Exploring the Psychology of Disease: A Manual for Healing Beyond Diet and Fitness

Ronald L. Peters, M.D., M.P.H.

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ISBN: 1-57733-116-8, 284 pp., 6x9, paperback, $17.95

Edgework provides a concise overview of the research on the mind/body, summarizing the essence of healing at the level of consciousness and guiding readers through the process with detailed exercises that make the concepts a personal reality.

The shadow, or unconscious mind, contains all the unfelt fear, anger, sadness and other emotional pain we have experienced since birth. Throughout life, the shadow influences conscious choices in order to set up opportunities for feeling, owning and healing these emotional wounds long before they precipitate into the body. This approach provides a framework for inner healing that encourages use of the suggested techniques day to day, either to help in the treatment of an illness or to prevent disease in the first place.

Edgework is for everyone who has dis-ease of any kind. It is especially for those who have serious or "incurable" illness, which can be a most powerful motivation to heal at the deeper, formative level of consciousness. Working on the edge is risky business, but the greatest adventure is self-discovery and the integration of mind, body and Spirit.


"Once you have chosen your genes (your parents), everything else in your life is the result of your choice of attitude. You can choose an attitude of health or an attitude of illness. Edgework: Exploring the Psychology of Disease takes you through the inner world to make wise and healthy choices. It is your prerogative. It is your responsibility." C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.

"The confluence of consciousness, emotions and beliefs is increasingly being shown by modern science to have a direct impact on both health and disease. Dr. Peters provides us with an overview of that research, and empowers us to do our own personal Edgework with a variety of self-care techniques that can greatly assist in the healing of our emotional wounds. Both brilliant and compassionate, this is a book that belongs in the library of everyone interested in the medicine of the new millennium." Larry Trivieri, Jr., author of The American Holistic Medical Association Guide to Holistic Health

Table of Contents

1 Thrust to the Edge
2 The Stress System - From Liability to Asset
3 The Natural Intelligence of the Bodymind
4 The Unseen Anatomy: The Power of Thought and Emotion
5 Cancer - The Psychological Aspects
6 The Mind and Heart Disease
7 Turning the Corner on Serious Illness
8 Taking Responsibility and Reclaiming Personal Power
9 The Importance of Self-Love
10 Healing at Work
11 Healing in Relationships
12 Laughter, Passion and Spirituality
13 Healing as Self-Actualization
14 Edgework Exercises


The mind controls the body. We have heard about this paradigm-shifting notion time and time again in the last half of the twentieth century. Research in immunology has contributed to dozens of books telling us about improved immunity based on positive states of mind and, conversely, reduced immune function due to negative states of consciousness. Physicians and psychologists have told us about the hostile aspects of Type A behavior and the epidemic of heart disease that plagues our society. Many other researchers have spoken, a bit more cautiously, about features of the cancer prone personality. Anxiety and depression contribute to numerous other illnesses, and continue to afflict up to one-quarter of the American population. Books have been written on the psychosomatic aspects of common diseases like asthma, hypertension, ulcerative colitis, peptic ulcers, diabetes, just to mention a few. Yet none have stated the essence of the mind/body issue as succinctly as the great psychoanalyst Dr. Franz Alexander, when he wrote: "The fact that the mind rules the body is, in spite of its neglect by biology and medicine, the most fundamental fact which we know about the process of life...."

But in spite of this outpouring of information on the mind/body relationship, little has changed in the doctor's office to reflect this new understanding. Doctors still devote most of their time trying to find out what is wrong with the body, and patients still try to get rid of their symptoms with the latest offerings from the drug industry. Many of us take vitamins and minerals, try to exercise and relax more, perhaps meditate occasionally, but really little has changed, and the problems in health care continue on. Indeed, paradigms shift slowly as they bear the weight of institutional, social and personal belief systems.

Based on my twenty years of holistic family practice, I too have learned that the origins of most physical disease are within consciousness - the body is the messenger of the conflicts, sustained fears, suppressed emotional traumas, disturbed patterns of thinking, and other imbalances that lie within the conscious and unconscious mind. I have learned this by listening to thousands of patients tell the stories that preceded the onset of their illness. I have heard again and again of childhood patterns of neglect, smothering control, abandonment, and emotional, physical and sexual abuse. I have heard of the failed relationships, years of marital conflict, and the pain of loneliness. I have heard about decades of unfulfilling employment, foiled personal creativity and the quiet desperation of a slowly dying spirit. I have heard about relentless anxiety, depression, denied emotions, destructive beliefs, hopelessness, helplessness, "giving up," and an endless variety of recurrent stresses.

Most importantly, I have seen patient after patient backtrack into consciousness and find the dis-ease within the mind that precipitated the dis-ease in the body. The answers may not come quickly as many issues are hidden in the shadow, or unconscious mind, but they do come and the results of such personal in-depth healing are transformational. I have seen cancer, multiple sclerosis, colitis, hepatitis, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, and all types of chronic and often "incurable" diseases go into remission or quiescence. These are the reasons I have written Edgework.

Edgework refers to the edge between what you know about yourself and what you do not know. Dis-ease of any kind is the body's way of getting your attention and inviting this self-exploration, thereby offering true healing. The path may be scary, as change itself is scary for most of us. It is easy to understand what the noted English poet, W. H. Auden, meant when he wrote: "We would rather be ruined than changed; we would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the moment and let our illusions die."

The idea of Edgework came to me during technical rock climbing when I discovered the exhilaration of moving past my fears and expanding my self-confidence and self-understanding. I realized that fear was my friend, not my enemy, as it prepared me for the pulse of adventure, both on the mountain and within myself. Later on, as I listened to my patients, year after year, I realized that they were thrust to the edge by their illness. As fear gripped them, they too felt powerless, but as they began to understand the immense resources and wisdom of the mind/body, they would begin the journey toward healing. Illness had become their mountain, and climbing required courage of the highest order.

In this book, I have reviewed the research and concepts of mind/body healing with an eye towards the practical and personal application of this revolutionary shift in medicine. I present the power of thought as it coalesces into attitude and belief. I also introduce the concept of emotional wound healing, a process as natural and essential to health, as physical wound healing. Using this concept, the emotional challenges and stresses that we all encounter in life can be seen as the earliest opportunities for psychological healing, and they become markers on the path toward health, or illness. Therefore, by using the principles of Edgework you can prevent disease as well as help to reverse it.

Stress management can become a new experience as the numerous mental and physical signs of stress are redefined as signals for self-exploration. Using the tools of Edgework, you can find the deeper reasons for the fears and angers that clutter your pathway, before they become symptoms or medical diagnoses.

Most importantly, you will learn about, or reaffirm, the fundamental principles of self-responsibility for your experience. Self-responsibility is another paradigm shift and potentially society disruptive concept for this New Millennium. This approach will move you from the hapless victim of dis-ease to an explorer within the frontiers of your own consciousness-within the awesome, natural power and wisdom of the mind/body.

This book is for everyone who has dis-ease of any kind. It is especially for those who have serious or "incurable" illness, which creates a powerful motivation to learn about self and make much needed changes if they so choose. I present numerous stories of patients who have used these tools successfully. This book is also for busy doctors who want to use the principles of mind/body healing to complement other therapies for their patients.

Certainly we do not have all the answers about the complex nature of the body/mind, but we do know enough to get started on the right track. Edgework explains the essential features of maintaining or restoring health within consciousness, and it offers step-by-step exercises that are designed to make the concepts of health a personal reality.

Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2003

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