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When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress

by Gabor Maté

When The Body Says No explores the intimate connection between mind, body, and spirit through life stories and intimate interviews with dozens of people who have lived, died, and sometimes overcome chronic illnesses. Vancouver physician and writer Gabor Maté has worked as a a palliative care specialist, a psychotherapist, and a caregiver for people who are living on the street, so he is up to the task of tackling these complicated medical issues.

Maté illustrates his ideas by analyzing the words and stories of famous people who’ve experienced chronic illness, such as Ronald Reagan, Gilda Radner, Stephen Hawking, and Pamela Wallin. The interviewees’ stories are often touching and haunting, and are interspersed with chapters dealing with stress, emotional repression, hormones, the “cancer personality,” the biology of relationships, and the power of negative thinking.

Maté carefully explains the biological mechanisms that are activated when stress and trauma exert a powerful influence on the body, and he backs up his claims with compelling evidence from the field. Maté cites many controlled studies that have demonstrated correlations between psychosocial factors and disease.

However, the work is free of New Age assumption that all illnesses are a result of ego issues. Maté emphasizes that to decipher the hidden factors in chronic illness does not blame the victim, but provides the opportunity to address the unintentional transmission of stress and anxiety through the body and across the generations.

Both the lay and specialist reader will be grateful for the final chapter, “The Seven A’s of Healing,” in which Maté presents an open formula for healing and the prevention of illness resulting from hidden stress.