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Mind Over Medicine: Wild, Dangerous Claims or Salvation?

Lissa Rankin’s new book, "Mind Over Medicine," is creating quite a stir.

Rankin is an M.D. who walked away from her practice of mainstream medicine after a highly-successful career. She was frustrated, angry and looking for answers that traditional guidelines didn’t seem to support.

She discovered that in her practice, patients in one of the healthiest towns in the country still weren’t healing. For certain conditions mainstream medicine worked well. And, in fact, Rankin doesn’t cry for the end of it. But, for others, there was something deeper that was going on. And no matter how often mainstream medicine soothed the symptoms, the real challenge, the deeper pains, kept resurfacing new and old symptoms over and over.

What Rankin argues is that mainstream medicine does not represent the universe of potentially valuable treatment protocols or modalities. That state of mind, emotion, human circumstance, human interaction and belief not only play a role, but have the ability to effectively turn on or off the body’s innate ability to heal itself. To keep disease and pain ever-present, or serve as a foundation for sustained recovery.

Rankin knew this argument would potentially position her as a major target, a quack preaching pseudo-science. Even though her pedigree in medicine is reasonably bullet-proof. And, interestingly, while she’s looking to convince patients, the real demographic she seeks to make her case to is…doctors.

So instead of rely on purely anecdotal evidence (which she wields mightily), she also relies on science, culling years of research on “phenomena” that’s been written off and experimental “outliers” and showing how they in fact are signposts of something much bigger.

Recently, we aired an in-depth interview with Rankin on Good Life Project.

The episode is actually the longest one we’ve ever shot at over an hour, because we couldn’t find anything to cut. This will be an hour of your life well spent. As expected, it’s been getting a strong reaction on both sides of the aisle.

(FYI – If you’d rather just download and listen to the mp3, subscribe at and get instant access)

I thought it would interesting to speak to some of the comments and arguments here…

Someone from my community on Facebook shared his concern that people like Rankin and books like hers may stop people who are suffering from pursuing mainstream treatment had could be effective at relieving or curing a condition. He referenced the now famed example of Steve Jobs, who, we learned after his death, had put off mainstream treatment in favor or alternative therapies so long that by the time he went back to mainstream it was too late.

I struggle with this same argument. It’s valid. Especially when you’re gambling with someone’s life. Caution is critical when walking away from a traditional therapy in the name of an alternative. I’d never suppose to be in a position to tell someone which course is best for them.

And, interestingly, neither would Rankin. That’s actually not her message. She readily owns up to the value that many traditional therapies offer.

Her argument is simply that:

  • There may be alternatives that work equally well or better, but more importantly…
  • Regardless of the “treatment” protocol, the state of mind, life-circumstance and belief system of the patient and the social dynamic that exists both between the patient and the healthcare provider and the patient and her family and friends all play a huge role in the efficacy of ANY therapy, traditional or alternative.

Put another way, if your doctor, healer, surgeon, shaman or other person in whom you’ve placed your trust tells you your condition is hopeless, your outcome is far more likely to be bad. And the opposite holds true as well.

Similarly, if you treat the symptom without treating the underlying cause, the symptom will come back. That’s not controversial. Rankin is saying we need to dramatically expand the definition of what comes under the rubric of potential “underlying causes.”

But, where’s the research? And why do you have to buy a product to get at it? Doesn’t that automatically speak to the fact that this is all about the money? It’s just a sham?

This was a second question asked of me.

Interesting point of view, too. Great question. I’m what I’d call an optimistic skeptic, lol. I’m open to anything, but I want to be convinced.

Short answer – you don’t have to pay for the product or book to find the citations. I can’t speak to any other book or product, but Rankin’s book is actually fairly heavily end-noted with references to research published in respected journals. To access the citations, if you’d rather not buy the book, just borrow it from your local library. That’s the beauty of books.

“Well, sure,” comes the reply, “but that’s just citations, what about the actual research?”

Interesting thing about research in the modern world. It’s all submitted to and published in journals that generally share abstracts, but keep the full investigative reports behind paywalls.

Anyone can access them, but you’ve got to pay. That goes for the curious public, and it also goes for doctors themselves, though usually it’s their affiliated institutions who pay blanket subscription fees that provide access.

The way I see it, people like Rankin add value to this equation by paying those access fees, curating and digesting the research into a synthesis they feel makes sense and will help inform others. Instead of going through thousands of abstracts, I can then read the endnotes and, should I still want to go further, purchase the full reports from the journals (which I do, when a subject interests me and I don’t want to reply solely on someone else’s reading of the tea leaves).

Final thought…

While Rankin goes deep into things like belief and the placebo effect and the studies and databases that are being developed around these supposed outlier phenomena, there’s a bigger message that I think we can and should all get behind.

The standard of care provided by the healing professional has a huge impact on patient health. What they say and do, how they treat patients, how much time, presence, genuine nurturing and listening they offer, these things matter. They have a very real, measurable effect on clinical outcomes.

My sense is that healthcare providers know this. They WANT to provide exceptional levels of contact and care. But they’re also getting increasingly squeezed by a system that doesn’t allow it to happen. And, in the end, not only are patients suffering…doctors are suffering, too.

Especially if you’re someone who feels “called” to medicine. Called to heal. And the way you’re being pushed to practice no longer allows you to honor that call on the level that leaves you satisfied.

So, do I believe you should wholeheartedly buy into everything Rankin says in Mind Over Medicine?

Not a chance. I certainly wouldn’t. And, frankly, if she was reading her own book as an outsider, neither would Rankin.

But, you should read it, and really any other book, article or piece of content on this topic, with an openness to questioning the assumptions that have gotten us to where we are in medicine today. Asking if it’s where we want to be? And, if this is the course we want to continue to plot?

There is, no doubt, incredible good that’s come out of the allopathic tradition. But, what have we missed along the way? And how might we evolve if we were willing to engage in conversations that, not too long ago, would’ve been considered the rambling of a mad-person?

Inevitably, those who lead to the introduction of new paradigms are labeled pariahs and mavericks in the early days. Or, as Gandhi said…

“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.”

Curious what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

As always, with gratitude for your thoughtful presence,


[Disclosure - Rankin is a friend. When traveling to the Bay area, she regularly plies me with raw organic chocolate. At one point, in a cocoa, organic agave and coconut-oil induced stupor, I think she even convinced me to blurb the book, but frankly it's all one big coca-bean blur. Friend or foe, I write what I believe is the truth, from my heart. Take it or leave it, just thought you should know]


Jonathan Fields is a serial-entrepreneur, business strategist, speaker and author. His latest book is Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel For Brilliance. Fields writes about performance-mindset, innovation, leading and entrepreneurship at