logo 12min

Start growing!

Boost your life and career with the best book summaries.

Start growing!

Boost your life and career with the best book summaries.

logo 12min

The Healing Self Summary

18 min read ⌚ 

The Healing Self PDF Summary

A Revolutionary New Plan to Supercharge Your Immunity and Stay Well for Life

You heal yourself all the time: think about all those paper cuts and winter colds.

However, Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi believe that there’s more to this: you can heal just about everything in the same manner.

They make their case in their suitably titled third book together:

The Healing Self.

Who Should Read “The Healing Self”? And Why?

Here at 12min, we try to stay open-minded and unprejudiced, so we won’t hesitate recommending this book to everyone who wants to learn more about their own health and remain healthy for longer periods of their life. 

After all, even though (as we explain in “Our Critical Review”), the science behind Chopra and Tanzi’s advice seems suspicious (to say the least), the advice itself is pretty commonsensical and can undoubtedly contribute to one’s health.

However, be wary: it is still a medicinal book not really endorsed by most members of the medical community.

About Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi

Deepak Chopra is an Indian-born American author, one of the most recognizable faces of the New Age movement, and “a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation.”

Chopra made his name in 1993 after being interviewed by Oprah on her show; three years later, he co-founded the Chopra Center for Wellbeing.

He is best known for The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success; among other things, the book remained for 72 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list and is still in print.

Find out more at http://www.deepakchopra.com/

Rudolph E. Tanzi is the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University.

An expert in Alzheimer’s disease (and other neurological disorders related to aging), Tanzi has authored hundreds of articles in medical journals and co-authored four books, three of which are with Chopra: Super Brain, Super Genes, and The Healing Self.

A talented keyboard, Tanzi has also played keyboards on several rock albums, including one by Aerosmith.

“The Healing Self Summary”

The most recent collaboration of Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi, The Healing Self completes a trilogy of books for the pair that started with Super Brain in 2012 and continued three years later with Super Genes

Those familiar with either of these two books already know the basics of Tanzi and Chopra’s approach: combining New Age mysticism with the latest advancements in medicine, the pair proposes a holistic theory of human wellbeing, according to which the distinction between organs and emotions, between physical and spiritual aspects of our existence, is not only exaggerated by scientists – if not completely wrong – but also detrimental to our health.

In other words, even the most severe mental diseases (such as Alzheimer’s) can be prevented (even tackled) via some adjustments in our lifestyles – from diet to relationships – and even the strangest spiritual beliefs can have positive effects on your health.

The Healing Self is divided into two parts, the first of which deals with the more academic aspects of Chopra and Tanzi’s theory (coupled with case studies and anecdotes), while the second is much more actionable and offers a 7-day action plan.

Part One: The Healing Journey

The Bodymind

Chopra and Tanzi’s approach described in the intro above is often called in literature the whole-system approach, but the authors prefer the simpler bodymind which, in a single word, sums up its essence: “body and mind are one domain, and every organ, tissue, and cell works toward the same goal: sustaining life.”

According to the authors, this approach is neither mysterious nor unscientific, but, on the contrary, much closer to nature, since nature doesn’t take into consideration human-made categories.

The bodymind approach to health, they say, “looks beyond the artificial medical-school divisions into separate organs and the old skepticism about the mind-body connection:”

“When a happy event occurs, such as falling in love, the whole system responds as messages course through the bloodstream, central nervous system, and immune system,” they write. “When a tragic event occurs like losing a loved one, the response is just as holistic, but the combination of chemicals in the signaling process is very different. What you experience subjectively as love or grief must have a precise configuration in the bodymind. If that didn’t exist, you wouldn’t have the experience.”

Modern Medicine

Now, modern medicine is skeptical of this bodymind approach. However, it’s not like it has all the answers. In fact, as Chopra and Tanzi point out, it has very few answers and it’s nothing short of a gambling model bound for breakdown at one point or another.

For example, we don’t know why specific causes for certain diseases like a cold virus only make a certain number of people sick – not everyone. And we don’t know why the same therapy works for some people, while not in the case of others.

Medicine almost never predicts what precisely will happen to the individual – it only speaks in percentages and possibilities. “There will always be someone who does everything right but gets sick anyway, while someone else who has paid almost no attention to their health dodges the bullet.”

There are seven reasons why it’s almost inevitable that one day, through no fault of your own, medical care would stop working for you:

• The doctor doesn’t know what caused you to get sick.
• There’s no drug or surgery that will resolve the situation.
• The available treatments are too risky, toxic, expensive, or all three.
• The side effects of the treatment outweigh the benefits.
• Your condition is too far advanced to be reversed.
• You’re too old to treat safely or with much hope of recovery.
• Somewhere along the line, a doctor made a mistake.

When any of these breakdowns occur, whatever happens next is out of your doctor’s control. After “three centuries of scientific medicine making huge strides,” somehow, we’re still suffering from some strange medical situations in the present:

• An estimated 400,000 people die every year due to medical mistakes.
• People are living longer and yet on average suffer about a decade of bad health and one to three years of disability at the end.
• Two-thirds of cancers are preventable – and yet, cancer is still approached “with grim fatalism.”
• For some reason, “the average person feels helpless, confused, and anxious about getting sick and going to the doctor.

It’s obvious “the gambling model for staying healthy needs to be replaced.” But why should the bodymind approach be the replacement?

Incremental Medicine

In July 2017, a “startling medical story” hit the Internet: 24 experts on old-age dementia concluded that one-third of dementia cases can be prevented.

How, when no known medicine exists? Through some simple lifestyle changes, with a different focus at a different stage of life.

“To reduce the risk,” the study said, “factors that make a difference include getting an education (staying in school until over the age of fifteen); reducing high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes; avoiding or treating hearing loss in mid-life; not smoking; getting physical exercise; and reducing depression and social isolation later in life.”

Of course, one item stands out even if you merely scan the paragraph above staying in school until over the age of 15. 

How is it possible that that affects old-age dementia, you ask?

Well, that’s what made this medical story “startling”: it was (in Chopra and Tanzi’s words) “a tip-of-the-iceberg story” since it uncovered something that medical researchers have been dabbling in for quite some time – incremental medicine.

It’s, in short, a fancy name for the finding that diseases start and can be prevented long before their symptoms appear. In the case above, staying at school until at least after your 15th year means building up a “cognitive reserve” in your brain that counters Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia because it allows your brain some extra neural paths to follow if some grow weak or diseased:

Suddenly it’s not about isolated factors like not smoking, losing weight, going to the gym, and worrying about stress. It’s about a continuous style of living where self-care matters every day in every way. Not smoking, losing weight, and going to the gym still have their benefits. But lifelong wellness isn’t the same as lowering your risks for disorder A or B. Only a holistic approach will ultimately work. Wellness is no longer just a valid alternative to regular prevention. It’s the iceberg, the four-hundred-pound gorilla, and the elephant in the room rolled into one. Wellness is the great hope springing up all around us. When the public gains full knowledge of this fact, prevention will never be the same.

Total Immunity

So far so good: the earlier you start leading a proper life, the lesser the risk of contracting any kind of disease when you’re older. Nothing mystical about that, right?

However, as you might have deduced from the first section of our summary, Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi don’t stop there: they think that there’s a DNA-based reason for this connection and that it can be explained away by a simple “leap of imagination.”

Namely, according to them, DNA doesn’t change as slowly as modern medicine would have us believe. As the two argued in Super Genes, DNA is, in fact, something dynamic and ever-changing, something “totally responsive to a person’s lifetime of experience.” 

Because of this, Chopra and Tanzi believe that it is possible to supercharge your immunity, that is, to boost your body’s innate immune response to external and internal attackers via your own conscious effort. It might sound sci-fi, but if you combine the way vaccines work with the bodymind connection, then it might seem a bit less strange.

After all, what vaccines do is somewhat similar to boosting your immune response: they expose you to external attackers in small amounts, and your body is prepared to deal with them in the future if they happen to come at full force. 

However, until just a few years ago, modern medicine thought of the immune system as something isolated; studies such as the one published in 2017 reveal that we should stop thinking of our immune response in this manner. To make their case, Chopra and Tanzi introduce two new concepts: “total immunity” and “the healing self.”

“Total immunity is the measure of holistic health,” they write, describing it as the full-body response to health risks, mind included. After all, the mind obviously has some effect on health, and the same holds true about the behavior, habits, and contribution of one’s family.

The Healing Self

To make the above clearer, they use the term “the healing self” which, according to them, satisfies “the real meaning of wholeness.” The healing self merges the healer and the healed, turning a patient into a doctor long before a disease ever becomes apparent:

The traditional separation of roles isn’t realistic as far as your body is concerned. Immunity is centered on the self. A doctor’s role isn’t to boost your immune response from day to day. Medical care becomes active, for the most part, only when symptoms appear, and by then the immune response has broken down. In the broader picture, the entire healing response has broken down, of which immunity is the centerpiece. There has always been a mismatch between what medicine can do and what the body needs if it wants to protect itself in the global competition of DNA.
The doctor-patient partnership isn’t designed for meeting the competition and winning. But the healing self, by merging healer and healed, can surmount the looming threat… If you become proactive about your own immunity, the whole situation changes.

These are some of the benefits of the healing self:

• It is noninvasive.
• It involves no reliance on external therapies.
• It maintains natural balance.
• It boosts your immune system through lifestyle choices (which, in turn, can prevent many forms of cancer and hold promise for preventing Alzheimer’s disease and even reversing symptoms of dementia).
• When the healing self is taken into consideration, aging can become a combination of both long healthspan as well as a long lifespan and not only the latter.
• Drug dependency is staved off because healing occurs before the stage of symptoms begins. (“The vast majority of drugs are prescribed late in the disease process, a stage you don’t have to reach if you act early enough. This is true for almost every lifestyle disorder, including heart disease and cancer, disorders that create the strongest need for drug treatments.”)

“The healing self is the choice maker who steps into the arena of everyday life and steers mind and body toward a lasting healing response,” Chopra and Tanzi write. “A paper cut goes away after a day or two; last winter’s cold is a distant memory. The healing self, on the other hand, is long range. You set out to become whole, which is the only viable strategy for remaining healthy over a lifetime.”

All You Need Is Love

When a person falls in love, to recommend inside their body. For one, some brain neurochemicals (such as dopamine and serotonin) increase, and the same happens with hormones such as FSH (the follicle-stimulating hormone) and cortisol.

Even so, “despite the undoubted experience of falling in love at first sight and abundant evidence that love creates powerful physiological changes, the whole phenomenon remains mysterious,” write Chopra and Tanzi.

What’s not mysterious, however, is that all of these physiological changes are beneficial to your health: you probably need no studies cited (and there are many) to know, from personal experience, that people in love are less depressed and less prone to stress. But let us go a step further: less anxiety also means fewer chronic inflammations. And fewer chronic inflammations decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes.

You’ve heard that right: love cures the heart much more literally than modern medicine would have you believe. This is how the bodymind works, the idea of the whole-body incarnate. Or as Chopra and Tanzi write:

Humans are not biological robots. We live for meaning, for the personal value of every experience. The body metabolizes our experiences and sends the message to every cell, while the mind, in its own domain, processes experience in terms of sensations, images, thoughts, and feelings. Nothing fuses the whole-system effects of love and non-love like the human heart, which needs to be understood as more than a physical organ.

The Hidden Powers of Belief

As strange as the above might sound to you, one simple word might make you think it over: placebo.

Not even the most rigid scientists would question whether it works; on the contrary, ever since first observed, the only question modern medicine is dealing with concerning placebo is how it works. And, according to Chopra and Tanzi, the reason why we still don’t have the answer is that most scientists are unwilling to admit that some intangibles (they call them the Factor X) affect a health treatment.

Alia Crum, “a Stanford psychologist who led a 2017 study calling for more research into the nonphysical aspect of healing,” is not one of these scientists and states the issues as clearly as possible: “We have long been mystified by the placebo effect,” she is quoted saying by the authors. “But the placebo effect isn’t some mysterious response to a sugar pill. It is the robust and measurable effect of three components: the body’s natural ability to heal, the patient mindset, and the social context. When we start to see the placebo effect for what it really is, we can stop discounting it as medically superfluous and can work to deliberately harness its underlying components to improve health care.”

Chopra and Tanzi believe that the reason why some medicines work only to a certain extent is that some people are their own placebos (i.e., they believe that they can be healed) while others don’t. They write:

The fact is that your beliefs, your conditioning since childhood, and even the genes you inherited from your parents belong to the X factor. The homeopathic—or any other drug or supplement—only partially determines how you will respond to treatment. The placebo effect, which brings healing totally without an active medical ingredient, is very enticing. If you could be your own placebo, the safest form of healing would be at your disposal. Every cell in your body knows exactly what it needs and takes nothing else. Could this be true of the bodymind as a whole? If so, we would only need to contact the level of the self that totally supports our cells, consciously offering what they need.

The good news is that the process of transforming your beliefs in the direction of healing isn’t mysterious. Tanzi and Chopra offer seven steps that should help break down your negative beliefs step by step. Allow us to quote them in full:

1. When you catch yourself saying anything that’s negative, ask, “Is this really true?” Exposing an automatic reflex to rational questioning is an important step in letting go of it.
2. When you start to examine a negative belief that has come up, ask, “Is this really helping me?”
3. Be detached from the negative beliefs of others—secondhand infection happens frequently.
4. For every negative belief you expose, offer yourself two positive beliefs.
5. Journal about your journey of self-exploration. Write down any changes in your belief system that you see are happening, or simply that you want to happen.
6. Spend more time with supportive, loving, inspiring, and generally positive people. Avoid the opposite kind of people.
7. Value the whole project of self-care and increasing your state of well-being.

Part Two: Healing Is Now

As we mentioned in the introduction, the second part (and the second half, as well) of The Healing Self is a 7-day action plan. Here are its highlights. (By the way, bear in mind that you don’t need to do everything listed every day—choosing one and sticking to it on a weekly basis is more than enough.)

Monday: Anti-Inflammation Diet

Monday is entirely about improving your diet.

So, add some anti-inflammatory foods to it, such as berries, seeds, soy, garlic and ginger, whole grains, tree nuts, etc. Also, add some organic foods and increase the fiber in your diet. Take a probiotic supplement, and switch to olive or saffron oil. Drink coffee 1 to 5 times a day, preferably at the heavier end.

At the same time, cut down sharply on your sugar intake. Cut out junk food and fast food. Throw out stale food, including stale cooking oils and leftovers more than a day old. Reduce overall fat and salt intake. Needless to add, eliminate alcohol altogether.

Tuesday: Stress Reduction

Tuesday is about reducing stress.

And you know how you can do that: do yoga, meditation, and practice mindful breathing and being centered. 

At the same time, try to walk away from stress as soon as possible, while refraining from ignoring stressful events in your life. On the contrary, make some time to examine a problem you have been putting up with out of frustration. Finally, turn irregular habits into a regular routine—discipline always helps when stress is in question.

Wednesday: Anti-Aging

Wednesday is about adding years to your life and life to your years.

To do so, join a social support group and strengthen emotional bonds with family and close friends. If you are age sixty-five or older, take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. Maintain a balance of rest and activity. Explore a new interest. Take up a challenging mental activity.

Whatever you do, don’t be sedentary—stand up and move throughout the day. Examine your negative emotions. Heal injured relationships that are meaningful to you. Be mindful of lapses and imbalances in your diet. Address negative stereotypes about aging and ageism. Consider how to heal the fear of death.

Thursday: Stand, Walk, Rest, Sleep

If you are working at the computer or at a desk job, stand up and move at least once an hour and walk five minutes for each hour you work. Take the stairs, not the elevator. Park your car far from your home and your office door. Spend more time with a physically active friend or family member. Walk for 20 to 30 minutes in the evening. 

Replace 10 minutes of sofa time in front of the TV with a walk instead. Break the habit of waiting until the weekend to catch up on lost sleep. If you drink alcohol, do it early in the evening—go to bed without alcohol in your bloodstream. Replace the midmorning coffee-and-doughnut break with a walk. Finally, examine your excuses for not being more active.

Friday: Core Beliefs

Write down five core beliefs and evaluate why you believe them. Put a core belief into action. Read a poem, scripture, or spiritual passage for inspiration. Have a family discussion about which core beliefs everyone holds. Take your favorite role model and list what core beliefs they held.

On the other hand, use Friday to also examine your negative beliefs as they relate to fear and mistrust. Open a line of communication with someone who holds radically different values. If you are stuck on a negative belief, be a devil’s advocate and argue against it. End your participation in us-versus-them thinking.

Saturday: Non-Struggle

The “do’s” for this day include taking an allowing attitude, approaching a situation without resistance, acting gracefully, and sharing responsibility, while encouraging areas of flow.

The “undo’s” from which you should choose are: letting someone else have their way, helping reduce an area of conflict, stopping resisting where you don’t need to, and removing obstacles from someone else’s path. Also, try to ease competition in favor of cooperation.

Sunday: Evolution

Finally, Sunday is about evolving.

Do’s: be on the lookout for synchronicity (meaningful coincidences); change your daily narrative for the better; look for a chance to be compassionate; openly express love and appreciation; be generous of spirit.

Undo’s: resist the voice of fear; if you find yourself expecting the worst, step away from that expectation and remain neutral; if you have a negative thought that keeps returning, ask if it is truly serving you or is a relic of the past; if you feel emotionally upset, find a quiet place to become more calm and centered; finally, seek the company of people who inspire and uplift you.

Key Lessons from “The Healing Self”

1.      Chronic Disorders Begin Long Before the First Symptoms
2.      The Healing Self and the Bodymind
3.      The Factor X: Your Background, Love, Belief, Mindfulness

Chronic Disorders Begin Long Before the First Symptoms

Believe it or not, people who stay in school until the age of 15 are 8% less likely to get Alzheimer’s than those who don’t. The lesson: you can cure some diseases long before they become manifest in any observable way.

“Perhaps the major medical breakthrough of our time,” writes Maria Shriver, the founder of The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, in a review of The Healing Self, “is the discovery that most, if not all, chronic disorders begin years earlier than the first symptoms. We’ve learned that about Alzheimer’s — that it’s 20 years in the making. The Healing Self reminds us how important it is that we care for our brains and our bodies at the earliest stage possible.”

The Healing Self and the Bodymind

According to Deepak Chopra and Rudolph Tanzi, science has artificially cut the umbilical cord between the mind and the body when things such as one’s health and immunity are in question.

In reality, they say, nature doesn’t care about categorization and is absolutely disinterested in the different sections of a medical handbook. The mind and the body are connected – quite literally, through many neurotransmitters – which means that you can influence your health through your mind in a much more tangible manner than modern medicine believes.

That’s why they use the term bodymind to speak of the wholeness of a human being, in addition to the term the healing self to express our body’s capability to take on both roles of the healing process: the healer and the healed.

The Factor X: Your Background, Love, Belief, Mindfulness

Whenever you’ve been prescribed a certain therapy, your doctor merely bets on a certain outcome based on previous studies and experiences. However, nobody knows why some therapies work in some cases and don’t work in others.

Tanzi and Chopra deem the difference the Factor X and think that it has to have a lot with the ignored bodymind connection and the wholeness of our experiences. In short, if you live a calm life filled with love and friends, if you meditate and eat healthily and if you believe that something will turn out for the best—therapies should not only work but should become obsolete.

Do the opposite, and after a certain point, no therapy will make you healthy ever again.

Like this summary? We’d like to invite you to download our free 12 min app for more amazing summaries and audiobooks.

“The Healing Self Quotes”

Complaining increases tension and anger. As a display of hostility, it encourages other people to act hostile in return. Click To Tweet The dividing line between what happens automatically and what happens voluntarily isn’t fixed. Choices matter, and thus the healing self comes into play. On its own the body knows how to survive; it’s up to us to teach it how to thrive. Click To Tweet Patients who told the researchers that they felt loved and emotionally supported generally exhibited less blockage in their coronary arteries, the main cause of heart attacks and strokes. Click To Tweet The course of true love never did run smooth. Click To Tweet If you want to evolve, meditation and making positive lifestyle choices are important. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

As we wrote in the “Who Should Read This Book” section above, The Healing Self seems sound in terms of the validity of its pieces of advice, but a bit far-fetching in terms of the science explaining them.

In other words, while we’d warmly recommend the second part of the book to anyone who wishes to live a healthier and happier life, we really don’t think that anyone should consider this book as scientific when, by its own admission, it requires “a leap of imagination” to be fully grasped.

Science is precisely the opposite—knowledge that can be backed by experiments and experience—and uses imagination only to hypothesize. And we kind of feel that Tanzi and Chopra take their hypotheses at face value without ever proving them.

Moreover, we believe that the note “We certainly aren’t advising you to ignore or avoid a physician’s care when it is needed” shouldn’t be put merely in parenthesis in the “Introduction,” but should be the first sentence in almost all of the chapters from Part One.But, then again, that’s only our opinion. Our hope, interestingly, is that Tanzi and Chopra are actually right and that there are such things as bodymind and the healing self. If so, life would be much easier, and hospitals won’t be necessary in the future. For now, the opposite is true.

logo 12min

Improve Your Reading Habits in 28 days

Explore key insights and ideas from 2500+ titles in audio and text

logo 12min

Improve Your Reading Habits in 28 days

Explore key insights and ideas from 2500+ titles in audio and text

Scroll to Top