Fear’s Many Deleterious Consequences

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Corny material aside, this section [on cultivating courage] does offer some actionable steps for people with crippling phobias.


Title: The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage as Medicine for the Body, Mind, and Soul

Author: Lissa Rankin, MD

Publisher: Hay House, Inc

Publication date: February 23, 2015

Price: $25.99; hardcover, 336 pages


Fear is a healthy survival mechanism, a fight-or-flight response designed to put the body on full alert in case of danger. But fear, left untreated, can also trigger socially crippling phobias, which can lead to a cascade of dangerous health conditions. In short, being afraid can make you sick. Or so goes the premise by Lissa Rankin, MD, author of The New York Times bestseller, Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself. Dr. Rankin is a mind-body physician, a well-known public speaker-advocate, and the founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute.

In her new book, The Fear Cure: Cultivating Courage as Medicine for the Body, Mind, and Soul, Dr. Rankin draws on powerful personal stories of fear—including her own—and peer-reviewed studies that serve as focal points to analyze fear’s effect on the body and mind and to chart a path back to wellness and wholeness for those crippled by phobic maladies.

Personal Foreword

In the book’s foreword, Dr. Rankin describes a harrowing incident in which she and her cousin were robbed at gunpoint in a fairly remote area of Colorado Springs by two menacing thugs. Even before the Colorado Springs event, the author was burdened by numerous fears, but after the gunpoint robbery, she became afraid of everything: “the dark, loud noises, tunnels, scenic overlooks, airplanes, strangers in the park, losing someone I love, daring to fall in love again.”

Dr. Rankin explains in intricate clinical detail how her “false fear” caused her to suffer multiple health issues, including “essential chronic hypertension.” According to Dr. Rankin, it wasn’t until 15 years after the robbery incident occurred that she fully understood how fear had “hijacked not only my mind but my body.”

A Baffling Section

For readers of The ASCO Post, the section on fear and cancer will prove baffling, especially since Dr. Rankin is a doctor and a best-selling author. Her first case study is a woman named Janet who always feared cancer, and over the years, she suffered from a variety of phobias. The author goes on and on about Janet’s stress and “chronic tension in her body” ultimately developing uterine cancer. “Janet strongly suspected that fear weakened her immune system and allowed the uterine cancer to take hold in her body,” writes the author, in yet another example of her penchant to use crystal ball data. It might work for the gullible lay public but not for readers of serious science writing.

On Cultivating Courage

In part three, Dr. Rankin guides the reader through a process that develops his or her own Fear Cure, mapping a “courage-cultivating” path. This is like a 12-step program, only here it’s reduced to “Six steps to cultivating courage so you can start blessing the world with your luminous light.” Corny material aside, this section does offer some actionable steps for people with crippling phobias.

In closing, this book does provide a comfort zone for those who suffer from phobias, and Ms. Rankin should be commended for her effort. However, this book is not recommended for the readers of The ASCO Post. ■