Molecules Of Emotion: The Science of Mind-Body Medicine

A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher, BeInkandescent Health & Wellness magazine, student, Bodymechanics School of Massage Santa FeWhy do we feel the way we feel? How do our thoughts and emotions affect our health? Are our bodies and minds distinct from each other, or do they function together as parts of an interconnected system?

These are questions Dr. Candace Pert (1946-2013) asked in her groundbreaking book Molecules of Emotion. An American neuroscientist and pharmacologist who discovered the opiate receptor (the cellular binding site for endorphins in the brain), Candace’s pioneering research showed how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network linking the mind and body.

As a massage therapy student: I am fascinated by this profound connection. Massage improves circulation, encourages relaxation, and just makes you feel better; it connects your body to your mind, making it possible to heal what ails you. The more opportunities I have to work on clients in our clinic here in Santa Fe, the more I see the profound power of the mind-body connection at work.

That’s why the March-April 2022 issue of BeInkandescent Health & Wellness magazine is dedicated to helping you understand, appreciate, and embrace your mind-body connection: From the books outlined below to the authors and ideas in the sidebar, you’ll discover insights into what Dr. Pert spent her life explaining it to anyone who would listen. “Your body is your subconscious mind filled with limitless possibilities,” said Candace, who headed up the Laboratory of Brain Biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health for decades.

The history of the science: The concept of an integrated mind-body system was non-existent in Western medicine until the 1980s when Candace shattered the notion that the brain reigns supreme as the seat of intelligence, thought, memory and emotion. Her groundbreaking studies mapped the neuropeptides and their receptors throughout the brain and body. She saw human beings as a singular body-mind entity, an integral communication network in continual and elegant conversation.

Dubbed “the Goddess of Neuroscience” and the “Mother of Psychoneuroimmunology: Candace taught us that hope, belief, experience, and expectation shaped not only our perceived realities but our physical conditions as well. She encouraged us to act as full participants in our physical and psychological wellbeing by employing the psychosomatic informational network that mediates emotional expression throughout the brain and body and between all forms of life.

Deepak Chopra said: “Without Candace Pert, I would not be who I am today.” Indeed, her work has inspired countless scientists and doctors, psychotherapists, holistic practitioners, authors, and seekers worldwide, providing a road-map for a new humanistic medicine that transforms people from being broken clocks in need of fixing to empowered individuals in control of their wellness, health, and happiness. Click here to learn about the birth of mind-body medicine in the early 1980s and here to buy your copy of Molecules of Emotion.

Emotional Intelligence at work

Of Candace’s work, author and psychologist Miriam Greenspan shares: “Emotional intelligence hinges not on one part of the brain dominating another, but on a smoothly flowing system of emotional ‘infoenergy’ throughout the body/mind. Emotions don’t need to be ruled; they must be tolerated and expressed. They have intelligence on themselves; not when they are dominated, but when free-flowing.”

Healing Through the Dark Emotions: the Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair: In Miriam’s Boston Globe Bestseller, she explains that in an age of global threats and multiple cataclysms, the dark emotions of grief, fear, and despair have become widespread and overwhelming. Our culture calls these emotions ‘negative’ and views them as symptoms of mental disorder or spiritual inadequacy, harmful unless controlled. Her book takes a fresh approach to the three core dark emotions that humans most dread and devalue and makes the case that the avoidance and denial of these emotions, not the feelings themselves, have led to the epidemic of psychological disorders characteristic of our age: chronic depression & anxiety, psychic numbing, widespread addiction, and irrational violence.

“By befriending the dark emotions, we discover their innate intelligence and purpose,” Miriam explains. “We learn alchemy by which grief turns to gratitude, fear delivers us to joy, and despair becomes a doorway to a more resilient faith in life. The wisdom of the dark emotions helps us heal and transform our lives and strengthen our connections to one another and the world.” Click here to learn more.

Understanding the Psychology of the Body

Deep dive: Another book that has become part of my repertoire as a massage student and the powerful mind-body connection is The Psychology of the Body, by Elliot Greene and Barbara Goodrich-Dunn. It explores the intricate connections between the mind and body and the underlying psychological factors that influence the massage therapist-client relationship and the outcome of the work.

The authors explain: “Massage intervenes on more than the level of the skin and muscles of the body. It helps us organize our past, experience our present, and anticipate our future. Massage affects the entire nervous system including the brain, spinal cord, visceral and peripheral nerves, and fluid systems carrying psychologically active biochemicals — all of which help us organize our interpretation of ourselves and our world.”

Pretty nifty, right? While this tome provides massage therapists, bodyworkers, and other professionals who contact the body with a greater understanding of the psychological issues that can arise from using touch in their therapy sessions — it’s an excellent book for anyone who wants to understand the mind-body connection better. Click here for more.

Now go out and get a massage — or give on to someone you love. Until our next issue, here’s to your Inkandescent health and wellness. — Hope Katz Gibbs, publisher,