Spirituality and Psychiatry Newsletter
I warmed to this fine book, both for the subject matter and its sanity. The book is worth its cover price for the second chapter alone. There are sections on "Science and Religion as Ways of Knowing", "Spirituality and Religion in Medicine", "Meanings", Transcendence", "Vital Energy", "A Postmodern perspective", "Belief in Action", and "A Challenge to Science". It is difficult to summarise the wisdom contained here. I admire the author's occasional blunt honesty. He writes for example, "Even within modern medicine, we have difficulty in defining health". It is important to realise that health is so much more than the simple absence of symptoms." This is a rich and rewarding book, though application and discernment are both required to get the best from it. Psychiatrists familiar with John Swinton's remarkable "Spirituality and Mental Health Care" will naturally seek out and absorb the wisdom of this excellent companion volume, covering different but closely related ground. Many discerning health care workers, keeping abreast of developments in human spirituality relevant to our inter-related professions, will want to read it too. The true bonds, holding us all together, are after all spiritual in nature.
Journal of Community Nursing
David Aldridge makes it clear that he does not propose spiritual healing as an alternative to modern healthcare delivery. He has evaluated literature from all disciplines concerned with healthcare to discover the influence that spirituality has on the physical and psychological well-being of the patient. The concept of spirituality is complicated and at times difficult to identify with and because of this can be devalued in importance to the holistic care of a patient. Different religions and beliefs are explored in the text and many problems that occur are highlighted. The fact that prayer as a spiritual activity is undertaken by the patient and not applied to him/her by another person should be recognised as giving comfort so therefore welcomed by the practitioner. The point which comes over extremely clearly is that all members of the healthcare profession should be willing to accept that a patient's spirituality helps him/her find hope in the face of illness and should be and used alongside the medical treatment.
... although the subject is philosophical, that does not mean it is impractical. I began the book with a prejudiced mind-set centred on the meaning of spirituality, but soon found myself a fellow traveller of the author on the road to the meaning of medicine (and life).
Accident and Emergency Nursing
This is the first to attend so thoroughly to the intersect of theology and medicine - and it's a gem of a book. It is in the experience of suffering and the consequent need of relief, Aldridge believes, that both medicine and religion share a common goal. Using case studies to bring his arguments to life, he illustrates what he calls "healing narratives in the context of a performed life". Patience, grace, prayer, meditation, hope, forgiveness, and fellowship are as important, he says, as medicine or surgery. Many researchers are attempting to demonstrate this assertion; studies on prayer are the most promising at present. But many of these efforts neglect to tease apart the elements of healing that are so difficult to grasp: the difference between spirituality and religion, for example, or the forms of prayer. This is Aldridge's great strength. It makes sense. It's a great read, and any nurse in search of meaning in the midst of tragedy and suffering (not to mention his or her own well-being) need look no further than this for a starting point.
The great value of this book is that it reveals the new insights that can be gained by viewing sickness in its social setting and regarding health and illness not as inflictions from without, but as performances which are being constantly enacted by individuals within their social environment. This is the thesis which the author developed in his earlier books on music therapy and suicide. It is a welcome change of outlook: a philosophy of hope which offers the continuing opportunity of healing by changed perceptions and behavioural responses. The book discusses the use of prayer, meditation and therapeutic touch, but as the author stresses it "is not an evangelical tract for spiritual healing, simply an argument for diversity in the culture of health care that includes the spiritual." The development of this argument raises several important issues. It offers the promise that the growing use of complementary therapies will help to narrow the gap between the users and providers of health care. It also suggests that health and sickness can often be different ways of reacting to a given situation rather than opposite poles of a sick-well continuum.