I maintain a personal blog parallel to this professional blog, and it is usually easy to separate the two spheres. The events of the past week in New Jersey however have brought the two in closer alignment. My opening personal blog featured Robert Sapolsky, a pioneer in mind-body medicine who elevated the topic of stress and PTSD to national prominence in mainstream circles. Events all around us in New Jersey, particularly at the New Jersey Shore along its coastline, but even in power-starved and fuel-impoverished Northern New Jersey, have contributed to a form of PTSD. Make no mistake about it: the trauma of the past week has imposed significant stress on many communities and its residents.
Traveling back from the East-West Eye Conference in Cleveland a month ago, I picked up a copy of Esther Sternberg’s The Balance Within:The Science Connecting Health and Emotions , essentially an update of Sapolsky’s research written in an equally engaging style. Sternberg writes: “Our perception of stress, and therefore our response to it, is an ever-changing thing that depends a great deal on the circumstances and settings in which we find ourselves. It depends on previous experience and knowledge, as well as the actual event that has occurred … Stress need not be on the order of war, rape, or the Holocaust to trigger at least some of the elements of PTSD.” The trigger to these symptoms need not be complex, Sternberg notes, for one to live in the shadows of PTSD. Sternberg has been widely recognized for her work, and recently joined the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine. This represents an important fusion of the clinical work of Dr. Andrew Weil together with Sternberg’s research.
Dr. Sternberg’s voice is a breath of fresh air in the medical field and, at this time, an important perspective to keep in mind regarding places of healing. Here is a delightful interview with her, and a website devoted to her work.