanks Jonathan, another very interesting topic. I look forward to reading Lissa’s book. This topic has been of great interest to me for a number of years, and I notice how developments in the area pf mind-body follow a spiral, and resurface every few years, with different perspectives and ideas, and they shall be doing, until the right time is here for us to own our emotions and to make the right decisions for our health. She is not alone; in the 8os Janine Fontaine, a French cardiologist followed the exact same path, leaving her well paid position at a hospital in Paris to investigate alternative ways of healing. Bernie Siegel, a US oncology surgeon, wrote extensively on this topic at the end of the 90s. Wish Lissa all the best!

  4. meg says:

    I have been sick since I was fourteen. Now I am in my sixties, and things got unbearable. My doc dropped me when I had to give up my insurance. I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, arthritis, asthma, allergies, etc. ad nauseum, which I was often, and dizziness. I went to every doc they could find and was taking more than 10 drugs daily. I reduced them as much as possible with a more hands off doc, and I went to a chiropractor I found in the newspaper. I still think it’s a bit of a scam. I had to sign a contract for payment to a third party. He gives me supplements which mostly upset my stomach, but the interesting part, was he had me modify my diet. No dairy or gluten, which I followed fairly strictly for 3 months and I started feeling better. Now I cheat, but with knowledge that I will feel worse when I do. There was a point where my whole system went nuts, and I cured it with beef soup, the kind your grandmother made with bones and marrow in it. go figure.
    Oh, and red meat unless it is grass fed with no antibiotics is out. Interesting. How could the foods which I ate my whole life, suddenly turn on me? I heard a radio show last week where they admitted that the wheat we used to eat has all but been replaced by one which is more hardy to grow, but suddenly people cannot digest it. Thousands daily are found to have celiac, which I don’t think I have. Is it because they tainted our food supplies? Maybe.
    I took terrible asthma drugs for about 15 years and now, just don’t. There are days when I cannot breathe well, and yet, it’s better than taking that poison into my lungs, which were starting to grow odd things inside. I took more pet scans and mri’s than anyone ever should. Now I am trying to find the source of my problems. Many are stress related, but others are hereditary and food related. No western medicine doctor is going to tell you anything more than to lose a few. They won’t tell you how, or why, or try to find the roots of your problem, but they will give you palliative meds to cover the symptoms. How is that right?
    Thanks Lisa for looking into this important field.

    • sandra says:

      Meditation is the key. I believe 120% that high frequency/vibration through meditation, definitely will change your brain forever. I’m a pharmacist-biochemist licensed in Brazil, where I’m from, having working around 12 years( not much at all for healthcare but still)I know “healthcare” system which I call symptom relief system and broken wallets when if it’s not the life. Believe or not, I was a kind of pharmacist hates meds, a plant lover, holistic. and I thought( long story) somehow like Lissa’s story: What’s going on with me?? and I said to myself when I got divorced: I’m marrying,loving myself first and I’m already cured,healed from any kind of disturbance. Of course, i have my breakdowns but with awareness. The mind is powerful like the saying:” knowledge is power”. Now. I’m an aromatherapist following the Medical Sattvic system. I’m still studying and heaping the seed..

  5. Jon says:

    I really look forward to listening to the segment and reading Lissa’s book!

    Maybe if the conversation with our doctors centered more around the question of root causes, arguing over the best way to treat symptoms might become less important or even moot.

  6. David Gomes says:

    I appreciate Lissa’s energy and professional efforts because her work will help to close the intentional gap that is maintained between Eastern and Western health practices. The intentional gap is part of the driving force because the limitations of Western medicine drive up costs and increase patient demand for better outcomes.

  7. Rob Collins says:

    WOW! This is my favourite GLP interview! I have goose bumps!

    It’s so moving and powerful. Like Jonathan, it fills my mind with so many questions and wanting to find out more! I’m usually a hardcore science guy who really is very sceptical of alternative medicine, but this sounds rational, logical and backed by evidence. I’m buying the book now!

    I also LOVED Lissa describing the ongoing evolution of her career path too, guided by her inner voice.

    Thanks so much to both Lissa and Jonathan.

  8. Patty Ripley says:

    There’s such a myriad of health concerns from sustaining optimal health to choosing treatment that aligns with you. I found Anita Moorjani’s book, Dying To Be Me to be powerful in that she chose conventional and alternative options to ‘cure’ her advanced cancer only to find a deep connection to her true ‘essence’ is what healed her. Eliminating fear and completely deepening trust within can change things at a cellular level.

    Thanks for sharing this interview as we’re each
    navigating healthful living and the choices that come our way.

  9. Israel Smith says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I have the utmost respect for what you, and Good Life Project stand for and bring to the world.

    Firstly, thankyou. Sincerely.

    Secondly, today’s email was absolutely stellar and gave me an even higher opinion of your integrity and honesty.

    Congratulations and keep up the amazing work you do.

    And, when my wife and I have our “Family, Love and Wellness Tour” up and running, I’d love to get in touch again about possibly being interviewed by you to share our message with your audience.

    With love,
    Israel. xo

  10. Catherine says:

    At the risk of sounding “flip”: eggs in one basket. There have always been alternatives. Life is not an either-or proposition, the idea that our health care should be is ludicrous.

  11. Allyson says:

    This was just plain awesome………..except that Lissa has plain scared the pants off of me about going to med school for ob/gyn!!!!! How am I going to survive the insanity!???? 🙂

  12. sandra says:

    I’m reading Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson and It’s fascinating how our brain works. Coincidence or not,when I came across with Jonathan Fields email inviting to watch the author of the Mind over medicine which I came across again through another connection talking about Lissa. Then I asked myself: who’s this doctor all over my emails??? kind of Law of Attraction. Anyway, I just loved her sincerity, integrity and courageous to be so vulnerable for many risks and not giving it up. Thanks a lot and I agree with her. I just purchased her book. I’m an avid reader and avid for researching things to answer my whats/hows/when/where. Many Blessings.

  13. teri says:

    Loved the interview (though I’ve not yet finished it!) loved the email this morning, Dr. J. Your integrity, as always, shines through. As an acupuncturist, of course, I loved the view into alternative medicine and the candid review of current mainstream medicine. To me, mindset is the major contributing factor to wellness. Interestingly, one of the reasons I stopped my acupuncture practice and went into coaching is because even though people were getting better, the mindset piece wasn’t being addressed in depth (especially if I was only treating someone occasionally) and people would get well, then land back on the table. Good alternative practitioners address that (I did – but found that my true gifts lie in coaching) – so even in alternative medicine, the practitioner must address the whole person, including the mind and spirit. Love, too, that Lissa doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Modern medicine provides miracles, too, along with its iatrogenic illness’ from some treatments (and over treatments!)…What a balanced, smart and refreshing breath of fresh air Lissa is. Thanks!

  14. Joe says:

    Great to have brave voices like Lissa’s speaking her truth. The medical establishment does NOT own healing.

  15. Barbara says:

    This was totally awesome to listen to and exactly the way I think and feel. Thank you so much. It was the best ever. I wish I knew Lissa. Thank you again.

  16. I was told by a homeopath once “If you know the cause of the problem, like when you get cut by a saw, then allopathic medicine is the way to go. But when you can’t pinpoint a cause, alternative medicine modalities can be better– you avoid just treating the symptoms and get to the root cause”.

    I agree.

    I also agree that the mind is one of the strongest and most underused components in our health care system.

    Also I believe that the more we use it, the more connected we can make it to our bodies and the more useful and potent it can become in getting and keeping us well.

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