5 Quick Lessons from : The Anatomy of an Illness

Norman Cousins book The Anatomy Of an Illness is definitely worth reading. I haven’t read a book thus concise and informative in a very long time. If, like me, you know nothing about the field of medicine, or anatomy, and medical jargon is mostly above your head, you’ll find thousands of lessons within the legs of this book. But who has the time for that? Let’s settle for 5 quick ones. Here we go:

1 – Rebel with a cause!

It seemed clear to me but if I was to be that one in five hundred, I had better be something more than a passive observer.

Norman Cousins – The Anatomy of an Illness

The author speaks about how easily and impassively he would’ve listened to doctors up to that point however once he learned that he had a 1 in 500 chance of surviving, that changed! When the stakes are higher, it’s hard to be an “obedient patient” because your will to live easily overshadows your will to listen. Often the first thing that goes out the window when receiving a diagnosis is the trust towards the doctor, this goes hand-in-hand with shock. This book has allowed me to take a step back and let the patient in question explore other options, natural remedy’s, holistic healing and even prayer. The author describes this as both a natural, and necessary step that

indicates a strong will to live, not the opposite (like I once believed). Allowing the patient a bit of space to explore said options is paramount. Don’t give them another reason to hold onto those ideas with more conviction because they’re trying to defend themselves from you.

In other words, don’t do what I did, and it will pass.

The patient in the book had a strong motivation to stand up for himself and ask for a second opinion. He even refused treatment and started researching things on his own, and asking about different things. Often, this step is devastating for the onlookers, especially the family.

Just listen to the doctors!” they will say because they are worried to lose you. But spending what could potentially be final moments in conflict is a tragedy within itself.

Learning to accept that this is a natural part of the process makes it much easier to bear. Perhaps I could be a little more understanding in a little more supportive even if deep inside I believe that the doctor is right, and I disagree with their decision.

2 – Exhaustion can inhibit the healing process

Specifically Adrenal exhaustion which could be caused by emotional tension, such as frustration or suppressed anger. In the Anatomy of an Illness

Norman Cousins details the negative effects of the negative emotions on body chemistry

He wonders about the effects of positive emotions are in the body and nervous system.

“if negative emotions produce negative chemical changes in the body, wouldn’t the positive emotions produce positive chemical changes? It is possible that Love, hope, faith, laughter, confidence, and the will to live have therapeutic value? Do you chemical changes occur on me on the downside?”

Anatomy of an Illness gives examples of the positive effects that come with addressing adrenal exhaustion.

3 – Trial & Error

The history of medicine is replete with the counts of drugs and modes of treatment that were in use for many years before it was recognized that they did more harm than good.

In the book the offer gives countless examples have common treatments that were once believed to be essential for rapid recovery only were to later be found out that they weakened patients, further deterring their ability to heal. For that reason alone he believes that despite the fact that we are past the 20th century, we could still be administering questionable, even dangerous drugs and methods on a regular basis. It’s simply how the field of medicine works. Overspecialization could be one of the reasons why there’s an epic-level lack of communication in hospitals. Even the CBC radio had a special that encouraged people to feel empowered enough to get their prescriptions revised on a regular basis.

4 – Pain Is Not The Enemy

We are largely illiterate about the pain and so seldom able to deal with it rationally. Pain is part of the body is magic. It is the way the body transmit to find to the brain that something is wrong. Leprous patients pre-put it in facing the pain. I make my pretty fit a terrible disease is that the victim usually feels no pain when his extremities are being injured. He loses his fingers or toes because he receives no warning signal.

Norman Cousins – The Anatomy of an Illness

One of the things that surprised me the most about the process of birth and labor was the crucial role that pain had in the progression of labor. That explains the reason why common pain management options administered to women in labor slow down labor creating a need for inducing labor, and even more drugs and potential distress to the infant. When it comes to Illness, pain tells a lot about our progression. This is a topic of interest that will most definitely be featured on the blog in the near future.

5 – Laughter is the best medicine!

It worked. I made the choice discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly laughter had an aesthetic effect and will give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep

Norman Cousins – The Anatomy of an Illness

The quote above could be something from the classic Robin Williams movie Patch Adams (RIP friend). Full disclosure the author understands that there’s nothing funny about being fake so if you don’t have a kind of sense of humor to laugh yourself through maybe throwing on some funny movies America’s Funniest Videos things like that that would get easy laughs from you. Maybe the old adage is true laughter might be the best medicine though it begin with better sleep he started making a point to laugh before tests and the results were effective, and cumulative.

There you have it, 5 quick lesson from the book of the week! Remember, reading the actual book is something I highly recommend, because 5 lessons don’t even begin to scratch the surface! However, growing without the pain is something we deserve to do, so cheers to learning something new.


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