"Everyone's so in the dark when it comes to feeling good, whether it involves chronic illness, pain, aging, depression, or just flat-out stress. In fact, stress is the new medical word for feeling lousy, and reducing it is the new holy grail, what everyone wants. People know that they don't feel good, and they're not getting answers about how to feel better from their conventional doctors." - From the book
Featured in the indie film What the Bleep Do We Know!?, pharmacologist Candace Pert, Ph.D. discovered the opiate receptor and authored the book Molecules of Emotion. In her newest book Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d, Dr. Pert synthesizes her knowledge of peptides ("molecules of emotion"), the psychosomatic nature of the bodymind, and her personal journey from traditional, governmental scientist to a (self-proclaimed) "New Age diva".
The reason peptides are molecules of emotion, says Dr. Pert, is because substances that are found in the emotion center of the brain are also found throughout the entire body. While the popular Western model propagated both the myth of the blood/brain barrier, as well as the idea that the mind is in the brain, studies have shown that peptides (and hormones) are found in the brain, the organs, and bone marrow. For example, insulin is found in the brain, not just the pancreas--which opens up inquiry into whether diabetics could perhaps generate insulin from the brain center. And, because "brain chemicals" are found in cells throughout the body, Dr. Pert asserts that the "mind" is actually our entire body--which is why bodywork modalities such as massage, chiropractics, and craniosacral therapy are so effective at resolving emotional issues. After all, says Dr. Pert, cells store memories.
While Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d contains some potentially life saving information (for example, the addictiveness of sugar, and the dangers of excitotoxins such as MSG and aspartame, as well as trans fats), the title of this book is misleading. Rather than provide practical ways of putting cutting edge research into practice for the purpose of "feeling good", this book is more of a memoir of Dr. Pert's dysfunction and insecurities meshed with lecture excerpts, travelogues that read like a bad romance novel, and her clashes with her friend and co-writer Nancy Marriott. Many times throughout the book, Ms. Marriott urges Dr. Pert to "stay on track" and provide readers with practical information based on the science. Dr. Pert, growing frustrated with Nancy's exacting focus, replies "Just trust me! I'm taking the readers on a journey *with* me--and the book will write itself!"
Don't get me wrong, there's some great information and observations in this book--but other books, scientists, and spiritual teachers have covered most of it. Some of the solid, helpful tidbits include:
* "Studies have shown that rats will work as hard to receive a mouthful of sugar water as they will for an injection of cocaine!"
* "If your diet is low in fiber, and trans fats aren't carried out of your body, they can build up inside your intestinal tract, blood vessels, and brain. A full 70 percent of your brain is composed of fat, so just think about how that buildup can make you feel!"
* "Yes, it's funny how we all make up stories to describe so-called reality when incoming information hits our higher brain. And of course, we all get to create our own version of what's going on! But this is so important, this ability to either blame others or take responsibility for our actions, which are both decisions made at the level of the frontal cortex."
* "When you touch or press the body, that pressure transduces an electrical charge through the matrix. It's called `piso-electrical forces', a concept from physics 101."
* "...how you think and feel--your emotional state at any given moment--can actually impact the movement, division, and every other activity of your cells in much the same way as your internal juices and pharmaceutical drugs do. This is a central idea of my theory of emotions, that there's a physical substrate for your feelings, just as there is for the action of drugs and their effects in your body."
* "MPD is usually considered a pathological condition, but I believe that normal people like you and me have many subpersonalities, with one more dominant than the other, depending on which stimuli are influencing us."
* "Neural nets are formed by beliefs and visions, not by external data or sensory input alone."
* "The data shows that tumor progression--or regression--can be highly affected by attitude, but it's absurd New Age fascism to blame people's thought patterns for their cancer!"
As I mentioned before, Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d contains ideas found in other books--ones that are far more developed and useful. For example, the concept of different "selves" is not new (see Sacred Contracts by Caroline Myss and the Voice Dialogue work of Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone) while the power of the present moment has been popularized by Eckhart Tolle. The idea of "making up stories" is present in Toltec spirituality (e.g. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz) and The Work by Byron Katie (Loving What Is).
I admit, I had to literally *force* myself to read this book. (Why? Because I wanted to review it and I won't review books I don't read cover to cover.) I found the "romantic" dialogue describing clothing and her surroundings at various spas and gatherings to be irritating, as well as her "name dropping" and personal chronicles of dysfunction and relationship dramas (her father whom she discovered in bed with a blonde bimbo as a child, her husband, her co-workers, her son, her co-author...). Also, I was exhausted just *reading* about her over-achieving nature to always be the "best" in everything and trying to prove her worth (perhaps even to her readers)!
Some of her contradictions seem borne of guilt or from enmeshment in "the system" (First Chakra fear of ostracization from colleagues and/or lack of funding from governmental medical institutions?). For example, on page 82, she tries to use science to justify leaving kids in daycare due to the "demands of work" by saying that "human children have evolved naturally to spend hours each day with each other, as well as caretakers other than their moms, and I always felt quite content to leave my kids at well-run day-care centers." This didn't ring true to me and I actually wrote in the margin "Does she feel guilty?" Lo and behold, she confesses to sending her *son* into therapy but admits he was the most emotionally adjusted of the whole family. In fact, when talking about "restoring our mother/child bond" on page 205, she says "Part of my attachment came from my awareness that throughout his young life, he'd suffer from a lack of attention as Michael and I pursued our Peptide-T dramas, something I saw happening only in hindsight." Bingo.
Speaking of Peptide-T, the AIDS drug her and her husband are working on marketing, much of Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d reads like an appeal for funding for this drug and its dissemination. While this is noble, it doesn't have much to do with the proposed title or topic of this book.
Everything You Need to Feel Go(o)d fills in some of the (many) gaps that are in Dr. Pert's audio series Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (Sounds True), and even repeats some of the information found in those CDs. If you're a huge fan of Dr. Pert's and don't mind reading one woman's meandering journey towards health, sanity, and self-acceptance--cobbled together with some real science--then you'll likely enjoy this book. However, if you want "just the facts", as well as concrete ways to use the information about cannabis and opiate receptors (such as, what thoughts, actions, or foods generate the appropriate peptides to "unlock" these responses?), then you'll probably be disappointed in this book. (The Sounds True audio Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind is a bit better at explaining peptides and the bodymind as a field of energy, although those CDs leave something to be desired, too). While Dr. Pert may be an accomplished researcher, she isn't an effective teacher. However, her attempts at transparency and authenticity are certainly admirable.
If you're feeling depressed, anxious, or sluggish and want to read actual science about brain chemistry *combined* with practical suggestions and protocols for physical and psychological health, then you're better off getting the book The Chemistry of Joy by Henry Emmons, M.D. or Lynne McTaggart's excellent new book The Intention Experiment.
If you want to skip the science altogether, but still want to explore how to deconstruct negative emotional habits and create healthier ways of emoting for overall well-being, then you may want to try Your Destiny Switch: Master Your Key Emotions, and Attract the Life of Your Dreams by Peggy McColl (also by Hay House).
Janet Boyer, author of The Back in Time Tarot Book: Picture the Past, Experience the Cards, Understand the Present (coming Fall 2008 from Hampton Roads Publishing)