A family and integrative medicine practitioner extols the universal healing power of kindness and mutual respect.
Rakel (Chair, Family and Community Medicine/Univ. of New Mexico; Integrative Medicine, 2002) explores the hot-button topic of empathy in everyday life. Using clinical anecdotes and drawing on 30 years of published sociology, psychology, meditative, and neuroscientific studies to support his theories and recommendations, the author promotes the synergistic two-way street of helping others while receiving in return the soul-nourishing emotional and physical benefits. “The human brain is actually wired for cooperation and giving,” he writes. “But we’re not always good at it.” Though many often bungle it, Rakel clearly believes everyone has the capacity to promote, cultivate, and boost health, healing, and “positive contagion” by making a lasting human and mind-body connection with others. This involves refocusing energy and attention more toward improving our listening skills and on being present in moments of personal interaction. The author acknowledges that technological advances in medicine and social networking have robbed our culture of many avenues and opportunities to establish these connections, but he notes that it’s up to us to do the work of releasing everyday biases, creating trustworthy bonds with others, and propagating mindfulness. While a lucidly presented, proactive approach to the benefits of human interactions, Rakel’s two-part guide has the potential to confuse his target audience with overly scientific jargon. Sections on mirror neurons, neuroplasticity, and epigenetics may be too complex for general readers eager for life guidance. Conversely, chapters on caregiver burnout, nonverbal communication, and personal authenticity will be easily understood and will ring true to many with an open mind and a willingness to try. In furthering the agenda of altruism and empathy, Rakel believes a more considerate world is indeed possible. Readers open to positive change will welcome this guidebook and apply the book’s mindfulness meditations offered in an appendix.
A relevant, necessary reminder about the power of kindness and good intentions.